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Musics from Laos

Maison des Cultures du Monde
Recordings and liner notes: Véronique de Lavenère

Inedit W 260118
[79 min] http//www.mcm.asso.fr

This world music label, now distributed in UK by Select, is a fine discovery. Laos, a small inaccessible country "hidden in the heart of South East Asia" has some 50 ethnic groups, representing four main ethnolinguistic families, the Austro-Asiatic or Mon-Kmer the oldest. A constant is the indigenous national instrument, the mouth-organ (khene) of many sizes and shapes, as illustrated.

Bamboo flutes and percussion play their part in daily life and ritual, but of particular interest to me were the examples of singing, some of great sophistication and complexity, others of winning and memorable charm.

There are no less than 39 tracks, mostly short, illustrating the many co-existing traditions, Austro-Asiatics, Tai-Kadar, Tibeto-Burmese & Miao-Yao, still preserved because of the isolation and difficult mountainous terrain. The CD is fully illustrated with photos, and meticulously documented with descriptions of the music and provenance of each track. Many children take part, and I found the whole thing entrancing.

This CD collects examples of such remarkable musical diversity that it could well be an inspiration to some of today's more open minded Western-based composers.

I have one small criticism and one hope. The first is the unduly sudden cut-off of many of the performances; bridging the tracks with natural sounds of the recording environment might be possible? The hope is, given that the provision of text transliterations and translations is doubtless uneconomic, for Inedit soon branch to out into DVD, ideal for these projects to bring the music making to life in context, besides offering on screen choice of texts and translations as has become commonplace for opera.

Meanwhile, I am eager to explore other INEDIT releases.


© Peter Grahame Woolf