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Laos

 

Laos map

Geography & Topography

Capital: Vientianes

Area: 236 800 km2

Population: 6,500,000

Language: Lao

Religion:  67% Theravada Buddhist, 1.5% Christians, 31.5% Other

Ethnic groups: Lao Loum, Lao Theung, Lao Soung

Currency: Kip (LAK)

History

The Lao people migrated into Laos from southern China from the 8th century onward. In 1713, Laos got split into three separated kingdoms. Those kingdoms came under Siamese rule and were later incorporated into Indochina (French protectorate). In the 13th century, Thai people constructed their first states, drawing together different tribal communities under rulers claiming quasi-divine authority and kingly status. Laos was under french administration from 1893 to 1953. The country became independent a few years after World War II in 1954 thanks to the Viet Minh Rebellion.

Performing Arts

 

Located somewhere between India and China, Laos’s culture has been inspired by both these countries mainly through Theravada Buddhism. Throughout the years, religion really helped the people from Laos to live in peace and harmony which results in them being very calm and patient; these qualities are reflected in their literature as well as in their performing arts. Every year, around the months of January and February, the famous Boon Pha Vet festival is held.  The Boun Pha Vet festival is a 2 day  Buddhist festival during which the monks give a sermon of all chapters of the Maha Wetsandon Chadok

 

Music

The national instrument is the Khaen (bamboo pipe) and the Lam saravane is the most popular genre of Laotian music. The Lao folk music is extemporaneous singing accompanied with the Khaen. The khene, or khaen is associated with the ethnic Lao and the Issan (or Isan) of Northeast Thailand and dates back as early as the Bronze Age of Southeast Asia. A similar mouth organ instrument in nearby China is the Sheng. In the city of Luang Prabang, the popular form of music is Khaplam wai, which is a very slow, calm and serene music played with fiddles, flutes and bells.

The most recognizable instruments in traditional Laos music are:

Khaen

Khaen

Khaen: The khaen was originally invented by a woman who was trying to recreate the sound of a Garawek bird. She then took the Andean looking bamboo pipe to her king who told her she could improve it. Once it returned to the king, it was considered to be good enough and approved, hence officially creating the Khaen.

Kong Vong: A Kong Vong is a Laos type of Gong. A gong is an East and South East Asian percussion instrument

Gong

Gong

which takes the form of a metal disc  hit with a mallet. Gongs are usually made of bronze or brass and they have a great variety of uses. For example, they can be used in an orchestra to intensify an impression of fear and horror as well as a signal during boxing matches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dance

There is a great variety of classical dances in Laos, which are danced either during performance or religious rituals.

 

 

Examples of traditional Laotian dances are

Lam Vong Lao: Lam Vong Lao is the most famous dance, it literally means “round.” It is a social dance that comes from folk traditions, and it involves many couples. The dancers are involved all together because the Lam Vong is a group dance that involves everybody.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fon Uay Phone: Fon Uay Phone is another popular folk dance consisting in a welcoming dance which originated in the royal palace, but quickly became popular among ordinary people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some interesting facts:

  • Sports in Laos is quite primitive as people play Kataw, which is like Volley Ball but instead of using the hands to play the sport, these people use their feet to kick a ball made up of woven bamboo to cross the net. Another sport is rhinoceros-beetle wrestling in which people bet on beetles to predict the last beetle standing.
  • The laws against drugs and liquor in Laos are rigid, Though there are no major restrictions on alcohol; it is served at a few bars and restaurants. But using drugs and trafficking drugs is a major taboo, the punishment for trafficking narcotics is a death sentence.
  • The Khone Papeng waterfall situated in Laos is the largest waterfall in Southeast Asia.

 

Laotian community in Australia

 

More information on the Laos community: