Lao-American artist Ketsana Vilaylack, who was dubbed "Lao Madonna" when she first started singing in Chicago in mid-1980 and since then has released nine albums--mostly in English -- took a break from her 20-year career, to manage and help American artist Jonny Olsen in the production of his all Lao Folk Songs album, "Jonny Yak Pen Khon Lao."
27 year-old Jonny Olsen first saw and bought a replica of Laos' national musical instrument, the khaen, during a trip to Thailand in 2003. He fell in love with it and was so excited to play it. Upon returning to the U.S,. he got a real khaen as a gift from some friends who saw his excitement and eagerness. Jonny went back to Thailand, found a teacher to teach him to better play the khaen and sing in Lao. After a few months, he released his first album called "Fa Rang Yak Pen Moh Lum," in 2005.
Jonny wanted to make an all-Lao folksong album, so he searched the Internet and found Ketsana, who agreed to help him and became his manager. Ketsana sent Jonny to Laos, where he stayed for 3-4 months with popular Lao singer Daraphet and her family, recording his album with Daraphet's son Mee of Mega Studio, who is a producer and sound engineer.
Jonny's latest album is due to come out this weekend, and Jonny will kick off his USA tour promoting it in Seattle at the Hollywood Casino on Saturday, Februay 16.
For more on Jonny Olsen, listen to our Lao Diaspora report.