TAEC Opens Traditional Lao Wind Instruments Exhibition


The Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre (TAEC) in Luang Prabang has opened the “Voices of the Wind: Traditional Instruments in Laos” exhibition, after more than two years of extensive research and documentation in remote regions of northern Laos.
Belgian ethnomusicologist and curator, Dr Marie-Pierre Lissoir, and the TAEC research team led the project that culminated in an immersive and interactive display showcasing traditional wind instruments and music in Laos. The exhibition will run through the Fall of 2020.
“Music can be explored in so many ways,” Dr Lissoir said. “There is the role of music in traditional ceremonies and celebrations, but also the crafting of instruments, playing techniques, and the decline of apprenticeship.”
The highly interactive and intimate exhibit presents display spaces communicating three important contexts of instrumental practices: ritual, instrument-making, and courting. Through village scene re-creation, audio stations, and interactive video and photograph kiosks, visitors will enter a world rarely seen by the general public.
In Laos, music and musical instruments are a part of everyday life. For entertainment, courtship, or rituals, to banish loneliness, teach children, or communicate with the spirits, musical practices touch every member of a community during every part of the year.
Dr Lissoir explained, “Laos is particularly fascinating because many instruments are used to communicate, whether to pass a message through the mountains with the powerful sound of a leaf, or to express ones love with the discreet sound of the jaw harp. Speaking about music is speaking about life in Laos, its changes and challenges.”
TAEC sees an ongoing struggle and urgency to document these instruments from construction to playing as modernity takes over and replaces intimate settings and songs with amplifiers, microphones, and pre-recorded music. Music is the voice of a community, the voice of a country. A voice that is constantly evolving, like every human activity.
Neng Chue Vang, a Hmong instrument maker and musician, said, “There are so many people making qeej (a reed mouth organ), but if I am the one who is able to help document the process of making it from the beginning to the end, then I hope my knowledge is able to inspire people not to let go of their culture and traditions, not to let go of your ancestors and family spirits… I want to leave this message behind for the future generation.”
This exhibit also coincides with the recent UNESCO inscription of the music of the mouth organ or “khaen” on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
This is the very first inscription for the country on the ICH list and a positive step forward for safeguarding the transmission of knowledge, skills, and meaning of this emblematic instrument for future generations.
TAEC would like to acknowledge the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation for making this critical research possible, and William Klausner for supporting the creation of the exhibition.
TAEC Website  
Contact: Kristy Best, kristy@taeclaos.org
Mobile +856 20 5544 7895

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