Among Asian reed instruments, the khene is one of the most exotic sounding. Thao Phet was a performer on this instrument from the country of Laos, where it is among several fascinating traditional instruments involved in complex and beautiful music that has roots in the Himalayas and the music of India. Laos, however, has always been the direct opposite of Asian countries such as Japan and Korea, and even Vietnam, in terms of access and interest to international culture, and likewise the world has often simply forgotten about Laos. The important A Musical Anthology of the Orient series of recordings made by producers such as Alain Daniélou under the auspices of UNESCO devoted a full volume to the music of Laos. No listener could have questioned why upon hearing this volume. During the program, Phet is one of many performers who displays their instrumental virtuosity. These talents allowed him to become a regular performer on his country's Radio Vientaine. He performs solos on the khene, which is a mouth organ with pipes connecting to a tiny, hollow wooden reservoir that receives the blown air. In the distant hazy past, the Chinese ripped off this instrument from the Laotians, calling it a cheng. Phet also displays the versatility of the instrument in a series of duets with singers Thong Linh and Lam Se in which the khene provides the solo and very full accompaniment. The collection of recordings from Laos was re-released in the '90s on Rounder as a CD. In the mid-'70s, he was a visiting lecturer in the ethnomusicology department at the University of Washington.
Share this page