Monday, May 11, 2009

Souphine Phathsoungneune To Receive Vermont Heritage Artist Governor's Award

The Vermont Heritage Artist Governor’s Award will be presented to Souphine Phathsoungneune on Wednesday, May 13th, 2009, in a ceremony at the statehouse beginning at 5 pm. 

Mr. Phathsoungneune is a master folk opera singer from Laos who has made his home in Brattleboro, Vermont for the past 30 years. Among his well-know performances was a joint production called “I Think of This Every Time I Think of Mountains” in which he sang and Phayvanh Luekhamhan read poetry.

Many are ecstatic that an elder of our cultural community is being so honored. This is the first time the award will be presented to a Southeast Asian American. As Phayvanh Luekhamhan has remarked, "Even in his eighties, Mr. Phathsoungneune is forging a path for the rest of us."

Phayvanh Luekhamhan will be joining the festivities, to read the English translation of “Girl Missing Lover”, the song he has chosen to perform on Wednesday. The photo is of Souphine Phathsoungneune in Brattleboro, Vt, 1981, taken by Steve Crofter.
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The link for a Vermont Public Radio story by Susan Keese:

Adapted from nominator Leslie Turpin's recent note:
I am writing because an elder Lao/Thai Lam Leung master, Souphine Phatsongneune, has just been selected to receive the Vermont Heritage Artist Governor's Award for 2009. Because he was a participant in my doctoral research and because I nominated him for the award, I have been asked to introduce him at the event.

Souphine was born in Song Neune, Thailand in the late 1920s and moved to Laos as a young man where he became nationally recognized as a traditional folk singer, Lam Leung director, performer and writer. His troupe in Laos was called Sau. Siang Pin. Many people have told me that he was so popular that he was considered the equivalent of Elvis Presley in Laos. During the war, he was hired by the USIS to work as a /lam patana/ singer in the rural areas of Southern Laos. He escaped from his home in Paxhe, in 1974 and continued to train singers in Thailand and Ubon camp before coming to the US in 1979. 
Since living in Vermont, he received funding from the Vermont Arts Council to create one Lao Opera that was performed in VT in 2004 and he has continued to write several songs, some of which I have recordings and copies of. He has already received 3 Vermont Folklife Heritage Apprenticeship Awards which were awarded to him to pass his singing tradition on to the Lao Community in Brattleboro, VT. He also worked with a troupe in Rhode Island and wrote an opera for them which they performed in the 1990s and which was the basis of a doctoral dissertation by Jean Bernard. I will be introducing Souphine (stage name Banana: Ajaan Guay) at a ceremony at the Vermont State House on May 13.

This is the first time that a Southeast Asian has received this award in Vermont.

Because there are so few Laotians living here, they are somewhat invisible to the rest of the state. I would like to be able speak to the Governor here about the national significance of Vermont choosing to give this award to him.

Only one artist from the state is chosen each year, so it is quite an honor.

1 comment:

shy blossom said...

Bryan, thanks for spreading the word about this. -phayvanh