Khamvong Insixiengmai Ensemble
Bamboo Voices: Folk Music From Laos
Latitudes/Music Of The World

CD cover

The opening track here is a solo for a bamboo "harmonica" called the khene. It swings along on a traditional melody, but I swear I can almost hear strains of "Arkansas Traveler" hidden under the melody and riding on the rhythm. So it goes as the world starts to listen to itself, and finds we're as much alike as we are different.

Khamvong Insixiengmai is a US-based singer from Laos, skilled in the styles of music from his home and the Lao regions of northeastern Thailand. The ensemble includes female vocalist Thongxhio Mansione and master khene player Kamsueng Syhanone, and occasionally they add lute and percussion. The music presented is very traditional, but that is not to say it is "stuck in time." The music of this region lives on improvisation, particularly the lyrical content provided by the singer, and these songs have a spark of life, a newness that keeps them moving into the future. It also has that certain something that jazz musicians often refer to as "swing," that anticipation of the beat that is especially noticeable in the khene playing. It's a wonderful reminder of how much humans are alike in their perceptions and emotions, at least on an artistic level. - CF

Available from cdRoots

see also: Asia Free Reeds


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