Sunday, March 23, 2014

"Revival of a Lao Musical Treasure: Sian One Sone Kong Ban Hao"

I received an interesting letter from Henry Holmes regarding his reprinting of a classic of Lao literature, the Lao Song Book, “Siang One Sone Khong Ban Hao” (The Harmonious Sounds of Our Villages), first published in 1965. I haven't obtained a copy yet, but the proposal sounds interesting.

Here's a picture of the original book, a copy of the original sells for over $75 on the rare occasions you can find one. According to descriptions, the original was a large (9 X 12.25 in.), 75 page paperback contains a mixture of romantic and patriotic songs, interspersed with black and white photos of Laos, its king, its soldiers and people. The text is in Lao, French and English. In French, the title was Melodies de nos villages, Recueil de chansons Lao.

He wrote:

"Not long ago, I got a very pleasant email from an old friend who had (like me) served as a teacher in Laos back in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. She was enquiring about a 60-year-old collection of traditional Lao songs, but didn’t know what had happened to this book. 

I was fortunate to be one of the people who started the project, as a young teaching volunteer, back in 1962, in the ancient royal capital of Luang Prabang. It was conceived by a Catholic priest, some Lao schoolteachers, and myself, burgeoning into an international team of Lao and foreign music-lovers. We set out to identify and preserve the favorite songs of Laos, most of which were already more than 50 years old. Many were nearly forgotten. Our work caught the attention of Prime Minister Prince Souvanna Phouma and his wife, who were great enthusiasts for Lao music; he eventually wrote, by hand, his personal introduction to the book which was printed in early 1965. 

Siang One Sone Khong Ban Hao (The Harmonious Sounds of Our Villages) is an unusual piece of work. For the first time you can see the musical notes laid out on a “western” chart; the Lao words are there, as well as phonetics so that non-Lao could actually sing the 41 songs! There are summaries in both French and English. On many pages, there are stunning photos of Lao life, the countryside, and the people in those days. And as a final stroke, the whole book was printed entirely by hand. 

At the time of the project, it was described in the Asia Magazine in 1963. And in 1965, the Harvard Alumni Magazine featured the story, which provides an informal history of the project. This article is included with each copy of the book. I believe you will find the Lao Song Book to be a kind of treasure to touch the hearts of Lao people and their friends everywhere. 

 The original book was quite large, almost coffee-table size. We found that by reducing it to 9 x 6 inches, loose-leaf style, it would be far less expensive, yet still elegant and easy to read. 


 Kindly send a cheque for $29 per copy (covering fine printing and mailing) to me; I will mail your order out within less than 10 days. Those of you living outside the United States: Please let me know of your interest; I will figure the overseas postage and let you know the total cost.

Henry Holmes
370 North Civic Drive, Apt. 406
Walnut Creek, CA 94596
May I wish you some nostalgic and happy musical memories!

I'll try to see if I can get a copy soon to show you what the new release of it looks like.

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