Filed under: Laos
The Land of a Million Elephants was a French protectorate up until it gained independence in 1949. But only four years later, the country fell into a brutal civil war. During this time, both South Vietnamese and the North Vietnamese Army as well as American and Thai forces became embroiled for two decades. In 1973, the US pulled out of Laos and less than two years later the Pathet Lao overthrew the royalist government and established the Lao People’s Democratic Republic – only a few months after the Fall of Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese and Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge.
But through all of this unrest, there was music. There is always music. How else would people survive while their country was ripped apart from all sides? Even though all the upheaval, the records – rare as they are – still exist. But for all of what you can find about the history of Pop music in Cambodia – even after the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge, there is next to nothing about Laos – outside of the realm of traditional folk and opera. And much of it has been forgotten.
Laos shares much of its musical heritage with Thailand. Molam (or Mor lam), Lam luang and Lam ploen – which was influenced by Luk thung – can be found in both countries, especially the Isan region. And the most distinctive musical instrument, other than the ching (finger cymbals), is the bamboo mouth organ called a khene. According to legend, the instrument was invented by a woman trying to imitate the calls of a bird called the garawek.
Kuntung Lathparkdy was born in Vientiane, Laos – but most people know him as K. Viseth (ก.วิเสส). He got his start in music during the early 1970s where he was the lead singer of a school band, which was sponsored by Kong Lae, a former Lao Royal Army General and ex-Pathat Lao army officer. After that, he moved on to the Lao army band, ราบอากาศวังเวียง (Rap Akat Wang Wiang), and then later joined the band of Thai luk thung star กังวาลไพร ลูกเพชร (Kangwanphrai Lukphet).
Besides being a musician, he also acted in film and on television. His first movie was titled Ruk Ther Smer (Love You Eternally), and his second was Namperng Prachan (Sweat & Beautiful), both of which were made in Thailand. His most well known film was Tai Dum Lum Pan is the title of a Lao movie that co-produced between Lao and Thai companies. This song, which was his biggest hit, is from that film.
The song is sung in Thai, however alot of these words are from the Isan dialect (basically Lao). It’s about the ethnic group the Tai Dam, and was under suspicion in Thailand for having lyrical content of a potentially Communist nature. In the song, a traveling Lao man. He has been away for 15 years, reminiscing about his home. He speaks to other travelers and emigrants that he meets along his journey, and asks them to recall their home and where they have came from. He sings about Lao unity – which at that time, was something the country was missing.
Here are some of the lyrics (in Thai script and transliterated):
สิบห้าปี ที่ไตเฮา ห่างแดนดิน (เดินกันไป) จงเอ็นดู กุ่งข้าน้อย ที่พลอยพลัดบ้าน
sip ha pi thi tai hao hang daen din (doen kan pai) chong endu kung kha noi thi phloi phlat ban
เฮาคนไทย ย้ายกันไป ทุกถิ่นทุกฐาน จงฮักกันเด้อ ไตดำเฮานา
hao khon thai yai kan pai thuk thin thuk than chong hak kan doe tai dam hao na
สิบห้าปี ที่ไตดำเฮา เสียดายเด (เดินเข้าไป) เมืองเฮาเพ แสนเสียดาย สูเจ้าเพิ่นหล้า
sip ha pi thi tai dam hao sia dai de (doen khao pai) mueang hao phe saen sia dai suchao phoen la
เฮือนเคยอยู่ อู่เคยนอน ต้องจรจำลา ปะให้ปาหนา น้ำตาไตไหล
huean khoei yu u khoei non tong chon cham la pa hai pa na nam ta tai lai
สิบห้าปี ที่ไตเฮา เสียแดนเมือง (เดินกันไป) เคยฮุ่งเฮือง กุ่งข้าน้อย อยู่สุขสบาย
sip ha pi thi tai hao sia daen mueang (doen kan pai) khoei hung hueang kung kha noi yu suk sabai
ลุงแก่งตา ได้สางสา บ้านเมืองไว้ให้ บัดนี้จากไกล ไตเสียดายเด
lung kaeng ta dai sang sa ban mueang wai hai bat ni chak klai tai sia dai de
K. Viseth recorded much of his songs in Thai, and they were released on a Thai record label. Many of his songs were recorded by other artists in Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand. He now he resides In Arizona, in the U.S. where he still records and releases his own music.
Thanks to Joi Po Dee, Salina Keomanyvong and Erik Gergis for their help and translation. Special thanks to Peter Doolan for all of the information, links and lyrics.
Catalog number… Well, there isn’t one. Released by Wong Dohndri Ga Vang Vieng (Wong Music Company from Vang Vieng). There is a matrix number engraved in the vinyl: EP – 1001 / Y.M.S. 70070 x 7. No other information available.