Achan Khampha Inthisane, master folklore singer, musician, and songwriter of France, talked to VOA during a recent visit to the United States about his involvement in preserving Laos folklore traditions and maintaining the traditional music organization he helped establish. He says the goal and purpose of the Traditional Folk Life Music is to preserve and transfer the knowledge of these priceless traditions to new generations and make them known to people around the world. He and other members of the organization have given lectures and performances in many special events and universities around France and Europe and many foreign countries. They have also produced about seven albums so far, with more to come. There is a variety of folk songs, or Khub Lum, in Laos.
Achan Khampha Inthisane says each one of them is related to the people and culture of each region of Laos: “There are several folklores throughout Laos. Starting from the South, you have Lum Siphandone, created and sung by the people of Siphandone – the southernmost region of Laos. Next, the Salavan region also has its own folklore, and moving upwards toward Savannakhet, you have more than four different kinds of folklore, which are named after the village or town they originate from, such as “Lum Khonsavanh,” “Lum Phou Tai,” “Tung Wai,” “Mahaxay,” and so on so forth.
Achan Khampha says he loves to sing, and started to sing and play the Lao traditional Khene instrument when he was around ten years old. The love was instilled in him by his father who was a folk singer: “As a young boy, I saw my father play the Khene, and sing a folk song. I got so used to it that it became part of me. I loved to listen and play around with the Khene, and eventually I grew up playing the khene and sing folksongs just like my father.”
“Maw Lum” or folklore singers have special talent unlike no other musical artists. They can make up songs for any occasion and sing impromptu in verses that rhyme, beautifully describing any event.
Achan Khampha says foreigners have shown great interests in Lao folklores, and many have come to his organization to learn how to sing Lao folksongs and to play the khene. He says, “If foreigners can make our music better and spread it and promote it, that would be better for us because then our music will be known to the world.”
Listen to our audio files for a full interview with Achan Khampha in Lao.