“Chiang Mai archivist and musician Victoria Vorreiter published a book on tribal music, Songs Of Memory: Traditional Music Of The Golden Triangle, in 2009. Since then she has been busy travelling, researching and recording music from the tribal peoples of the mountains, and for the past six years her focus has been on Hmong music, mainly from tribal groups living in Thailand and Laos.
The result of her latest research is a fascinating book, Hmong Songs Of Memory: Traditional Secular And Sacred Hmong Music, which, like the first book, is published by her own publishing house, Resonance Press.
Vorrieter explains that the Hmoob (Hmong) are a major ethnic group in Southwest China and Southeast Asia, and likely originated in Siberia and Mongolia before moving south to eventually settle in what are now the highlands of Henan, Hubei and Hunan provinces in China. Pressure from the Eastern Han Dynasty forced them to move further south to Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan, where most Hmong live today. Other groups continued journeying further south, settling in northern Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar.
The Hmong language has four major dialects, each named after the dominant colour in their beautifully woven costumes; however, the author says that there are ritual and musical commonalties among all the Hmong subgroups. As Hmong is a tonal language, instruments — mouth harp, leaf, flutes and reeds — are played to express and communicate lyrics, as, says Vorreiter, “[the instruments] are all able to replicate the patterns, contours and sensibility of language to a remarkable degree”.”
Read more at the Bangkok Post.