Thinking and Talking about Arts and Culture in Southeast Asia

Mesmerising molam [Thailand, Laos]

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“Twenty-five years ago I joined a team from the Japan Foundation on a tour of Isan to meet and talk to molam artists, as part of a project on Lao music in the region. We met up with the then-president of the Molam Association, National Artist Kane Dalao, and his two female molam partners, Boonpeng Faiphewchai and Chaweewan Damnoen (both later awarded national artist status), and joined the trio as they performed concerts in villages for social ceremonies like weddings in and around Khon Kaen.

For one concert, we travelled to a remote village. Before the musicians took to the tiny home-made stage, they prepared offerings for a private ritual to pay respect to their teachers, known here in Thailand as the wai kru ceremony. I had the great good fortune of being invited to photograph Chaweewan make her traditional offerings from banana leaves and also the wai kru ceremony itself. The photographs ended up being part of the Jim Thompson Foundation’s Molam Bus Project.

And then I got a call from the team that put together the bus project asking if I wanted to attend the annual molam wai kru ceremony, which for the past 10 years has been held at Wat Khao Kampeng in U Thong district, Suphan Buri province. This annual event, the brainchild of the temple’s abbot Dr Suwan Pratchakul, brings together molam artists who specialise in the more traditional styles of molam, such as the poetic lam glawn style; more than 50 current molam artists from all corners of Isan attended this year’s ceremony…”

Read the full article by John Clewly on the Bangkok Post.

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