An easy way to describe the Asian mouth organ known as the khene is to say it looks like a mammoth church pipe organ that has been shrunk down to a size that could fit in someone's hand, the pipes reaching up above their heads. These two Laotian musicians recorded several duets with these instruments for the UNESCO-sponsored series A Musical Anthology of the Orient, representing some of the rare recordings of traditional music from this country. The khene was also called a cheng by the Chinese, who liked the instrument amd took it back with them in their loot bags after invading Laos. It is a beautiful sounding instrument, played on instrumental numbers in solo and duo and also providing fascinating accompaniment for singers such as Miss Lao Se or Miss Sai Thong. At the time of these recordings, these artists were all regular performers on the nation's Radio Vientiane, but totalitarian policies of the '70s in this part of the world had devastating effects on traditional folk cultures, much of which was often banned outright. Whether these performers were the subject of persecution or whether they survived the era is not known. When the Rounder label reissued these recordings on compact disc in the '90s, there were some complaints about the decision to keep the liner notes from the original release rather than come up with updated research on what had happened to the artists and musical institutions represented, or commentary about historical changes in Laos since these artists were first recorded in the '60s.
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