Thursday, May 14, 2015

Viet Nam

Calebass-Khene, Highland People, Central Vietnam
oil on wood, 16" x 16", 2015
The khene is a southeast Asian mouth organ made of bamboo whose origin dates back to the bronze age (c. 2,100 BCE-900 BCE). It is of Lao origin invented, as myth has it, to mimic the sound of the garawek bird. I was introduced to the khene by way of the cd series The Secret Museum of Mankind compiled by Pat Conte. On the third volume Conte included the track Soutsanaeh which made it into the top 100 of 1999. The top 100 series are, above anything else, a record of the music acquired in a given year. One of the top finds thus far in 2015 is the record Introduction to the Music of Viet Nam selected by Pham Duy for the Folkways label in 1965. The record is divided into pre-Vietnamese and Vietnamese music, the former "a name given to all the music of ethnic minorities living on the Indochinese peninsula before the politcal formation of Viet Nam proper. This music, of a purely popular character, still conserves archaic traits in spite of the passage of time" (liner notes, Folkways). The Vietnamese khene is different from the Laotian in that the tradition hardwood reservoir is replaced by a gourd (calebasse).

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