Longing for the Past - The 78 Rpm Era in South East Asia

July 23, 2017 | Author: Anonymous pbuAe2J81 | Category: Isan, Vietnamese People, French Indochina, Vietnam, Pop Culture
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A great piece on a past era in music and music recording techniques in an unfamiliar area to most....


e For Th

The 78 rpm Era in

Southeast Asia Essays and Annotations by

Jason Gibbs, David Harnish, Terry E. Miller, David Murray, Sooi Beng Tan, and Kit Young

ATLANTA: Dust-to-Digital 2013


CONTENTS Track List. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 PART I

THE RECORD INDUSTRY IN SOUTHEAST ASIA The First Wave . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 The Rise of the Local Labels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33


SOUTHEAST ASIA AND ITS MUSIC Vietnam . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Laos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 Cambodia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 Thailand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52 Burma . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55 Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58


THE RECORDS Disc A: Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65 Disc B: Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115 Disc C: Burma, Thailand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 169 Disc D: Malysia, Singapore, Indonesia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 213

Selected Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 266 About the Authors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 270 Acknowledgments. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 271













1. Tôn Tẫn Giả Điên V I ET NA M

1. Phleng Boran C A M BODI A

1. Maung Kyaw Ei Sandaya Nyunt: Ah Hson BU R M A

1. Lambaresik I N DON E SI A

2. Phleng Boran C A M BODI A

2. Hát Mưỡu Và Hát Nói V I ET NA M

2. Ffawn Jao Sri Oi T H A I L A N D

2. Dji Hong I N DON E SI A

3. Xứ Tội Bàng Quí Phi, Thứ Nhì V I ET NA M

3. Khaek Lopburi T H A I L A N D

3. Doi Rup T H A I L A N D

3. Dondang Sayang M A L AYSI A /SI NGA POR E

4. Tả Cảnh Cô Đầu Thua Bạc V I ET NA M

4. Khap Ngeum Thang Khaokan L AOS

4. Mingala Ma Thein Nyunt. . . BU R M A

4. Ile-Ile I N DON E SI A

5. Thawai Phaka Thi C A M BODI A

5. Danse Ancienne L AOS

5. Mingala Ma Thein Nyunt. . . BU R M A

5. Tumba Lela-Lelan I N DON E SI A

6. Nang Nak L AO S

6. Chant de Bateliers V I ET NA M

6. Mon Ap Son T H A I L A N D

6. Angkat-Angatan I N DON E SI A

7. Khaek Mon L AO S

7. Promenade en Foret C A M BODI A

7. Hnit Kan Pyaing Hpuza BU R M A

7. Pengantin Berarak M A L AYSI A /SI NGA POR E

8. Nam Nhị-Tự V I ET NA M

8. Khmer Kroak C A M BODI A

8. Pleng Khrawp Chakar. . . T H A I L A N D

8. Tjikadjangan I N DON E SI A

9. Gap Pa Pheng L AO S 10. Khổng Minh, Mẫu Tầm Tử V I ET NA M

9. Thet Mathi/ Sthu Ku Lak-kham-kaeo L AOS 10. Cha Pi C A M BODI A

9. Son Nant Tha Myaing: Sha Pon Gyi BU R M A 10. Lakhon Rueang Kraithong T H A I L A N D

9. Gambos Ya Omar M A L AYSI A /SI NGA POR E 10. Lagu Daerah Sumatera I N DON E SI A

11. Đờn Vọng Cổ V I ET NA M

11. Zhan Zhao Bi Jian T H A I L A N D

11. Lao Phan T H A I L A N D

11. Shier Zhulei M A L AYSI A /SI NGA POR E

12. Xữ Tội Bàng Quí Phi V I ET NA M

12. Pleng Sen Lao T H A I L A N D

12. Thet Hta BU R M A

12. Ka Abdi I N DON E SI A

13. Thong Yon . . . C A M BODI A

13. Lam Toei Jep Saep T H A I L A N D

13. Tap Phraw Law T H A I L A N D

13. Babarlajar Mataram I N DON E SI A

14. Khap Salang L AO S

14. Homrong Chan Chao T H A I L A N D

14. Sanda Min Yodaya BU R M A

14. Gambos Sri Mahkota Kelantan M A L AYSI A /SI NGA POR E

15. Văn Bà Dệ Tứ V I ET NA M

15. Srey Sroh Mien Thrung C A M BODI A

15. Hpon Taw Bwe BU R M A

15. Poetih Poetih Sapoet Andoek I N DON E SI A

16. Nang Khluan L AO S

16. Đờn Huế, Cổ Bản V I ET NA M

16. Shit Hkan Palin BU R M A

16. Chek Siti I M A L AYA SI A /SI NGA POR E

17. Lom Phat Sai Khao L AO S

17. An Nangsue Thawng Kan L AOS

17. Khap Mai Ban Doh T H A I L A N D

17. Titipati I N DON E SI A

18. Tứ Dại Cảnh/Kim Tiền V I ET NA M

18. Chúc Anh Đài V I ET NA M

18. Ba Ba Win BU R M A

18. Kitjir Kitjir I N DON E SI A

19. Hỡi Trời Cao—Xàng Xế V I ET NA M

19. Rabam Dawadoeng T H A I L A N D

19. Son Taw Myaing BU R M A

19. Ogingo Mamangka Vuhan M A L AYSI A

20. Khap Thum Lao L AO S

20. Huang A-lai L AOS

20. Taw Hnit Taung Swe BU R M A

20. Wak Daing M A L AYSI A /SI NGA POR E 21. Aer Mata Djato Berlinang I N DON E SI A

21. Teb Bantom C A M BODI A

21. Khaek Khao T H A I L A N D

21. Miss Whiskey BU R M A

22. Gửi Thư V I ET NA M

22. Phram Dit Nam Dao T H A I L A N D

22. Mi Ba Myitta BU R M A

23. Lam Khaen T H A I L A N D

23. Yodaya Bwe Gyi BU R M A 24. Nyut Nyut Hsaing Hsaing BU R M A







CAMBODIA Tonle Sap Lake


addy I r r aw




al ac







sa n Mek







Jakarta Semarang

Phnom Penh Gulf of Thailand




Tonle Sap



Kuala Lumpur












Taiwan ra



Ho Chi Minh City

Gulf of Thailand




Andaman Sea

Hong Kong

Ha Noi


Phnom Penh




Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon)



New Guinea




Indian Ocean












IN THE EARLY 1980S, pioneering record collector and researcher Dick

Spottswood purchased a small cache of eleven Indochinese recordings from the estate of a former Victor record company executive. The records passed from one collector to the next, eventually landing in my own collection. The records, two Vietnamese and nine Lao, were obviously very rare, and like the collectors before me, I was unable to make any significant progress in researching them. I contacted Terry E. Miller, one of the world’s leading researchers of Lao and Thai music. Terry was not aware of these recordings, but his interest was piqued and he agreed to annotate the material. While Terry was digging into the music, I continued to hunt for information about the Victor series. Surprisingly, there seemed to be no information about this series, despite the fact that Victor is one of the largest and most researched 78 record companies. Finally, with the help of collector/researcher Jonathan Ward, as well as David Seubert and his colleagues working on the Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings (University of California, Santa Barbara), we discovered details about the series among the thousands of Victor’s yet-to-becataloged “history cards.” These handwritten index cards, which Victor kept for all of their issued discs, included detailed information taken by the engineer at the time of the recording session. With this new information and Terry’s knowledge of the region we were able to


reconstruct a basic itinerary for the expedition that resulted in these records. Inspired by these discoveries, our research grew to include records from Thailand, and eventually all of Southeast Asia. "Longing for the past" is a common translation of vọng cổ, a type of Vietnamese aria, described in this collection by writer Jason Gibbs as “the single most important musical work in 20th century Vietnam.” Although vọng cổ was itself a new musical framework in the late teens, it evoked a powerful nostalgia for the people of southern Vietnam. It makes a fitting title for this collection since many of the pieces heard here represent a musical era that, to varying degrees, no longer exists. Styles become obsolete, instruments fall into disuse, Western influences seep in, cultures assimilate, and artists fade into obscurity or, as in the horrific case of Cambodia, are wiped out by war or genocide. As a collector, my interest is in these older styles, and their surviving traces. Although this collection is the first to present 78 rpm recordings from across the entirety of Southeast Asia, it is not intended to be a survey of all the musical forms found there, nor is it even meant to be representative of the wide variety of Southeast Asian music recorded during the six-decade reign of the 78 rpm format. Many genres of popular and traditional music are not included here, and many cultures were never recorded in the first place. The records presented here reflect one collector’s view of the traditional, obscure, and sometimes obsolete styles captured on the medium of 78 rpm records. A few words are in order regarding the organization of this book and the CDs. It is difficult to neatly categorize the recordings by country of origin since Southeast Asian borders were in flux throughout

the decades in which these recordings were made. We have organized the annotations by the current name of the country from which the music originates. In the case of Malaysia and Singapore, the two were not separate at the time of these recordings, and although nearly all recordings from the Malay Peninsula were made in Singapore, it is not usually clear where the musicians were from. Therefore, we have labeled these “Malaysia/Singapore.” In the case of Burma, we have chosen to use the name Burma instead of Myanmar for reasons detailed in the Burma introduction. The CDs are organized loosely in a westerly direction. Beginning with what was formerly called Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia), then moving to Thailand, Burma, and finally southward to Malaysia and Indonesia. Although some of these records are in less than ideal condition, we believe that their extreme rarity warrants their inclusion. While professional transferring and restoration techniques have been judiciously applied, we hope that the historical importance outweighs the inconvenience of audible noise. Because of the archaic nature of many of these recordings, I felt it was important to describe the contents in great detail, perhaps more than is necessary for the casual listener. I enlisted the help of several researchers and ethnomusicologists to describe the music. I am most indebted to Terry E. Miller, who not only authored the sections on Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand, but provided much help and advice along the way. I would also like to thank the other contributing authors: Jason Gibbs (Vietnam), David Harnish (Indone-

sia), Sooi Beng Tan (Malaysia/Singapore), and Kit Young (Burma). Their contributions are indicated by their initials. “Part I: The Record Industry in Southeast Asia,” and the track introductions (in italics) were written by me (except were noted by author initials). Many other researchers have contributed as well and are listed in the acknowledgements (page 271). The images in the book come primarily from old postcards. The postcards range from photographs of authentic musicians to staged portraits, sometimes promoting exotic stereotypes for Europeans. Nonetheless, there are interesting elements in even the most exoticized images, such as rare old instruments or costumes. The images are captioned, unless there is some form of caption on the original image. I’d also like to offer special thanks to Jonathan Ward for his help transferring records, research, advice, and the loan of several records from his excellent collection. Additional thanks to Will Summits and Michael Robertson for contributing records from their collections. It is my hope that this collection of old, sometimes obscure sounds will not only provide engaging surprises for listeners—whether they are new to Southeast Asian music, students of the region, or those who share a cultural history with this music—but also remind us of the depth and beauty of the past, as we move inexorably forward. David Murray Oakland, California




INTRODUCTION Their voices and their long bamboo instruments produced music both sympathetic and harmonious. They danced, waving wands or garlands of flowers, and posed, almost without effort, in a series of graceful attitudes. Maxwell Sommerville, Traveler 1897

OVER 2,000 YEARS before the first recording in this collection was

made, the Ðồng Sơn people, of what is now northern Vietnam, were making large bronze drums, some weighing nearly 200 pounds. The bronze drums are interesting not only as instruments and ritual objects but also because they are decorated with scenes of elaborate rituals, warriors, and musicians. Some of these musicians are pictured holding what appear to be bamboo mouth organs similar to the bamboo khene heard in this collection and still played in Laos and Thailand today. Unfortunately, we can only guess how those instruments sounded. Since the time of the Ðồng Sơn drums, the long centuries have left us only musical hints as to the sound of Southeast Asian music, until the first recordings finally gave us concrete evidence. Hinduism and Buddhism spread throughout the region, and with these religions came their stories, dances, and other cultural influences. Both the

Ramayana, a Hindu epic telling the story of the god Rama, and the Jatakas, a collection of stories about the various lives of the Buddha, provided major themes for dance, theater, storytelling, and song across Southeast Asia. Stone carvings from Hindu and Buddhist temples provide more details. Due to the ephemeral nature of the palm leafs on which writing was done, and the vulnerability of bamboo and wooden instruments in the tropical environment, temple carvings provide some of our only glimpses at the Tracings of Ðồng Sơn drum state of music during these centuries. Bas relief carvings at Angkor Wat, the massive Khmer temple built in the early 12th century, depict many instruments reminiscent of those used today. The Khmer Empire was eventually overrun by the Siamese kingdom of Ayutthaya, which itself was later defeated by the Burmese. In each case, we know that it was customary for the victors to

Lao khene player, ca. 1870



Detail of Angkor Wat bas relief

absorb the court musicians and dancers from their conquests, spreading musical styles and ideas. Yet in Indonesia, where Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms thrived until the rise of Islam in the 16th century, carvings at the 9th century Javanese temple of Borobudur show Indian-influenced instruments that are no longer used in the region. The lure of lucrative spices brought Europe’s attention to Southeast Asia. Intending to bypass the Silk Road, the Portuguese established a trading settlement in Goa, India, in the early 16th century. An inexorable stream of Europeans followed, adding more layers of musical

influence. The Dutch East Indies Company was established in Indonesia in 1602 and took control of much of the spice trade. As Europeans began visiting Southeast Asia, descriptions of theatre, music, and instruments began to appear in the accounts of their travels. Although these accounts often suffer from ethnocentrism and lack of musical vocabulary, many of today’s instruments are clearly described. Temple carvings continued to document music; some from the late 1700s clearly show the khene, gong circle, xylophone, and other instruments that are common today. Expanding from India, the British began occupying parts of Burma in the late 1700s, taking Rangoon in 1824, and finally succeeded in colonizing in 1886. The British East India Company established the Straights Settlements in 1826 in parts of the Malaysian Peninsula, becoming a British colony in 1867. French missionaries began to establish themselves in Vietnam in the mid-1600s, leading to French colonization by 1864. Cambodia and Laos soon were consolidated with Vietnam to form French Indochina, before Siam, which had managed to avoid colonization, could gain control of those regions, With the 20th century drawing near, and the Dutch, French, and British controlling most of the region, Southeast Asia was on the cusp of entering the age of recorded sound, when its musical legacy would finally begin to change from mere hints and guesses to something more tangible.

Burmese ensemble, ca. 1892


Laos, 1870 (following pages)







THE FIRST WAVE In those days, natives of the countries where we set up our temporary laboratories wanted records of their songs, their bands, and storytellers. Harry Marker, Recordist for Columbia Records from 1905–1930

THE EARLY RECORD COMPANIES never intended to be ethno-

musicologists. They had no interest in documenting the world’s music or preserving cultures. They were simply in the business of selling expensive phonograph machines. However, they quickly realized that in order to sell machines they had to sell records that appealed to people in different locales. So in the first years of the 20th century, a handful of European and American record companies began sending recording teams to far-flung regions to establish themselves in the emerging marketplaces. At first, the record companies weren’t sure what would sell and they seemed willing to record almost any type of music they could find. This purely commercial approach led to the recording of a startling number of musical styles in a wide array of languages, inadvertently creating a vast and invaluable archive of global music.


Recording came to Southeast Asia during this original wave of world-music recording. In 1902, only a few short years after the birth of the recording industry, the British Gramophone Company sent recording engineer Frederick Gaisberg on a trailblazing trip to the “Orient.” Sailing first to India, Gaisberg, with his young assistant George Dillnutt, made hundreds of recordings in Calcutta before continuing on to record in Tokyo, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. From there he sailed to Singapore, Siam, and then Rangoon. The records were pressed in Germany and then sent back to be sold to the local public. When Gaisberg returned to London in August 1903, he had been gone nearly a year. The company and the industry were growing rapidly, especially in India. The following year, the Gramophone Company sent two young recording engineers, William Sinkler Darby and Max Hampe, to


make another series of recordings in several cities across India, as well as Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Burma, building on the many technical and cultural lessons learned on the first trip. To satisfy the public’s growing interest in the phonograph and its desire for new records, Gaisberg’s younger brother Will led a third recording tour from 1906 to 1907, with George Dillnutt as his assistant. Together, they made a large assortment of recordings throughout India, as well as Cantonese recordings in Hong Kong. However, they ventured no further into Southeast Asia than Rangoon. Because competition was fierce, the Gramophone Company made a strategic move and opened a pressing plant and gramophone cabinet factory in Calcutta in 1908. This gave them the advantage of being able to build phonograph cabinets faster, cheaper, and better suited to the climate and to deliver records more quickly to the market. This was the only pressing plant in India well into the 1920s and where their Southeast Asian records were manufactured. Also in 1908, the Gramophone Company’s George Dillnutt graduated from assisting to leading his own expedition. While in Rangoon, he recorded Po Sein, Burma’s most famous singer and actor. Po Sein and his troupe recorded a series of traditional Burmese musicals called zats, some in lengthy sets of over 40 records. The recordings were destroyed by mold, due to the tropical heat, and had


to be completely redone. Dillnut also recorded in Singapore, Java, Siam, Ceylon, and India and soon after, with nearly a decade of Asian recording experience, became the Gramophone Company’s head recording expert in India, the home base for all their Asian recording activity. By this time, the Gramophone Company’s catalog included hundreds of Southeast Asian recordings from Burma, Singapore, Java, and Siam. Although the Gramophone Company was first to record in Southeast Asia, others soon followed. Germany was on the forefront of phonograph technology and there were several German labels involved in the early recording scene. The Beka label made its first Southeast Asian recordings in 1905 when the recording team of Willy Bielefeld, Heinrich Blumb, and William Hadert made recordings in Constantinople, Cairo, and Calcutta before arriving in Rangoon on Christmas day. Like the Gramophone Company, they also recorded Burmese theatrical works in sets of 40–60 records, as well as shorter pieces. They left Burma for the Dutch East Indies where they recorded Javanese gamelan ensembles as well as the popular stamboul songs, a type of theatre music influenced by European music. An emergency stop in Bangkok yielded no recordings, unfortunately. Instead, after a few days they left for Singapore where they continued recording. Their next stop was Hong Kong (where they made record-

ings above an opium den) and then on to Shanghai and Tokyo, finally returning to Berlin in July of 1906. A follow-up expedition took place in 1906–1907, which included Singapore, Siam, the Dutch East Indies, as well as India and China. A third Southeast Asian tour was conducted in 1909. Odeon was another important German label, first making recordings in India, Siam, Burma, and the Dutch East Indies in 1907 and 1908. They, too, recorded a wide variety of styles: traditional Javanese gamelan, stamboul, and another genre of popular music known as kroncong. Odeon soon came to dominate the Indonesian market. While other companies sent agents to set up offices, Odeon used local agents to find and record talent. Eventually, the other labels followed suit and came to rely on local talent scouts or agents. Some of these agents went on to form the first locally-owned labels. A third German company, Lyrophon, was also recording in Southeast Asia. Lyrophon had started out making cylinders before switching to the flat disc format. Very little is known about their activities in Asia, but advertisements from 1913 listed records in many Asian languages, including Siamese, Burmese, Annamite (Vietnamese), Malay, and Javanese.

Between 1910 and 1913, the German record industry experienced a restructuring. Lyrophon, along with Beka, Odeon, and others, were acquired by the German holding company Carl Lindstroem A.G. The American record companies Columbia and Victor were not as involved in Southeast Asia. Victor made no recordings in the region during these first years of recording. Columbia, as early as 1904, had sent recording engineer Charles Carson to Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. In 1907, Carson was joined by Harry Marker and continued making Chinese recordings. Marker went on to record in Singapore and Bangkok later that year. While in Bangkok he conducted a recording session at the palace of King Rama V. Marker returned again in 1910, making hundreds of Javanese, Arabic, and Chinese recordings in the Dutch East Indies. In Singapore he recorded more Malay and Chinese records. As with most of these ground breaking early recording pioneers, there is scant information on the actual details of their experiences. Marker was one of the few who left us a brief account of his travels. He was nothing if not tenacious. A short New York Times article from 1912 recounts his suffering burns from an oil lamp explosion in Shanghai, being quarantined


in Port Arthur, and losing trunks on the Trans-Siberian Railway. He even claimed to have once smoked opium to lure a famous but reluctant Chinese singer. With oppressive temperatures, monsoons, mosquitoes, fever, dysentery, and language and cultural barriers, not to mention hauling hundreds of pounds of fragile equipment and wax masters across the continent, it’s astonishing that these recording engineers were able to overcome the many obstacles before them. One strategy to make expeditions easier and more efficient was to travel along the ancient maritime trade routes. Rangoon, Bangkok, Singapore, Jakarta, and other port cities were easily accessible by ship. Because roads inland were sparse (if there were any at all) and railroads had not yet been built, the music of the interior was neglected. French Indochina was under-recorded by the major labels in this initial wave of recording. Tending to do business in colonies to which they were related, English, German, and American companies never recorded in the French colonies of Indochina in these early years. The French Pathé label began as a manufacturer of cinema equipment just before the turn of the century. At first they released cylinder recordings before switching to the flat disc in 1906. In 1908–09, Pathé recordists Henri Lachappelle and M. M. Saife traveled to India, Siam, Ja-


pan, China, and French Indochina where they made a significant number of recordings. Unfortunately, there is very little surviving documentation of these expeditions other than the discs themselves, which are quite rare. Pathé established offices in Tokyo, Shanghai, Bombay, and Singapore and continued to record in Siam and Indochina for the next few years until the outbreak of World War I ended the first phase of recording in Southeast Asia, as elsewhere. Although recording by the Gramophone Company continued through the teens, engineer Fred Gaisberg himself noted that it was not a productive time for the industry. The German labels, Beka, Odeon, Lyrophon, and others (now controlled by Lindstroem), suffered the most as international shipping and commerce were disrupted and the German economy left in ruins. Conversely, the 1920s was a period of growth for the record industry; new electrical recording technology was being developed that significantly improved the sound of the records. Economies were rebuilding after the war. In Germany, the labels controlled by Lindstroem had begun to recover as well. Both Beka and Odeon released a series of records from Indochina and recorded in the Dutch East Indies. An Odeon catalog from 1926 lists over 300 Vietnamese records. In 1928, both made historic trips to Bali, where each made a series of historic Balinese gamelan recordings. Indochina

continued to be an important market for Pathé. Columbia was active in Burma, Siam, Singapore and Dutch East Indies. Victor would finally venture into Southeast Asia in 1924, when engineers Jack Linderman and Fred Elsasser made recordings in French Indochina. A second series of Victor recordings were made in 1927 on a trip that included Tonkin, Hue, and Saigon, and included the first ever recordings of music from Laos. Meanwhile, the Gramophone Company had switched to their “His Master’s Voice” trademark in 1916 and continued recording heavily in India, Burma, the Dutch East Indies, and Singapore. By 1930 their Southeast Asian catalog was very large, and yet dwarfed by the staggering number of Indian records they had made. They opened a new, modern pressing plant at Dum Dum, outside of Calcutta, that greatly improved their production capabilities through the 1930s. But the rebound of the 1920s came to a halt with the stock market crash in 1929. Shockwaves rippled through the world’s economy, seriously damaging the record industry. In order to survive, the recording industry undertook a complicated series of legal maneuvers that led to a massive merger. The Gramophone Company, Columbia, the Lindstroem labels, and Pathé (both had recently been acquired by Columbia), as well as other labels, merged to form the conglomerate EMI. The various imprints continued to release Southeast Asian records during the 1930s, but struggled with the effects of the Depression as well as competition from radio and cinema.





LOCAL ENTREPRENEURS often lacked the resources

to break into the record business. Recording, mastering, and pressing discs required a large investment, as well as advanced engineering capabilities. The only option for most aspiring record producers was to establish a partnership with a European record company as an agent. This was a symbiotic relationship, to varying degrees, in which the agent would assume duties such as the choosing of artists and repertoire, as well as the arranging and supervising of recording sessions. In exchange they would become the sole sales representative for their region. Merchants often came to record production through the selling of general merchandise or musical instruments. For example, the Katz Brothers were general merchants and music importers with a head office in Singapore and branches in Penang, Sumatra, British Borneo, and Siam. Around 1907,


they appear to have made a deal with the German record label Beka to release recordings under their own Katz Brothers label and began issuing Siamese records under their own name, presumably manufactured by Beka with Beka matrix numbers. Although they acted as agents for Odeon in Singapore, Siam seems to be the only area in which their label operated. Tio Tek Hong’s company in the central Javanese city of Semarang sold everything from clothes to motorcycles and was an agent for Odeon before World War II. Unlike Beka’s arrangement with the Katz Brothers, Tio Tek Hong did not have his own label, but instead the inscription “made by Tio Tek Hong and Company store, Semarang” was printed at the bottom of the Odeon label. As with the Katz Brothers, it’s not clear to what extent they were involved in selecting artists or supervising recording sessions. Tio Tek Hong eventually started his own eponymous label in the mid-1920s.


Although these early agent relationships were more akin to marketing strategies by the larger record companies than they were independent operations, the 1920s saw the emergence of several local companies with a higher degree of autonomy. These companies would often arrange their own recording sessions locally in one of the major labels’ studios, and send off the masters to be manufactured abroad, often by German pressing factories. Singapore had been an important center of recording activity since Gaisberg’s first recording tour, and likewise became fertile ground for the emergence of new local labels. Moutrie and Co. were sole agents for the Gramophone Company in China as early as 1904, and in Singapore in the 1920s and 1930s. Like other agents, their business included music related items such as sheet music, radios, as well as the sale and repair of musical instruments. They graduated from mere distributors to selecting and arranging artists, and releasing them under their own label, yet they were still closely linked to the Gramophone Company. In 1934, Moutrie and Co. released their first Chap Kuching records, which specialized in a popular theatrical music called bangsawan. The wax master recordings were sent off to the pressing at the Gramophone Company’s plant at Dum Dum, India, to be pressed, and returned for sale in Moutrie shops.


Chap Singa was started in 1937 by M.E. & T. Hemsley Co., another local distributor of the Gramophone Company, also based in Singapore. Tom Hemsley had previously supervised Moutrie’s Chap Kuching label before starting Chap Singa. The main focus of the labels was popular theatrical music, such as stamboul, kroncong, and bangasawan. Their artists included stars of the day, and they would promote their recordings by holding kroncong contests and other public events. Neither Chap Singa nor Chap Kuching survived WWII. Hemsley later started the Delima label, which featured Javanese singers. He was also the distributor for the Canary and Tjap Angsa labels, both of which were introduced in 1939. While some local companies used the Gramophone Company’s pressing services at their Dum Dum plant, others were pressed in Hanover, Germany, by Deutsche Grammophon. Mong Huat & Co. of Singapore was a distributor for the Hindenburg label, owned by Deutsche Grammophon and aimed specifically at the Southeast Asian market. When the Hindenburg label ceased production in the 1930s, it seems that Mong Huat made arrangements to continue with his own Pagoda label, still pressed by Deutsche Grammophon. Pagoda featured operas of Singapore’s thriving Chaozhou immigrants from the Guangdong province of Southern China, as well as various Malay recordings.

In Siam, Rabbit was one of the first truly independent labels. T. Ngek Chuan started his career as part of a traveling outdoor cinema troupe that exhibited films throughout southern Thailand and northern Malaysia. He eventually opened a cinema and store. The records in his store sold so well that, in 1925, he decided to start his own label. Arranging his own recordings, he would send the masters off to be pressed in Germany. The Rabbit label proved successful and throughout the 1930s–40s released a wide variety of music: folk, classical and popular, even Chuan’s own “Malay String Band.” In the years leading up to WWII, Rabbit also released cultural propaganda songs of Luang Wichitwathakan, songs with a Western approach intended to “modernize” the country. The war’s effect on Germany caused Rabbit to falter, and soon a new group of independent labels sprung up in Bangkok. Even more so than World War I, WWII was a turbulent period for the music industry in Southeast Asia. Recording, pressing, and distribution were greatly disrupted. The Japanese invasion of Southeast Asia had a devastating impact on the types of music allowed to be released, and recording came to a halt in the occupied countries. But after the war, the end of the colonial period opened up new opportunities. At

the same time, many of the major labels discontinued or drastically reduced activity in Southeast Asia, instead pursuing larger, international mainstream pop markets. The vacuum created by the exit of the major labels was quickly filled by a new generation of independent labels.  Two important developments after the war made the local record business more affordable: the establishment of record-pressing facilities in Southeast Asia, and the use of magnetic tape for recording. Although the development of magnetic tape began in the early 1930s , it wasn’t until the 1950s that it began to gradually replace the cumbersome method of recording onto wax masters. It became realistic for a small operation run by just a few people to set up in a basement or the back room of shop and produce recordings that were less costly and better sounding than the major labels’ releases just a decade earlier. The Rangoon label Toe Na Yar was owned by Daw Than Yin and was recording to tape in her basement by the mid-1950s. Revered Burmese singer Mar Mar Aye stated in a recent interview that some recordings were pressed in as little as 500 copies. While the biggest hits might have sold as many as 10,000 copies, the affordability of tape and local manufacturing allowed them to release these limited runs.


With the reduction of cost and the absence of major label competition, independent record companies began to sprout up around Southeast Asia throughout the 1950s. Since the mid-1930s in Vietnam, the Asia label had been releasing recordings of cải lương, a form of musical theatre from southern Vietnam. They were soon joined by many other labels based in Saigon, where the popular cải lương dominated the market. Thailand’s luk thung craze spawned a bewildering number of labels with distinctive, colorful graphics. Luk thung was a form of popular music with ties to rural culture and whose star singers would often start their own eponymous labels. Thailand also had several labels dedicated to Thai classical music. Burma’s thriving film industry helped lay the groundwork for a music scene that combined old and new sounds. As in Thailand, some labels focused on traditional music and dramas. Irama was one of the largest post-war labels in Indonesia. Started in 1954 by jazz impresario Suyoso Karsono, Irama released a wide variety of music and controlled a number of subsidiaries.


Irama continued to be successful into the microgroove era. However, the Indonesian music industry came to be dominated by Lokananta, the national recording company of Indonesia. Lokananta tried to counter Western influence by promoting Indonesian cultures and popular music with a local influence. A little-researched aspect of this era is the degree of influence imposed by governments. Nearly every Southeast Asian country’s record industry was affected to some degree by government control, from the softer cultural manipulations of Thailand and nationalism of Indonesia, to Burmese songs glorifying the military or Vietnam’s communist propaganda. Only Cambodia and Laos were left out of this wave of locally owned recording. While Cambodia had a handful of labels, Laos had none at all. By the 1960s, many of these indigenous labels followed the global trend and transitioned to the new microgroove LP and 45 rpm format. The 78 rpm record, recorded music’s primary medium for six decades, faded into history.




Add Rabbit Label 40





VIETNAM Vietnam is located in mainland Southeast Asia along the eastern coast of the Indochinese peninsula, bordered by China to the north, Laos and Cambodia to the west, the South China Sea to the east, and the Gulf of Siam to the south. While the Việt (or Kinh) people make up nearly 90 percent of the population, Vietnam is also home to more than 50 ethnic groups. There are sizeable Chinese and Khmer minorities, and a variety


of highland ethnic groups live along the Annamite Cordillera and in the mountains bordering China and Laos. The Vietnamese people trace their origins to the Ðồng Sơn culture present in the Red River basin during the centuries before the common era. This region was captured by the Chinese in 111 BCE and remained under Chinese control until 938 AD. China has remained a strong cultural influence to this day. From the 15th century, Vietnam began its southern advance, over several centuries seizing and settling in the kingdom of Champa (located along the coastline of the Annamite Cordillera) and later in the Khmer territories of the Mekong delta. In the 16th century, Vietnam came into contact with European culture through Catholic missionaries. In 1858 France began a military campaign that would eventually seize all of Indochina. During the early 20th century the French constructed a commercial and administrative infrastructure to consolidate their control of the colony. They divided present day Vietnam into three regions: Tonkin in the north, Annam in the center, and Cochinchina in the south, which along with Cambodia and Laos comprised French Indochina. The major cities of Vietnam that correspond to the three regions are Hanoi (the present day capitol), Huế (the royal capitol), and Saigon (the commercial hub of the country). Though Vietnam continued to resist the French, they also sought to learn from the West in order to mod-

ernize their nation. The August Revolution in 1945 was the prelude to a war of resistance that led to France’s defeat and exit from Vietnam in 1954. From that time Vietnam was split into two nations, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the north and the Republic of Vietnam in the south. After decades of conflict, the county was unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Vietnamese music is influenced by both Chinese and South Asian elements, the latter through long-term contact with the Cham and Khmer kingdoms. Prior to colonization, popular musical entertainments included hát bội (also known as hát tuồng or hát bộ), a court-supported musical theatre with origins in Chinese opera; hát chèo, a folk theatre of the north, the ritual and entertainment music of the court and ceremonial music used in local festivals; ca trù (or hát ả đào), a form of chamber music from the north featuring the musical recitation of poetry; and nhạc tài tử (music of talented amateurs), a style of chamber music originating in the central region that emphasized instrumental creativity and virtuosity. From around 1910, a new syncretic musical theatre form that used elements of hát bội and nhạc tài tử as well as folk songs and the music of that region’s ethnic Chinese. First known as ca ra bộ (literally, "gesture coming out of song"), it developed into a popular new theatrical genre called cải lương, the dominant genre of the 78 rpm format. Originally, plots were based on Chinese stories used in hát bội, but soon there were

also stories influenced and adapted from French literature and from motion pictures. Vietnamese also composed new songs in the style of nhạc tài tử, most notably “Dạ Cổ Hoài Lang” (“At the Night Drum Thinking of Him,” 1918) by Cao Văn Lầu, which developed into the extremely popular aria type, vọng cổ (“longing for the past”) represented on a number of recordings included here. JG


LAOS Laos is Southeast Asia’s only landlocked nation. It is 236,800 square kilometers, slightly larger than the state of Utah, with a population of about 5 million people concentrated along the Mekong River in several modest-sized cities. Outside of the cities, the population is sparsely settled in the rural areas, including the mountains that dominate much of the country. About half the population is ethnically Lao, lowland-dwelling people who practice wet-rice agriculture, with the remaining people scattered through the mid and upper elevations of the mountains. During the 19th century, Siam sought to control much of what is now Laos. An invasion by Siamese King Rama III in 1827 destroyed much of the city of Vientiane and forced most of the population to the Khorat Plateau in what is now northeast Thailand (Isan) as well as to the central plains in an arc north of Bangkok. With Lao people now living in Thailand, the central Thai began to take note of Lao music and culture. While those who moved to the central plain gradually as-


similated into Siamese culture, those on the Khorat Plateau maintained their Lao cultural identity, and as a result much of northeast Thailand today is culturally (and musically) Lao. Because of its orientation to Bangkok, however, the northeast has experienced much more modernization than did the area across the Mekong in Laos proper. Laos came under French “protection” in 1893 as part of the expansion of French Indochina, along with Vietnam and Cambodia. Because the French resisted Siamese claims to much of Laos, it has remained less developed and more conservative culturally than northeast Thailand. Largely administered by Vietnamese civil servants trained by the French, Laos suffered benign neglect through its independence in 1954 and fell further behind during the destructive Vietnam War. During the war, whole cities and towns were obliterated, and today long-forgotten cluster bomblets continue to kill and maim Lao children and farmers. As a result, Laos still lacks more than a rudimentary infrastructure in terms of roads, communications, and economy, although it is slowly improving in spite of its conservative, old-style communist government. Until quite recently,

the only way to reach Laos from Thailand, other than by air, was by ferry across the Mekong. Now there are three bridges, at Pakse, at Sawannakhet, and at Vientiane. In each case drivers from left-side driving Thailand must convert to the right-side driving of Laos. Musically, Laos is one of the most under-researched countries in the world. Having only one small teacher college, it has not produced any of its own music scholars. Although there have been government agencies charged with supervising research by foreign scholars, until around 2000 their efforts hampered more than encouraged fieldwork. The geography of the country itself has also discouraged research. Although the lowland Lao population is only around 3 million, there are 10 to 15 regional musical styles (depending on what is counted). In the southern region a given artist may perform several local styles, but in the north, each tends to be isolated from others. Given the difficulties of travel to each region—particularly into the many mountain villages that are inaccessible by road—it comes as no surprise that few scholars have documented these styles beyond a superficial level.

To the inexperienced listener, all Lao music probably sounds pretty much alike. So what distinguishes around 13 named regional forms? First, the names of each genre are preceded with either khap or lam. Khap denotes genres in the Vientiane region and all areas to the north. Lam denotes genres in the south. Both terms essentially mean “to sing” but carry the implication that the melody is closely related to the linguistic tones of the poetry. The names of each genre connote either a place name, a geographical feature, or the name of an ethnic subgroup. For example, khap phuan, found in Xieng Khouang province in north-central Laos, denotes singing of the Phuan, a Lao subgroup. Khap ngeum, a genre found just north of Vientiane, refers to its location along the Ngeum River, which flows into the Mekong just east of Vientiane. Lam khon sawan, found in south-central Laos, refers to its locale near the city of Sawannakhet on the Mekong. Making musical distinctions requires an experienced ear, especially in the south. The genres preceded by lam differ in terms of a basic melodic form that singers vary slightly to fit different texts and


to accommodate the linguistic tones. The accompaniment for all lam genres may be the khene (pronounced something like “can”)free-reed mouth organ alone, but the addition of a local fiddle or plucked lute plus small drum and small metal percussion is also possible. Other than the khap genre of Luang Phrabang, those in the north are normally accompanied by either khene or a single free-reed pipe simply called pi. The essential feature that defines all Lao genres is repartee, a vocal version of the war of the sexes in which male and female singers alternate. Their texts may be related to (feigned) courtship, but others depict competition, insults, and asking each other questions about cultural practices, religion, history, or old stories. While some skilled singers can improvise passages of poetry, though based on previously memorized models, most singers perform memorized poetry taught to them


by their teachers. Because many Lao are nonliterate, most teaching has been by rote. A performance, then, features a pair of male and female singers, at least one khene player, with the pair alternating throughout. Such performances remain a common feature of national, local, and temple-based festivals. Less representative of the Lao culture, but often prominent in recorded anthologies, Lao “classical” or “court” music was cultivated in the royal capital, Luang Phrabang, in the administrative capital, Vientiane, and to lesser extents in other centers such as Champassak. Whether its origin came from Angkor in Cambodia or from Ayuthaya in Siam/Thailand, by the end of the 19th century it was only an echo of Thai practice, with one exception. The Lao sometimes added khene to the classical instruments (xylophones, gong circles, fiddles, flute, oboe, drums, and other percussion), and while there was a contradiction between the equidistant classical tuning and nonequidistant khene tuning, it was minor enough that few noticed. Recordings from before 1975 show that playing levels in Laos were far simpler than those in Thailand. Following the abolition of the monarchy in 1975, classical music was extinguished until well into the 1980s when it was slowly and reluctantly revived for purposes of representation at foreign festivals. Since then it has slowly recovered but remains simple in style to this day. TM

CAMBODIA By nearly any measure Cambodia, a small nation of only 14.7 million people, underdeveloped, poor, governed by an entrenched single-party government, would not seem to be very significant, but considering its glorious past as one of the world’s greatest empires centered around Angkor, it cannot be ignored. Even as the Khmer (the proper adjective) culture has suffered near extinction twice, first in 1432 when the Siamese inflicted their final defeat on Angkor, and second when the Khmer Rouge “reign of terror” (1975– 1979) attempted to extinguish everything Khmer and recreate the nation as a simple agrarian society obedient to its blood-thirsty rulers, it has also demonstrated resilience. There remains to this day a lively and distinctive musical culture. Because of its history, Khmer music was unable to develop the level that Thai music did, and indeed everything had to be rebuilt nearly from scratch following Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia in 1979 when the Khmer Rouge were ousted and the now entrenched regime of Hun

Sen started. But ironically, the oldest layers of Khmer music still live, though transformed, as Thai classical music. This is so because when the Siamese, centered at Ayuthaya, conquered Angkor in 1432 and its successor capital, Longvek, in 1594, they not only destroyed the empire’s great temples and palaces but forcibly carried off much of the population, including its musicians, dancers, and artists, resettling them in Siam where they gradually morphed into Siamese indistinguishable from earlier layers of Siamese. Since there is no record of Siamese music from before the conquest of Angkor, there is no way to know to what extent Siamese music changed under Khmer influence. Asserting that this influence was either extensive or defining raises touchy issues of cultural nationalism. The relationship between Siam and Cambodia is therefore quite tangled. The Khmer people brought from Angkor would have noticed remnants of the Angkor Empire within Siam, because before the rise of Sukhothai (13th century) and Ayuthaya (14th century), Siam’s earliest power centers, most of present-day Thailand was part of the Khmer Empire. Evidence of this is easily seen in the many temple ruins to the west nearly to the Burmese border and north towards present-day Vien-


tiane, Laos. These include a number of magnificent temple complexes at Phimai, Phanom Rung, Muang Tam, and Preah Vihar in the northeast and a more modest one at Muang Sing in the west, as well as many small “hospitals” (resting places for travelers) scattered throughout. Because the empire was so far-flung and communication with the center so difficult, it is not certain that the Khmer subjects at the fringes were more than local people who had adopted aspects of the empire. But as a result, many aspects of Siamese/Thai culture today reflect the Khmer Empire’s influence. In terms of music there is also a reciprocal relationship. Assuming that Siamese music was indeed remodeled under Khmer influence in the 16th century, it seems ironic that the Siamese, led by Thailand’s most famous composer, Luang Phradit Phairaw, later helped restore and remodel Khmer court music in the early 20th when the modest court in Phnom Penh sought to reestablish its court music and dance. As a consequence, virtually the entire repertory of Khmer “classical music” is of Thai origin, even if titles are in Khmer and the performance style differs in certain respects. But classical music constitutes only part of the picture, for Cambodia has a variety of distinctive local genres played by village musicians for specific occasions, especially for weddings and spirit


ceremonies. In these one hears Cambodia’s most distinctive timbres, rhythms, and textures. That we can continue to hear all of these today is nothing short of a miracle, considering that the Ministry of Culture estimated in 1988 that around 80 percent of Cambodia’s musicians and dancers had been killed, died of disease, or fled the country during the Khmer Rouge period. Clearly, then, the recordings included here are additionally valuable because they document Khmer music before these grievous losses. Thanks to its French colonial masters, Cambodia came to be circumscribed by fixed boundaries with Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand, but like borders elsewhere in the region, they mask the ethnic makeup of the land. There are significant numbers of Khmer in the Delta of the Nine Dragons, what the Mekong River is called in southern Vietnam, including temples and remnants of court music. Three provinces in Thailand’s lower northeast—Buriram, Surin, and Srisaket—are predominantly Khmer speaking to this day, and the greatest Khmer temple beyond Angkor sits on the border of Thailand and Cambodia, where access remains in dispute—the United Nations declared the temple to be within Cambodia, but entry can only be gained through Thailand because the temple’s Cambodian side is a sheer cliff. Many Lao live in the northwestern provinces bordering Laos,

and Cambodia’s northeast mountains, the Dangkrek, are inhabited by upland peoples, some speaking languages unrelated to Khmer but culturally close to many groups in nearby Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Perhaps the most intriguing question to ask of the living traditions of Khmer music is its relationship, if any, to the silent music depicted in the stone bas reliefs of Angkor Vat and Angkor Thom. Studies of the archaeological evidence in relation to contemporary phenomena remain preliminary, and drawing conclusions will always have risks. Nonetheless, at least one modern instrument is clearly depicted at Angkor Vat, a semicircular gong circle, doubtless an early version of what became the kong thom in Cambodia, khawng wong yai in Thailand and Laos, and kyi waeng in Burma. Many military-like scenes depict hanging gongs and numerous figures appear to be playing wind instruments. The small cymbals used to mark time (ching in Thai and Khmer, sing in Lao) are also seen. Most intriguing is what appears to be a bowed monochord, now thought to be the highlands kni, which has, in addition to the bowed string, another running from the bridge to the

player’s mouth, giving the instrument a most unusual timbre. Today in Cambodia many of the institutions that support music and dance have been restored. Others persist as best they can. Cambodia still has a king and thus a court-music establishment. The Royal University of Fine Arts teaches music, dance, and theater. The many tourists around Angkor support performers in restaurants and other venues. Many of the land-mine victims living around Angkor play local wedding-style music for tourists. Wedding musicians play gigs for ceremonies, and presumably the spirit ceremonies have resumed. In Thailand’s lower northeast there are remnants of classical music and much ceremonial music associated with spirits. The selection of recordings offered here reflects but a small part of this heritage, but does so in memory of musicians who lived in the past and of those who died during the Khmer Rouge period. TM From a distance Thailand may seem like a “small” country, but like most nations, the closer you get, the more complicated it becomes. That is true of Thailand both generally and musically. Putting the music heard in


THAILAND this collection into perspective requires keeping multiple perspectives within view: some cultural, some historical, and some as particular as the prime minister in power. Geographically, Thailand is defined by officially recognized borders, but as is true of most of its neighbors, these boundaries seem arbitrary in relation to factors such as language, culture, and even geography. Before the age of European colonialism, Southeast Asia’s kingdoms expanded and contracted continuously based on how much power each ruler could project and hold. Power extended outwards as far as possible, but the further from the court, the more amorphous that power became, and much of the territory between kingdoms was ambiguous in terms of loyalty. National boundaries came about as a result of the colonial expansion of the British and French, the former extending their power from India east into what became Burma (now Myanmar) and down the Malay Peninsula including what is now Malaysia. The French controlled the southeastern parts of the subcontinent, comprising what is now Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Thailand (called Siam until 1939), through the adroit leadership of its kings during the 19th century, escaped colonialization, but had they failed, it is clear that either (or both) the French and the British would have happily absorbed Siam. Conversely, the Siamese rulers had been laying claim to vast territories extending to the south as well as east and north of the Me-


kong River all the way to northern Vietnam based, at least in the latter case, on language relationships. This is because the Tai language family includes the Lao and some of the main minority groups in northern Vietnam. Siamese expansion was stopped by the French in a series of treaties and French expansionism was resisted successfully by the Siamese kings. As a result, the modern borders were compromises, and the Thai nation includes three Malay provinces in the south, a host of Laospeaking provinces in the northeast, three Khmer-speaking provinces in the lower northeast, and a great variety of non-Tai minority groups along its northern and western borders. Consequently, “music in Thailand” demonstrates much greater variety than “Thai music,” especially

if the latter is defined as that of the central Thai culture alone. Modern Thailand, while unified through the imposition of central Thai as the national language and power concentrated in Bangkok, still consists of four distinct cultural regions, though those distinctions are less and less pronounced as a result of modernization. The central plain, to the east, north, and west of Bangkok, is the nation’s main culture, but musically distinguishes the aristocratic (or court) tradition from local—and mainly rural—music. The north, northeast, and south each have distinctive music types and styles, in fact the northeast is subdivided into three musical areas: one Khmer based, one Lao, and one centered around the city of Nakhon Ratchasima (aka Khorat). Besides the factors of differentiating “classical/court” from “local,” and one region from another, there are the factors of modernization and globalization. These too are reflected in music, including some of the selections heard here. Kings Mongkut and Chulalongkorn (Rama IV and V, respectively), ruling from 1851 to 1910 and the prime architects in maintaining Siam’s independence, used modernization to counter any European ideas of imposing “manifest destiny” in order to “civilize” their expanding empires. It was especially King Chulalongkorn who brought Western patterns of administration,

education, communication, and living patterns to his subjects, and this included Western music brought about both by plan and through the influence of the growing community of Western diplomats, traders, military advisers, and missionaries. The lesser of the two was the development of Western classical music through the formation of Siam’s first symphony orchestra in 1911. Even with support from the court (and later the Fine Arts Department) and the training of Thai to play Western classical instruments, symphony orchestras have always struggled


in the kingdom, even today. Popular music, on the other hand, flourished. The Western community brought social dance music, and later Thai learned both to play this music and to dance. The first major genre of popular music, called luk krung (“songs of the city”), was primarily ballroom dance music sung with sophisticated poetry. These songs were


made famous by the band Suntharaphon founded in 1943 and led by Bun-Uea Sunthonsanan, who both arranged and played. From this other kinds of songs developed with more down-to-earth lyrics expressing the lives of ordinary people, including farmers, the beginnings of what is now Thailand’s most prominent popular genre, the luk thung (“songs of the fields”). Although luk thung songs were originally from central Thailand, those that developed to express the experience of northeastern Thai, who are culturally Lao, have come to dominate (luk thung isan). The present compilation, while not comprehensive, nonetheless includes Thai classical, both played by traditional ensembles and instruments as well as by instruments representing newer influences, as well as an example from the northeast and one popular song. Some of these tracks offer surprises too and fill lacunae in our history of music in Thailand. TM

BURMA At this point in time (2012), there is no internationally accepted convention for referring  to the country, which, during the era of these recordings,  was known as “Burma.”  As several observers have pointed out, both “Myanma” and “Bama” have been used interchangeably throughout Burmese history, with “Bama” or under British rule “Burma” used colloquially and “Myanmar” used in more formal contexts in Burmese writing. In the 1990s, the Burmese military government decided unilaterally to change the official name of Burma to Myanmar. Various opposition groups, exile publications, and academic organizations and journals still use “Burma.” Because we focus here on recordings from the early to mid-20th century, we will use “Burma.” Burma, with its borders delineated by British Imperial Rule in 1885, fronts the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, framing the western coast of mainland Southeast Asia. With China to the north, India (Assam) and Bangladesh to the west and Thailand and Laos to the east and south, Burma today—with its inheritance as a busy crossroads by land and sea—is host to an extraordinarily diverse group of cultures, com-

munities, and languages. The Burmans, predominantly Theravadan Buddhists, comprise 68 percent of the total population.    Both lowland (Mon, Burman, Rakhine, Karen, and others) and mountain peoples (Shan, Kachin, Karen, Chin, Naga, Wa, and others) in Burma over the centuries have adapted instruments arriving via trade routes from other countries and kingdoms to flavor indigenous musical culture. The duty of every victorious monarch in kingdoms throughout Burmese history was to appropriate foreign artisans, musicians, and performance genres upon conquest. Of particular relevance for these recordings, was the Burmese conquest of Ayudhya in Siam in 1767. Siamese performers were forced into slavery and brought to the Burmese court where they taught their arts to Burman musicians and dancers. Siamese songs from the Ramayana (Thai Ramakien) were reinterpreted in Burmese language and musical style. These Yodaya songs became a core genre popular into the 20th century and used extensively in the first years of recordings. Over the centuries Burmese musicians have joyfully embraced instruments from Persia, China, India, Thailand, Europe and “Burmanized” them with new tunings and sometimes  imaginative recon-


figurations.  Several instruments on these recordings are of particular interest. A set of tuned drums—originally a collection of seven and said to be from India—was extended in the 1860s to 19 tuned drums hung on a wooden frame circle with enough space for a player at the center. This larger drum circle, known as the  hsaing waing,  enabled the evolution of virtuosic techniques still in use today. The cornet, slide guitar, mandolin, concertina, violin, banjo, lap harp, piano, and iron-barred xylophone all folded into use in Burmese ensembles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries but were adjusted to accommodate Burmese tunings and modes and techniques of playing.  The national iconic arched Burmese harp (saung gauk) shares its shape with other cultures, has a cousin used among the Karen, and was long the favored chamber instrument of the Burmese court accompanying the earliest songs extant: the Kyo. The structure of the Burmese language is more closely related to Tibetan than Thai in the SinoTibetan classification of languages. In representing its tones through song, singers must obey certain caesuras and glottal stops to be understood, in addition to making other words longer and fluid through melisma (a group of notes sung to a single syllable) for both expression and clarity of meaning. To an outside ear, the abrupt, stopped tones—with their


corresponding motion in instrumental accompaniment—dictate a rhythmic propulsion and deceleration distinct from surrounding musics in Burma. The mark of an extraordinary singer is his or her ability to time melismas and stops correctly to the regular meter of the bell and clapper (si, wa)—a relationship to timing common to other musics of Southeast Asia.  The early introduction of both silent film and recording technology by the British yielded a remarkable creative response among the Burmese, which was initially among the Burman majority and later expanded to other groups incorporating their own languages and music. In the 1920s, some Western, and later Burmese silent films, were accompanied by Burmese musicians. Singers and instrumentalists emerged who later received great acclaim and fostered a renaissance of Burmese performing styles, both popular and classical.  With silent films requiring constant live background music, ensembles began to compete with one another to attract audiences to particular movie theatres. Demonstrating one’s improvisatory skills through virtuosic display in instrumental interludes became a prerequisite for sandaya (piano) and hsaing players leading their groups. The great sandaya, hsaing waing leaders, the slide guitar and sang gauk players, all performers and composers of the

1930s, and onwards were able to create music that carried both the flavor of the old Mahagita classical canon, but also introduced complexity and greater ingenuity in instrumental patterns, incorporating more range on their instruments. As with instruments, vocal techniques from other cultures were imported and adapted to Burmese singing styles.  Popular movie stars would record hit songs from movies, the sales of which would ensure a large audience.  Often, both Burmese and Western styles would be mixed in one song: verses in Burmese style with refrains accompanied by a Western harmonized vamp. As more western popular styles were absorbed into the Burmese music of the 1940s and onward, less melisma was incorporated into singing styles.   In Burma, hand-cranked record players were used into the 1970s, replaced by cassette machines which were more portable and cheaper than long-playing record players. Studios at the Burma Broadcasting Service in Rangoon (which became known as the Myanma Radio and Television Service in the 1960s) broadcast Burmese classical and

music based on classical styles known as khi' haung with an accompanying lecture series by well-known writers on music.   As the Burmese generations born in the 1920s and 1930s pass on— those who remember listening to some of these recordings as children, the musicians among them even remembering meeting or working with some of the performing artists— a proverbial golden age of Burmese musical intricacy that connected audiences across generations will gradually recede. However, the good news is that some younger musicians are learning the music of the hsaing waing, learning to sing songs from the Mahagita and khi’ haung song styles. Ensembles around Burma are active at Pagoda festivals, issuing DVDs, uploading their work to the Internet, playing for theatre performances, and even collaborating with popular musicians. Work on archiving the thousands of recordings represented by this current selection has begun in Yangon (formerly Rangoon), which will be accessible to younger Burmese and international audiences online: for all who wish to soothe their ears and awaken to history in a legacy of remarkable music and poetry. KY


MALAYSIA, SINGAPORE & INDONESIA Indonesia is part of island Southeast Asia, and Malaysia is both part of island and mainland Southeast Asia, usually respectively called East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak, located on the island of Borneo) and West Malaysia (the Malay Peninsula). There are approximately 245 million people in Indonesia and 28 million in Malaysia. The majority in both countries is Muslim, particularly in Indonesia where over 85percent or about 208 million people follow Islam, making Indonesia the country with the most Muslims in the world. Singapore, the city-state in between Malaysia and Indonesia, is a secular state (with Buddhists, Confucians, Muslims, Christians, and Hindus) and has about 5 million people. In sharp contrast with Malaysia and especially with Indonesia, Singapore is an economic powerhouse with one of the world’s highest per capita GDP. The majority of Indonesians and Malaysians are Malay peoples speaking very similar Austronesian languages. Malay was the lingua franca among the diverse types of Malays living in the archipelago (Malaya, Borneo, Indonesian islands, Southern Philippines, and southern Thailand). Songs recorded in Malay were popular among the Malays in the archipelago. The Indonesian language was largely adopted in 1928 from the Malay language spoken in the ports in Java and Sumatra. Today, virtually all Indonesians speak Indonesian, though it is still normally a citizen’s second language. Indonesia is much more diverse than Malaysia with some 300 ethnic groups spread over thousands of islands. Malaysia is officially multiethnic and multicultural with a much higher

percentage population of Chinese and Indians than Indonesia. Singapore’s majority people are Chinese descent with sizable Malay and Indian minorities; English heads the list of official languages, which also includes Malay, Chinese, and Tamil. Both Indonesia and Malaysia have indigenous peoples (orang asli) speaking distinct languages. Indonesia and Malaysia had different colonial masters: Indonesia was colonized over stages by the Dutch, while Malaysia (and the area of Singapore) was colonized by the British. Both nations were also occupied by other foreign powers: the British for Indonesia and the Portuguese for Malaysia (Portugal also occupied areas of East Indonesia for centuries). The distinct Dutch and British backgrounds further separated Indonesia and Malaysia in terms of politics, legal systems, development, and music. Malaysians also speak English much better than Indonesians. While Indonesia achieved independence from the Dutch soon after the end of World War II, the Federation of Malaya was declared as an independent federation of the Malay states in 1957 and the name “Malaysia” was adopted in 1963 when the existing states of the Federation were joined by Singapore, North Borneo, and Sarawak. Singapore left Malaysia to form its own nation in 1965. Both Malaysia and Indonesia are considered “gong cultures,” with a plethora of gongs used in music ensembles. The musics of Java and Bali in Indonesia are characterized by gamelan ensembles, consisting of gongs, metallophones, gong-chimes, drums, and flutes in a variety of combinations. Smaller ensembles, often with fewer numbers of bronze or metal instruments, are found throughout both countries. Gamelan traditions were seemingly first introduced to Malaysia in the early 19th century

as a wedding gift of the royal family of Riau (Indonesia). The bamboo flutes, suling, are found in both nations as is the rebab, a bowed lute purportedly of Arab or Persian origins, which has a particular importance in the Malaysian mak yong and the Javanese and Sundanese gamelans. Other shared traditions include the shadow puppet play, wayang kulit, an a cappella popIslam style, nasyid (which began in Malaysia), Malay opera, Islamic music using the gambus (Malay oud), martial arts (pencak silat), and certain Sufi traditions, zikir. Both countries also have other theatrical traditions and masked dancing. In some states in Malaysia, religious groups have managed to ban pre-Islamic traditional arts, such as wayang kulit, and such efforts are sometimes attempted in Indonesia. The position of women in public performance has come under scrutiny in both countries, though at the same time a number of traditions that used only to be available to men are now also available to women. While both countries have a sizable Chinese minority, that in Malaysia has had a larger impact in the recording industry. In Singapore, Chinese influence is much more pronounced and Chinese artists are more promi-

nent. During the 78 rpm era, Singapore was a major center of recording activity, with performers traveling from different parts of Malaya and the Malay archipelago to record, while in Indonesia, recordings were made in various Javanese cities. Most of the recordings available in this collection are either relics of history or are antecedents of the traditions we can still hear today. The Malaysian and particularly the Indonesian governments have frequently tried to preserve traditional performing arts, such as gamelan and wayang kulit, and teacher-training programs have sometimes been established to transmit the arts. It is not only religious leaders that challenge traditional arts, but also a new generation of media-savvy and globally oriented youth who tend to be drawn to globally circulating styles (e.g., reggae, metal) and new hybrid popular styles such as campursari (Javanese gamelan with Western instruments) and the Indonesian megaphenomenon, dangdut (combining Indian film music, Western instruments and rock, Malay orchestra elements, and Arab elements). Films and media, including MTV outlets, have been supporting most of the popular styles. DH Singapore harbor, ca. 1920s (following pages)












A1 V I E T N A M

Tôn Tẫn Giả Điên

ca. 1946

Sun Bin Feigns Madness Performed by Út Trà Ôn, voice Huệ, guitar Thủy (or Thúy), violin A sia 16 5 8 -1 Asia was the first label run by a Vietnamese owner—Ngô Văn Mạnh, a.k.a. Thầy Năm Mạnh (ca. 1908–1957). He originally worked in his father’s bicycle and rickshaw repair business. In 1936 he bought some used and slightly out of date recording and pressing equipment from Pathé, then set to work on learning to record. Asia was originally located at Đường Danel, Bình Tây (Chơ Lớn), then later moved to 324 Bến Hàm Tử (the current location of the Xí Nghiệp Băng Từ Sài Gòn Video Audio). Specializing in cải lương, the label primarily released records from 1936 or 1937 through the early 1950s. In the early days, their recordings were apparently not as state-of-the-art in sound quality as the foreign labels. Ngô Văn Mạnh is reputed to have gotten along very well with the artists. Asia had a near monopoly on Vietnamese recordings during the war and its immediate aftermath. JG

The first decade of the 20th century saw the birth of a new style of popular musical theatre in southern Vietnam that came to be known as cải lương (meaning “reformed theatre”). Its popularity grew to such an extent that by the 1940s cải lương was the main genre of Vietnamese music being recorded in the 78 rpm format. These cải lương


recordings most often consist of a type of aria called vọng cổ (meaning “longing for the past”), a type of musical form that allows for much improvisation. Vọng cổ is the single most important musical work in 20th century Vietnam. It evolved from a piece entitled “Dạ Cổ Hoài Lang” (“Hearing the Night Drum I Think of My Husband”) written by Cao Văn Lầu (Sáu Lầu) in the late 1910s (see track A3). “Dạ Cổ Hoài Lang” is relatively simple and brief, employing 20 musical phrases that are each two measures in length (articulated by the song lang, a castanet played with the foot). Over the years, the phrases gradually doubled, the expansion providing greater distance between structural points in the melody and allowed for more melodic elaboration. Út Trà Ôn (1919–2001) is one of the greats of recorded cải lương and is often called the “King of vọng cổ” (vua vọng cổ). His actual name is Nguyễn Thành Út — Út meaning "the last born child." He was the youngest of 10 children in his family. He added the appellation Trà Ôn, the name of the district in Cần Thơ province where he was born. He sang this version of “Tôn Tẫn Giả Điên” (“Sun Bin Feigns Madness”) early in his career and it was this work that cemented his reputation as a performer and established Asia as a prestigious label. Asia came into existence as an indigenous label when the multinationals began to leave the Vietnamese market at the outset of World War II. This record set is supposed to have sold like hotcakes in 1947. Út Trà Ôn’s singing was especially admired for his technique and breath control, as well as the sweet sound of his voice. This work is a tour de force for Út Trà Ôn where in this state of madness he sings the melody, brings in folk songs, and recites verse. “Tôn Tẫn Giả Điên” is




here presented in a 16 beat form (16 nhịp), where the structural beats are spread allowing more melodic elaboration and variation. The first and sixteenth beats are marked by a tapping of a song lang. Tôn Tẩn was a general of the Qi state that was allied with the Zhou state and is believed to have died in the year 316 BCE. He feigned madness to avoid betraying his knowledge of military strategy and to escape from the Wei. He was the author of Sun Bin’s “Art of War,” which is sometimes conflated with Sun Tzu’s “Art of War.” The ensemble is made up of guitar and violin. Both of these Western instruments are played in an distinctly Vietnamese manner. According to Hồ Trường An, the violin was introduced to the cải lương ensemble by Mười Còn in the late 1930s. In this music, the guitar is known as a ghi-ta phím lõm and is an acoustic Spanish guitar with the space between frets dug out (or concave: “lõm“) that allows the player to add microchromatic embellishments to fit a composition’s mode. This manner of modifying the guitar to play the ornaments of Vietnamese traditional music is said to have been invented in the 1920s by a music master named Sáu Tiên from Rạch Gia, a city located on the Gulf of Siam near the Cambodian border. JG


A2 C A M B O D I A

Phleng Boran

A3 V I E T N A M

Xứ Tội Bàng Quí Phi, Thứ Nhì


Old Song Performed by Sak Som Peo Ensemble


Sentencing Precious Consort Pang, Part 2 Performed by Văn Hí Ban with the Văn Hí Ban Troupe

Columbia GF 6 8 4, W LI-310

V ic tor 4 3 419 -A

Little information has surfaced about this obscure series. Columbia recorded

The American record company Victor was based in Camden, New Jersey, and

the GF series in what was then Indochina, and pressed the records in France for

was not a big player in the Southeast Asian record market. Although they had

sale in both regions. The series included Vietnamese and Cambodian record-

an affiliated headquarters in Shanghai that made many recordings of Chinese

ings. Unfortunately, the series does not seem to include any Lao recordings.

opera and popular music, and could have easily mounted recording trips to Southeast Asia, Victor’s first foray into the region was lead by two American

The traditional music of the Cambodian villages is strikingly different from the classical court tradition. Whether for weddings, spirit ceremonies, repartee entertainment, or narrative singing, it emphasizes the use of stringed instruments, including one with a distinct timbre, the khse diev, a chest-resonated monochord, unfortunately not heard in this collection and likely not recorded during the 78 rpm era. Both classical and village traditions suffered grievous losses during the Khmer Rouge period but both have rebuilt. Interestingly, much village music is now played by those known as “land-mine musicians.” The long period of warfare involving different factions within Cambodia, the Vietnamese, Thai, and Americans resulted in Cambodia being thoroughly sewn with land mines, which continue to kill and maim people to this day. Some of these victims now play village music at the various temples at Angkor to attract donations from tourists.

recordists, William Linderman and Fred Elsasser. The team left the Port of San Francisco on June 24, 1924, bound for Shanghai, Teintsen, Peking, Hong Kong, Canton, and French Indochina. Although there is little information about their recording trip, some recently discovered archival evidence shows that they made this record, and others, in Saigon in December of 1924. The following month they made recordings of Cambodian music (likely in Vietnam) before eventually arriving in Tonkin, in Northern Vietnam, in February. They returned to San Francisco on June 10th, 1925, almost a year after their departure from the same port. Oddly, the recordings they made were released in Victor’s wellknown series of Chinese opera recordings, yet turn up very rarely.

This recording features a village string ensemble. The instruments include vertical bamboo flute (khloy), three-stringed fiddle (tro khmer), a two-stringed fiddle (tro ek or tro u), small cymbals (ching), and singer. The piece is simply titled “Phleng Boran,” meaning “Old Song,” and is likely from the phleng kar category, songs sung at weddings. TM

This disc excerpts the same play about Precious Consort Pang as track A12. However this recording is of cải lương instead of hát bộ theatre. It also is an early recording of the aria known as vọng cổ. The melody is “Dạ Cổ Hoài Lang” (“Hearing the Night Drum I Think of My Hus-




band)” written by Cao Văn Lầu (Sáu Lầu) in the late 1910s. Cao Văn Lầu was born in 1892 in Long An province but grew up and lived in Bạc Liêu province. He loved tài tử (talented amateur) music from his youth and later became a musician in a local cải lương troupe. The original lyrics of “Dạ Cổ Hoài Lang” are based on a poem by Nguyệt Chiếu with a theme similar to the famed Vietnamese novel in verse “Chinh Phụ Ngâm Khúc” (“Lament of a Soldier’s Wife”). It is thought that Cao Văn Lầu’s words also reflect the separation from his wife that his parents mandated when she proved unable to bear children. This melody, separated from the lyrics, became the basis for the aria “Vọng Cổ Hoài Lang” (“Remembering Things Past Thinking of My Husband”) that is sung on this record side. This is probably one of the earliest recordings of any form of vọng cổ. The lyrics from “Precious Consort Pang” follow the form and melody of “Dạ Cổ Hoài Lang.” According to the disc’s label, the performers are a “quartet Annamite.” Annam (meaning “pacified South”) was a generic name that the French gave to the three regions of Vietnam that they controlled. However, a 1926 Victor Catalog lists the performers as belonging to the Văn Hí Ban Troupe. The Văn Hí Ban Troupe, based in Chợ Lớn, was managed by Huỳnh Kim Vui. They presented some of the best staged performances of the early 1920s. The recording opens with recited dialog, with the melody starting at the 0:55 second mark. The vọng cổ melody concludes at 2:35 and is followed by more recited dialog. The work consists of 20 measures that accelerate slightly. Although it is sometimes difficult to hear, the song lang foot castanet punctuates the end of many of the measures. JG Dan tranh player



A4 V I E T N A M

Tả Cảnh Cô Đầu Thua Bạc


Describing the Scene of a Songstress Losing at Gambling Performed by Đào Nhã (actress Nhã) V ic tor 4 0 0 2 7-A-1

It seems that Victor made only two recording tours of Indochina, the first in 1924/25 (see track A3), and the second made 2 years later. While we know that the first expedition was led by two recordists from America, the second recording team remains anonymous. Victor kept what they called “history cards” for all of their issued discs. These handwritten index cards included detailed information taken by the engineer at the time of the recording session. While the cards for the second expedition do not include the names of the recordists, the dates of each recording allow us to reconstruct the itinerary. They reveal that 114 sides were recorded, using recently developed electrical recording equipment, in the fall of 1927 and released in 1928 and 1929 in a series numbered 40000-40113. Based on the performers names, song titles, and recording dates, it appears that the team began recording in Hanoi, in northern Vietnam, on September 8, 1927. From there they traveled south to Hue, in Vietnam’s central region, and began recording on October 3. The final recording sessions took place in Saigon from October 29 to November 11.

The troupe in this recording was based at the Rạp Cải lương Hí viện Hà Nội. This theatre still stands at the intersection of Hàng Bạc (Silver Street) and Phố Tạ Hiện and is today called the Rạp Chuông Vàng (The Golden Bell Theatre). It’s an example of a form called chèo cải lương

that was created by Nguyễn Đình Nghi in the 1910s or 1920s. Đào Nhã was the star actress of his troupe. Cải lương in Vietnamese means "renovate" or "reform," so chèo cải lương refers to renovated chèo. Confusion arises because the predominant musical theatre genre of the south became known as cải lương (or renovated theater), and it is this meaning of the word that is most common today. Chèo is a form of musical theatre thought to have originated in the 18th century in rural northern Vietnam. The subject matter often pokes fun at societal mores. Nguyễn Đình Nghị was born in 1883 in Thuỵ Lôi village, Tiên Lữ district of Hưng Yên province (about 80 miles southwest of Hà Nội)‚ and died in 1954 in Hà Nội. In originating chèo cải lương he expanded the musical ensemble (traditionally often only two musicians playing the two-string fiddle called đàn nhị and various percussion) and incorporated melodies from outside of traditional chèo. He also wrote plays that incorporated current social themes. He was especially famous for his comedic performances known as Trận Cười or “laugh attacks.” This excerpt is entitled “Tả Cảnh Cô Đầu Thua Bạc” (“Describing the Scene of Songstress Losing at Gambling”). The songstress, or cô đầu, would be a performer of ca trù or hát ả đào—a geisha-like entertainment where cultivated poetry is recited according to melodic rules to the accompaniment of the đàn đáy (plucked lute with three strings) and a praise drum performed by an audience member. See tracks A22 and B2 for examples of this musical form. JG

Victor catalog pages





A5 C A M B O D I A

Thawai Phaka Thi

have been waiting for the Lao musicians to arrive in Hue? Searches of Vietnam1930

ese newspapers from the time do not mention any sort of festivals that visiting

Offering Flowers to a Monk Recited by Lad Un

musicians might have attended. It’s unlikely that Lao musicians would have

Columbia GF 6 9 3, W LI-3 3 2

upon by the Vietnamese at that time.

been invited to such a festival anyway, Lao music was very much looked down

This recording is from a genre of solo song unknown in the literature today. This song of offering is sung by a former high-ranking monk (khruba) named Lad Un in Phnom Penh, listed as a krou balad or “deputy teacher.” The Khmer language is only minimally tonal, and consequently Khmer vocal music tends to be plainer than that of tonal language singers, such as Lao, Thai, and Vietnam. TM

The possibility that the team traveled to Laos seems even more unlikely.

Laos is extremely remote and undeveloped, even today. The journey into Laos would have been arduous and difficult to make in the nine days between sessions, involving hauling heavy equipment and blank discs across the Annamite Cordillera mountain range and the rice fields of south central Laos. To continue on to Saigon would have required maneuvering around unnavigable rapids and waterfalls on the Mekong River at Khong. During much of the year, the weather is hot and humid and travelers at that time risked contracting a variety of diseases, especially malaria and cholera. The question of where the recording sessions oc-


Nang Nak

curred remains a mystery. 1927

Lady Snake Performed by the Ensemble of the Governor of Vientiane V ic tor 4 0 0 71-A

The recordings made during the Victor expedition detailed in track A4 are mostly of Vietnamese music, but 36 of the 114 sides contain what appear to be the earliest known recordings of Lao music. What isn’t detailed on Victor’s history cards is where the Lao recordings were made. The cards indicate that Vietnamese recordings were made in Hue on October 3, 1927, and then nothing

Eleven sides from the Lao series are included in this collection.

This composition, of Thai origin, is “Nang Nak,” but only the first of two sections was recorded. Nang translates as “Lady” and Nak is the Lao pronunciation of the Indic word naga, the mythological snake deity of Hinduism. In spite of these allusions, the composition has nothing to do with religious ritual. The ensemble mixes classical instruments with the Lao khene, a practice peculiar to Laos. The classical instruments include bamboo flute (khui), fiddle (so i), small cymbals (sing) and xylophone (lanat ek). TM

until the 36 Lao recordings were made on October 12. Could the recording team




A8 V I E T N A M


Khaek Mon


Performed by the Ensemble of the Governor of Vientiane V ic tor 4 0 0 71-B

Everything regarding the previous track applies here except that the work is an excerpt from a much longer piece entitled “Khaek Mon,” given on the label in French as “La Malaisienne” (“The Malaysian”). The Thai/Lao classical repertory includes a number of compositions whose titles begin with “Khaek Mon” but are completed with more words, e.g., “Khaek Mon Bang Khun Phrom.” The composition performed here (in part), however, is simply an independent composition called “Khaek Mon” whose title has no translation. Khaek refers generally to Muslim people and could allude to Muslims in southern Thailand, in Malaysia, from India, or even the Middle East including Persia. Mon refers to the original people, civilization, and language of Burma, a people who now occupy the Mon State in Burma, areas of western Thailand, and pockets elsewhere in Thailand. The terms also refer to specific scales or modes in Thai music. The khaek mode (thang khaek) is normally notated as G-A-B-D-E-F#-G (with the understanding that F# represents a tone halfway between E and G, lower than F# and higher than F) while the mon mode (thang mon) is written as Bb-C-D-F-G-A-Bb. Compositions in khaek mon mode constantly switch between these two scales, as is true of this performance. This excerpt comes from a later part of the composition, not near the beginning, but since sing (small cymbals) cannot be heard, it is difficult to know exactly where. TM

Nam Nhị-Tự 

ca. 1930

A Great Man Performed by Nguyễn Văn Minh, tức Minh-Con (a.k.a Minh, Junior) Columbia GF 52 9, W LI- 57

If one sound had to be chosen to evoke Vietnam, for many it would be the sound of the đàn bầu, also known as the đàn độc huyền (meaning single-string instrument). The word bầu means gourd and refers to the dried gourd fastened to the handle, surrounding the string at the point where it connects to the handle. In the past this gourd may have served as a resonator, but today it survives as a decorative feature. The đàn bầu is played exclusively with harmonics that are produced at nodes at 1/2, 1/3, l/4, 1/5, and 1/6 the length of the string. A small bamboo plectrum held in the right hand plucks the string while the lower side of the hand stops the string at the appropriate node. The left hand moves the handle to bend the pitch downward by moving in the direction of the instrument, or upward by pushing the handle away from the instrument. The pitch can bend as much as a fourth or fifth in either direction. The left hand also produces a variety of vibratos, glissandi, and grace notes. The instrument’s virtuosity and expressiveness are to be found in its left hand technique, which should have a subtlety that mimics the sound of the Vietnamese singing voice or declaimed poetry. đàn bầu player, left



Traditionally, however, the đàn bầu was looked down upon and was kept out of court ensembles. The Vietnamese also have a saying “Làm thân con gái chớ nghe đàn bầu” (If you’re a girl you shouldn’t listen to the đàn bầu) because of the instrument’s melancholy tone. Traditionally the đàn bầu was played by itinerant blind musicians (hát xẩm) but it was also incorporated into Vietnamese chamber music, known as music of talented amateurs (nhạc tài tử). More recently it also takes part in the ensembles of chèo and cải lương. According to musician and scholar Bùi Trọng Hiền, the musician heard here is either a very talented hát xẩm performer, or possibly a performer of Huế styled chamber music. In any case, the music is the Nam, or southern style, in the manner of a Huế musician. The title on the record’s label is probably a misprint – instead of “Nam Nhị-Tự” it should read “Nam Nhi Tự”  which translates as “A Great Man.” The sticker affixed to the record label reads “bán máy đĩa hát và sửa chữa / Đạ Phúc, 92 Hàng Bông.” It advertises the Đạ Phúc store on Hàng Bông street in Hanoi’s old quarter that “sells phonographs and makes repairs.” JG



Gap Pa Pheng


Chanting with Song Performed by Molam Som V ic tor 4 0 0 2 5 -A-1

The most typical form of repartee singing among the Lao (both in Laos and Northeast Thailand) is called lam in southern Laos and Thailand, and khap in central and northern Laos. A person who is skilled at singing is a molam, but the term is also used to refer to the genre generally. The male singer, Molam Nai (“Mr.”) Som, is accompanied on a 14 tube khene chet free-reed mouth organ by an unnamed musician, and the notes imply it was performed at Muang Khong, the area of dramatic rapids and falls in the Mekong River in the southern Lao province of Siphandone, meaning “four thousand islands.” The first side of this record, heard here, uses poetry that describes nature, warning that by going into the woods one comes into danger from many wild animals, in crossing the river to see the magic tree (mai manikhot). The second side of the record (not included here) continues with the same poetry, describing the fruit on the trees, saying whoever eats that fruit will become younger and that few gain access to that fruit. He sings that even hearing the beautiful natural sounds of nature cannot substitute for his beloved. Musically, the style heard is known as lam som, an archaic style that seems to have preceded that which is heard now, called lam siphandone. Although it is usual for the singer to begin with introductory




poetry in a non-metrical delivery, here the singer goes right into the main poem, which is sung in meter. The introduction was most likely omitted in order for the poem to fit the duration of the record. The body of the poem follows a scale pattern that can be expressed as A-CD-E-G, but at cadence points the mode changes to A-B-D-E, finally descending from B to the “tonic” A. TM

A10 V I E T N A M

Khổng Minh/Mẫu Tầm Tử 

ca. 1929

Kong Minh, Mother Searches for Her Child Performed by Van Thanh Ban (or Văn Thành Ban) Beka 2 013 7 I, 9 2 310

Although the German label Beka recorded in China, Burma, Siam, Singapore and the Dutch East Indies beginning in 1905, it wasn’t until the late 1920s that they released Indochinese recordings. The recording engineer Heinrich Lampe made this recording on a trip that included China, the Dutch East Indies, as well as Indochina. A small symbol engraved in the “dead wax," the area between the label and the grooves, indicates that this record was made using Lindstroem’s own electrical recording process, implemented in Berlin just a year earlier, in 1928, making this one of the first uses of that system in the field. Like Siegfried Frenz for Odeon, Lampe also made historic Balinese recordings for Beka in 1928. Although both Odeon and Beka were controlled by Lindstroem, they still acted autonomously, sending separate teams to Bali.


This is instrumental cải lương music in the Guangdong Chinese or hồ style. It is performed in the quảng mode, a pentatonic scale thought to be joyful in affect. The instrumental ensemble consists of a đàn nguyệt (a two-stringed moon-shaped lute with raised frets), a đàn nhị (twostringed fiddle related to the erhu) and a bamboo flute (a sáo or maybe a địch). There is a bell playing that is perhaps a pengling—a pair of finger cymbals connected by a string.  Khổng Minh (181-234), whose real name was Zhuge Liang, was a chancellor during the Shu Han dynasty known as a legendary strategist. On this side, the melody “Khổng Minh” is coupled with another composition entitled “MẫuTầm Tử,” or “A Mother Searches for Her Child.” Cải lương in the hồ quảng style flourished in areas like the Chợ Lớn district of Saigon, as well as many towns and cities of the Mekong delta area, which had a considerable Chinese population, many of whom often formed the affluent merchant class. The influence of Chinese music upon Vietnamese traditional music has been lasting and profound. Most of Vietnam’s string instruments correspond to

instruments in other East Asian countries. Many works in the nhạc tài tử repertoire were drawn from Chinese melodies and were Vietnamized in their manner of performance. Interestingly, the label of this disc has the words An-Lo-Man, a phonetic representation in Vietnamese letters of Allemande, the French word for German. Beka, of course, was a German label. JG

A11 V I E T N A M

Đờn Vọng Cổ (6 câu)—Kìm Độc Chiếc Playing Vọng Cổ (6 measures)—solo đàn kím Performed by Năm Cơ

late 1950s

L am S on 13 7-1

Lam Son was one of the many postwar Vietnamese labels based in Saigon that focused on cai luong. These small independent record labels throughout Southeast Asia continued to issue 78 rpm records in the 1960s.

Năm Cơ, whose real name was Dương Văn Cơ, was born to a very poor family in 1919 in the village of Lạc Thạch in Trà Vinh province. He learned music from the Chaozhou Chinese in this region who appreciated his precocious talent and gave him chances to learn and perform traditional ensemble music. He practiced music while tending water buffalo in the fields. Listening to vọng cổ recordings by Cô Năm Cần Thơ and Cô Ba Bến Tre in the late 1930s inspired him to take up the moon-shaped lute (đàn kìm or đàn nguyệt).

Throughout his career he was active with theatrical troupes, on the radio and in the recording studio. In 1946 he moved to Saigon to perform with a cải lương troupe. From 1950, he was a musician for traditional music performances on Radio France-Asie and later in the 1960s for many groups on Radio Saigon. He was also a musician with the Hoa Sen and Kim Chung cải lương troupes.


He might also be considered something of a session musician who regularly recorded with several labels. He was dubbed one of the “The Three Foremost Musicians of Saigon” (Ba đệ nhất danh cầm Sài Gòn) along with his close friends Bảy Bá (who uses the name Viễn Châu when composing cải lương and vọng cổ) and Văn Vĩ. The three of them, in various combination and on interchanging instruments, were prolific recording artists. Nam Cơ died January 24, 1980, in Saigon. Part of the success of vọng cổ had to be due to the fact that it was tailor-made for the 78 rpm and later the 45 rpm recording. Contemporary vọng cổ typically lasts around 6 minutes or a little longer and has a neat structural break half way through, allowing it to be recorded on the two sides of a disc. Below is a time chart mapping out the three phrases through their duration on this recording. Each timing represents the clapping of the song lang and the articulation into phrases that results. It sounds approximately three quarters through the phrase and at the start of a new phrase. The duration between each sound of the clapper is shown in parentheses and demonstrates the approximately three to one ratio between segments, except in the case of the opening phrase, which is shortened by the introduction. introduction—0:00-0:21 (21) phrase 1— 0:21-0:48-1:03 (27 seconds + 15 seconds) phrase 2—1:03-1:47-2:02 (44 + 14) phrase 3—2:02-2:42-2:56 (40 + 14)


Nam Cơ

In a 1963 interview Nam Cơ said that traditional music at its best did not stick too closely to a fixed framework and allowed for inspiration. His recording of the vọng cổ form shows him working within a pentatonic tonal realm, yet, through rhythmic variety, different types of articulation and ornamentation, weaving a fascinating melodic web. In the interview, he also noted that when he made records he often played with a slightly heavier touch because the technology did not always pick up softer subtleties. JG


A12 V I E T N A M

Xử Tội Bàng Quí Phi


Sentencing Precious Consort Pang (Part 6) Performed by Nội Giam with the bản hát Văn Hí Ban Odeon 157.0 61, 111

This is part of a Chinese tale also found in Chinese opera as part of the Judge Bao stories (in Vietnamese he is known as Bao Công). They are set during the Song dynasty reign of emperor Renzong. Consort Pang was the daughter of Pang Heng (Vietnamese: Bàng Hồng) who was one of the King’s ministers and one of Judge Bao’s chief rivals. She was evidently involved in her father’s conspiracy against the king and was tried and executed for her crimes. These stories, though based upon historic characters, are fictional. Hát bộ, also called hát bội or hát tuồng, is the Vietnamese equivalent of Chinese opera. This form was adopted by the Vietnamese court and also incorporated Chinese historical figures often as a way to extol moral and virtuous actors in history. This classical theatre developed very strongly during the Nguyễn dynasty of the 19th and early 20th centuries, but it began to wane with the popularity of cải lương. Hát khách refers to the khách mode, one of the northern or Chinese modes. This system of modes is thought to be vigorous and happy in affect, though if it is sad (like this work), it’s a strong sadness. Although there is no artist information on the label, an Odéon record catalog from 1928 states that the record is performed by Nội Giam with the bản hát Văn Hí Ban. JG





A13 C A M B O D I A

Thong Yon/Phleng Barang/ Rueang Khun Chang Khun Phaen

A14 L AO S ca. 1929

Performed by Mr. Salat Odeon 1575 3 4B, Tub 2 9 4

The important engineer Siegfried Frenz recorded this during an expedition that lasted 4 years. Beginning in 1928, he made the first ever recordings of Balinese gamelan (see tracks D6, D15), which were released in small numbers on the Odeon label. His travels also included Africa, India, and Indochina, where this recording was made.

Brass bands came to Southeast Asia during the 19th century with both military and diplomatic delegations from Europe and the United States and were copied by both Thai and Khmer. Here’s a Khmer female vocalist with a Western brass band. According to the label, there are three songs: 1) “Thong Yon,” a Thai composition going back to the Ayuthaya period (1350–1767), 2) “Phleng Barang,” a Western melody composed by the King of Cambodia, and 3) “Rueang Khun Chang Khun Phaen,” from the story of Mr. Chang and Mr. Phaen, disc 2. The label refers to the singer as “Mr. Salat,” but she is clearly female. TM


Khap Salang Salang singing


Performed by Suphantha-amat and Pheng Bing V ic tor 4 0 0 2 3 -B

Luang Phrabang was the royal capital of Laos, as opposed to the administrative capital in Vientiane, until the abdication of King Sisavang Vattana in 1975, the result of the victory of the communist Pathet Lao over the royalist government. Located along the upper Mekong River in central northern Laos, the court supported a variety of classical music and dance drama, all comparable to the other great court traditions of the area, namely Thailand and Cambodia. Certain of the court traditions have been revived in recent years, mainly for tourists. Luang Phrabang also retains several styles of “folk” repartee singing, most accompanied by a small classical ensemble, with a small chorus of onlookers providing choral interludes. Among the many local styles

from around Laos, those in the north use the word khap for singing while those in the south use lam. This track is a continuation of “Khap Lot Khai Long Khon,” the first side of this record (not presented here). The title means “Singing while going through the khai rushes,” khai rushes being a plant that grows in the Mekong River, and it is described on the label as “wat Luang Phrabang,” meaning “Luang Phrabang style.” The singer, named Suphantha-amat, is accompanied by a single so u, a two-string fiddle with a coconut body. This second part of the song is given the title “Khap Salang,” which denotes the typical repartee singing performed today in Luang Phrabang. A fuller term for the genre is khap salang sam sao, meaning “salang in three tempos.” The third section of a complete cycle is known specifically as khap thum, thum referring to the evening period, from 7 pm to midnight, in the old court time system still generally used today. The poetry says, “Oh, you are from within the palace and you are beautiful.” Probably courting poetry, the words describe the scenes, the rushes, and going down to the waterfalls. As is normal to this day, the music uses a five-note (pentatonic) mode, C-D-E-G-A, with C as the tonic pitch. TM


A15 V I E T N A M

Văn Bà Đệ Tứ


Literature of the 4th Lady Performed by Bà Cả Chung Beka 2 0 3 6 0 -2 , 12 0 0 3 3

There are few details about the engineers who made 78 rpm recordings around the world. Luckily, both Beka and Odeon engineers initialed their recordings in the dead wax, and researchers have painstakingly correlated their initials with matrix and catalog numbers to create a picture of their movements. The initials on this record are that of Paul Thulcke, and while little is known about him personally, he appears to have been the recordist responsible for this excellent series of Vietnamese and Cambodian recordings made in the early 1930s (see tracks A22, B2, and B16).

This is an example of hát chầu văn, a form of spirit mediumship music from northern Vietnam. Known for its bright sound and lively tempos, ethnomusicologist Barley Norton has described this musical form as “vibrant earthy music with popular appeal.” When a medium experiences possession she (and sometimes he) will manifest the spirit of a succession of spirits who all have their own characteristics and personalities. In this recording the medium is representing the 4th lady of the temple’s pantheon. Hát chầu văn and spirit mediumship has historically had its strongest presence in the Nam Định region, but was ubiquitous throughout the north of Vietnam. This form of ritual practice incorporates aspects


of Daoism, Confucianism and Buddhism and is often associated with fortune telling. The ensemble consists of a đàn nguyệt player and two percussionists playing bamboo clappers (phách), small cymbal (cảnh) and a small barrel-shaped drum with two heads (trống cái). Bà Cả Chung—Mrs. Eldest Chung—is listed as the singer and is also the medium. All we know of her is that she lived in Hà Nội. The other musicians are unattributed. JG


A16 L AO S

Nang Khluan

A17 L AO S 1927

Mourning Lady Performed by Nang Salit and Nang Nak, singers, with the Ensemble of the Governor of Vientiane V ic tor 4 0 0 2 4 -A-1

Two female singers, Nang Salit and Nang Nak, perform the Thai/Lao classical composition “Nang Khluan” (“Nang Khruan” in Thai) accompanied by three instruments, lanat (xylophone with 21 bars), khawng vong (gong circle, 17 bronze gongs mounted horizontally on a rattan frame), and sing (small bronze cymbals). This minimal ensemble was provided by the governor of Vientiane, but it is incomplete, lacking an aerophone or drums. The instruments are in poor tune, especially the gong circle. The idiom is from the Thai classical tradition but played simply in sam san (Thai, sam chan), the slowest of the three tempo levels as indicated in the cymbal pattern. Although some Lao wish to claim Lao classical music as independent of Thailand, the Lao play compositions by known Thai composers in the Thai idiom. It is known that many Lao classical musicians had been sent earlier to Bangkok to study, and, at least later, some Thai teachers were sent to Laos to teach. The relationship between Lao style and Thai style, and the matter of the compositions played, is a contentious one between Thai and Lao because of long-standing negative feelings stemming from, among other things, the fact that the Thai king, Rama III, invaded and destroyed Vientiane and carried off most of the population in 1828. TM


Lom Phat Sai Khao


The Wind Blows Through the Mountains Performed by Nang Salit and Nang Nak, singers, with the Ensemble of the Governor of Vientiane V ic tor 4 0 0 2 4 -B-2

Everything from the notes regarding Lao classical music from the previous track applies, except that the composition is “Lom Phat Sai Khao,” also a Thai composition. TM




A18 V I E T N A M

Tứ Đại Cảnh/Kim Tiền

A19 V I E T N A M 1927

Four Great Landscapes/Gold Coins Performed by Mụ Dinh and Mụ Dung V ic tor 4 0 0 2 8 -A

Ca Huế is the sung chamber music of Huế and is closely related to nhạc tài tử (music of talented amateurs). There is speculation that Huế music and music of the central region has been influenced by the music of the Chăm. The Chăm kingdom flourished between the 7th and 15th centuries in the central region of Vietnam. The Chăm continue to live in Vietnam and Cambodia to this day. Of Malayo-Polynesian descent, although they were originally followers of the Hindu religion, the majority follow Islam today. Chăm music uses scales similar to the equal-tempered seven tone scales of Thailand. In function, ca Huế is similar to hát ả đào of the north—it is an entertainment combining poetry and music where women sing for men’s entertainment. It is the vocal side of đàn Huế, Huế chamber music. Often the musicians entertained men on the boats upon the Perfume River (Sông Hương). The poetry composed to these melodies invokes an idealized friendship. This side features two popular works of the ca Huế / nhạc tài tử repertoire. “Tứ Đại Cảnh” is a composition in the Nam or southern mode. “Kim Tiền” is in the Khách or northern (or Hakka) mode. The singing is accompanied by unattributed sáo (wooden flute), đàn nhị (two-string fiddle), and đàn nguyệt (moon-shaped lute) players. JG


Hỡi Trời Cao—Xàng Xế


Hail Heavens High—Xàng Xế Performed by Cô Năm Cần Thơ Beka 2 0 7 8 6, 12 0.8 9 7

Cô Năm Cần Thơ (literally fifth aunt from Cần Thơ)—whose real name is Trương Thị Trác—was born in 1916 in the small city of Cần Thơ, in the Mekong Delta. She died in 2007 in Saigon. While she performed cải lương music she was not known as a stage actress. She attained fame as a radio performer and for her recordings on the Beka record label. She performed on Wednesday and Saturday nights for many years on French Radio Saigon that later became Radio FranceAsie (Đài Pháp Á).  Cô Năm Cần Thơ was known as the nightingale of traditional music (chim hoạ mi cổ nhạc) and the songwriter Lê Thương is said to have remarked that her voice was like “wind rustling in bamboo branches” (tiếng gió lao xao cành trúc). “Xàng Xê” is one of the Seven Grand Pieces (Bảy bài lớn) also known as the Seven Ritual Pieces (Nhac lễ). It is performed in the hạ or nhạc mode, considered to be a variant on northern or Chinese modes, which are conventional anhemitonic pentatonic scales (five note scales with no semitones). The title comes from the names of two pitches of the mode named “xàng” and “xê.” This piece is thought to be both majestic and gentle, but often expresses some sadness or grievance. While Cô Nam Cần Thơ was a performer of music from the cải lương repertoire, this piece is more like a concert aria—a self-contained dramatic

Cô Năm Cần Thơ

work intended for a record or for broadcast. Cô Năm Cần Thơ’s performance is accompanied by the two-string moon shaped lute (đàn nguyệt called đờn kìm in the south) and the twostring fiddle (đàn nhị sometimes called the đờn cò in the south). JG


A20 L AO S

Khap Thum Lao

A21 C A M B O D I A 1927

Khap thum repartee singing Performed by Phuma and Pheng Bing V ic tor 4 0 0 70 -B

The best known musical style from Luang Phrabang is khap thum, khap meaning “to sing” and thum referring to the period of evening from 7 pm to midnight. In today’s performances, the male and female singers are accompanied by a small classical ensemble, usually bowed strings (so i and so u), dulcimer (khim), flute (khui), and small percussion (sing cymbals and kong drum). But in this recording, only one instrument is used, the so u, a two-stringed fiddle with a coconut body. Each singer’s section is followed by a chorus of onlookers. The performers are the same as in track B17, though the chorus has a more prominent role, especially at the track’s end. The words are hard to decipher but suggest courtship, including the phrase “I will never forget you.” As is true to this day, the music uses a five-note (pentatonic) mode, C-D-E G-A, with C as the tonic pitch. TM

Teb Bantom

early 1930s

The Sleeping Angel Performed by Uncredited Pinpeat Ensemble Beka B2 0 5 8 6 -1

Max Birckhahn was born in 1881 in Berlin. Both he and his older brother, Otto, began as recording engineers for the Favorite label. Although original Favorite documents no longer exist, researcher Hugo Strötbaum has discovered what appears to be a series of recordings made by Max Birckhahn in China and Siam in 1910. Favorite was folded into the Lindstroem group in 1913, but the Birckhahn brothers continued to record for Lindstroem’s Odeon (see track D2) and Beka labels. Birckhahn likely made this recording in Siam in the early 1930s.

Although someone marked “dagger dance” on the record label, this is a long entertainment piece that means “The Sleeping Angel” and is normally played by a mohori ensemble. Here a nonstandard ensemble uses soft mallets for playing both xylophones (roneat ek and roneat thom), the gong circle (kong thom), along with small cymbals (chhing) but without a drum. The roneat ek has 21 bamboo or hardwood bars and is played in octaves. The larger roneat thom has only 16 bars and generally plays counter to the roneat ek. It’s been suggested that metallophones of this sort were modeled on the Javanese saron and gender. TM

Max Birckhahn in Siam, 1932



A22 V I E T N A M

Gửi Thư


Sending a Letter Performed by Cô Ba Thịnh Beka 2 0.3 8 0, 12 0 0 7 8

What Vietnamese today call ca trù was often called hát ả đào in the first half of the 20th century. Ca trù literally means “singing with cards,” the cards being bamboo tokens given to performers as praise and payment. Hát ả đào means “singing of songstresses,” ả đào being the term for the singers, who are always women. This genre is made up of poetry written in forms that are meant to be sung to the accompaniment of the đàn đáy (a three-string lute unique to Vietnam), phách (a bamboo block performed by the singer with two small wooden sticks), and the trống chầu (a praise drum performed by a listener). The history of ca trù is rather murky but the art appears to have its origins in the court, which used it in ceremonies and festivals. It became a music of the regional aristocracy, performed for both kings and mandarins, and was organized according to a guild system. By the 19th century it had moved away from the court and into the private homes of mandarins: scholar/bureaucrats following the Chinese model. This style became known as hát chơi or “singing for entertainment” and became the predominant venue for the art. It fostered a style of verse that was individualistic, sometimes expressing discontent with the existing political order; it contained a germ of liberal, independent thought running contrary to Confucianism.


Stephen Addiss has sketched the creative context of hát ả đào: “A literatus, for example, might write a verse and dedicate it to a colleague. Instead of simply giving the poem to his friend, he could take it first to a singer. She would scan it for its form and note the tones of each word, and then accompany the poet to his friend’s house with a đàn đáy player. The friend would strike the small drum in such a way that he could rhythmically comment on the poem. The drum part added to the musical totality making the friend both performer and critic.” There is no information about the author of this poem on the recording. The poem is sung with a great deal of ornamentation and padding syllables, making it difficult to understand. It is nevertheless extensively alliterative, using wordplay heavily and featuring the starting consonant “t.”  The title “Gửi Thư” is actually the title of the form and suggests a literary style like a composed letter. At the time of this recording, hát ả đào/ca trù was strongly associated with Khâm Thiên Street (noted on the label). This was the primary entertainment district for Vietnamese (not French) residents of 1920s–1940s Hà Nội, sort of like a Bourbon Street. It was known for dance halls, restaurants, brothels, but especially nhà cô đào—houses of songstresses. JG










B1 C A M B O D I A

Phleng Boran

B2 V I E T N A M 1930

Old Song Performed by the Sak Som Peo Ensemble Columbia GF 6 8 4, W LI-311

This is the same village string ensemble heard in track A2, but without the vertical bamboo flute (khloy). As with track A2, the title is “Phleng Boran” (“Old Song") and is likely a wedding song (phleng kar). TM


Hát Mưỡu Và Hát Nói

ca. 1930

Sung Prelude and Sung Speech Performed by Mme. Ba Thinh Odeon 157.7 6 0, T UB 8 6 0

This example of hát ả đào shares the same singer as “Gửi Thư” (track A22). On this track, she sings an unexceptional and unattributed poem about the poet’s excitement at drinking tea and listening to the fine singing of young ladies. The mưỡu form is an introductory poem that is composed of two or four couplets of six and eight syllables. Mưỡu is mispronunciation of Chinese 貌 (mạo), meaning “face,” and has a function of a heading for the subsequent words. Its character is slow and relaxed, as it prepares for the hát nói, literally meaning “spoken singing,” a part of the poem where the poet expresses his innermost feelings in rhyme. Hát à đào employs a uniquely Vietnamese string instrument, the đàn đáy. The đàn đáy can be from 3 1/2 to 4 feet in length. Traditionally, it has three strings tuned at a fifth and octave, and 11 deep frets to allow for vibrato and ornamentation. A listener plays the praise drum (trống châu). The drummer is thought to be an aesthete rather than a musician. His strokes (traditionally hát ả đào was an entertainment for men only) both articulate the form and praise or criticize the performers. JG


B3 T H A I L A N D

Khaek Lopburi


Lopburi (In Malay Accent) Performed by Uncredited Ensemble Beka 2 5 0 2 5

This recording was made during Beka’s second expedition, in 1907. A third trip was made in 1909 and soon after they were folded into the Carl Lindstroem group of labels. Single-sided records like this were phased out in Europe by 1906, but were still used in Asia for several more years.

“Khaek Lopburi” is the title of a long classical composition fully presented as a phleng thao, or composition in three tempo levels: sam chan (third) is an extended version of the original part (sawng chan, or second level), where the number of beats/measures is doubled through elaboration. The final section (chan dio, or first level) is a reduction of the original by half. In this case the second level (original) is anonymous, but the third level was composed by Mr. Choi Suntharawathin and the first by Mr. Montri Tramote. This recording, however,


includes only the beginning section (the “third tempo level”). Contrary to the label, which says it is a xylophone solo, the work is performed by a small piphat ensemble, likely of five musicians playing ranat ek (xylophone), khawng wong yai (gong circle), pi (quadruple reed), taphon (horizontal drum), and ching (small bronze cymbals). The first word in the title, “Khaek,” indicates the work’s samniang or “ethnic character.” The Thai repertory includes a great many works whose titles begin with such a word, including Lao (Lao), Jin (Chinese), Khamen (Khmer/Cambodian), etc. Each term references a certain mode/scale, a particular drum pattern, and in some cases, particular instruments associated with the culture. Khaek vaguely references Malaysia or India and indicates the particular drum cycle (nathap khaek), sometimes a pair of drums (klawng khaek), the scale pitch level, and the general idiom of the melodic instruments. Lopburi references a small city in central Thailand that, while never a capital, was important historically as the residence of the future King Narai (1656–1688), and today is a city offering numerous ruins going back to the Khmer period. While the recording is rather noisy, it is also among the earliest recordings ever made of Thai (or Siamese, as it was known then) music. TM






Khap Ngeum Thang Khaokan


Khap Ngeum Repartee in Questioning Format Performed by Mr. Thi and Ms. Duang-di, singers Mr. Mi, khene V ic tor 4 0 0 7 2-B-2

Unlike many of the other tracks in this collection, this record could have been recorded yesterday, for it demonstrates that khap ngeum has remained stable over a long period. Khap means “to sing” and is customarily used with genres in central and northern Laos. Ngeum refers to the Ngeum River, which flows into the Mekong just east of Vientiane. It is possible, however, that khap ngeum originated in central or northern Laos, for stylistically it is very different from Lao lam in the Vientiane region while more closely resembling local styles far to the north. The title in Lao means “questioning khap ngeum,” for in this repartee the two performers ask each other questions, but in fact the theme, as heard here, remains courtship. In several successive rounds, the male, Mr. Thi, sings accompanied by khene played by Mr. Mi, while the female,


Ms. Duang-di, answers in speech called pan-nya. The latter term also denotes a form of formal, verbal courtship in which both males and females speak to each other in memorized or partly improvised poetry. In several Lao regional genres, especially khap ngeum, the female customarily answers in pan-nya. The khene mode used in this genre is either lai nyai or lai noi depending on the singer’s range, and is best expressed as pitches D-FG-A-C-D. While ordinary khene playing uses one or two drones, in khap ngeum style there are no continuous drones, though short passages can include one (the upper D). On the first side of this record (not presented here), the male sings “please don’t desert me and make me a widower. If you have to ride on an elephant, don’t forget me.” The female makes a short response, and the male continues saying, “if you don’t love me, you have many ways to say it or to refuse what I offer,” but she replies that she’s always ready to accept what he offers. In this track, Mr. Thi continues by saying he wants to settle down here but she refutes that, saying “you may pretend to say so, but you seem to have something in mind but won’t say it, but it’s different from what you feel.” She says finally, “As I said, I am single and have no relationship with anyone.” TM



Danse Ancienne


Old Dance Performed by Thao Keota and Thao Nénh, khenes, with Thao Phou Xhon, Thit Oun, et al. Phonothéque Nat ionale/ Pathé 3 4 2 6

In 1931, musicians from Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, along with musicians from other parts of the world, traveled to Paris to take part in the Exposition Coloniale Internationale, a sort of World’s Fair intended to promote and celebrate

accompaniment to the local repartee singing of the Luang Phabang area, called khap thum luang phabang. A complete “round” usually consists of the alternation of the male and female singers, but this track includes only the male. While the introductory melody could perhaps accompany dance, khap thum performers typically sit cross-legged on the floor, “dancing” perhaps with only simple arm movements. Although repartee singing is characteristic of the Lao generally, only the Luang Phabang style is accompanied both by the khene—the most characteristic of Lao instruments—and instruments borrowed from the “classical” or court tradition TM

French colonialism. The Exposition featured pavilions with foods, crafts, and music from various French colonies and even included a massive reconstruction of Cambodia’s famed Angkor Wat (see photo on opposite page). Fortunately, the Institut de Phonétique at the Musée de la Parole of the University of Paris was on hand to make recordings, including some of the Southeast Asian musicians. The recordings were eventually released on the Musée’s Phonothéque Nationale label in conjunction with Pathé in the late 1930s or early 1940s. In addition to ensemble recordings, both Thao Keota and Thao Nénh each recorded solo khene solos. Since these recordings were made in Paris, and the Lao Victor recordings detailed above were probably made in Vietnam, it seems more than likely that no 78 rpm recordings were ever made in Laos itself.

Following an introductory melody played by two or more free-reed bamboo mouth organs (khene) and a coconut-body fiddle (so u), an enlarged ensemble with at least two fiddles, bamboo fipple flute (khui), and pair of small bronze cymbals (sing), the ensemble begins the Lao khene ensemble (Paris Colonial Exposition, 1931)



Lao so u players (Paris Colonial Exposition, 1931)


Thao Koeta, khene (Paris Colonial Exposition, 1931)

Khawng vong player (Paris Colonial Exposition, 1931)


B6 V I E T N A M

Chant de Bateliers


Song of the Boatmen Performed by Orchestre Bat-Âm Phonothéque Nat ionale/ Pathé 3 8 0 5, Par t 5 6 01

All the other Vietnamese recordings included in this collection were recorded for commercial purposes, with the intent of appealing to the largest possible audiences. They often featured well-known stage performers presenting their most famous work. This recording, however, appears to have been recorded for ethnological purposes and featuring performers who traveled to France as part of the Paris Exposition Coloniale Internationale. The label identifies this recording as “Chant de Bateliers,” literally “Song of the Boatmen.” The recording features an anonymous male vocalist singing to the accompaniment of a đàn nhị (two-string violin) and percussion, a drum and bell. According the traditional musician Vanessa Võ Vân Ánh, this is an example of nhạc canh, or vigil music. This all but forgotten genre of music was part of the funerary rites of northern Vietnam. The function of the music is to help guide the spirit to the next world. Thus, the vocalist sings of the boatmen who undertake this journey across the river to assure the deceased’s arrival in paradise. The musicians who performed this music were of low social status and were often itinerant street musicians on the side. In its commu-

From Orchestre Bat-Âm (Paris Colonial Exposition, 1931)


nication with the spirit world, this music has a certain similarity with hát chầu văn (see track A15 ), except the bowed đàn nhị is substituted for the plucked đàn nguyệt. Years of war and campaigns undertaken by the communist government of North Vietnam to eradicate superstition and “wasteful” funeral customs ultimately led to the disappearance of this once common musical form. JG

Orchestre Bat-Âm (Paris Colonial Exposition, 1931)


B7 C A M B O D I A

Promenade en Foret


Walking in the Forest Performed by uncredited artists Phonot héque Nat ionale/ Pat hé 3 4 9 2

Khmer classical music, because it was restored with the help of Thai musicians, closely follows Thai conventions. Virtually all the repertory is of Thai origin. But several factors distinguish Khmer performance. First is rhythm. Where Thai musicians play in strictly even time values, with or without syncopations, Khmer musicians play in a lilting manner, what could be heard as dotted patterns: long-short, long-short. This gives Khmer music a more casual feel than Thai, which may be faster and sound more serious or even aggressive. The second difference is in the style of the aerophone. The Thai quadruple reed (pi) plays an idiom that strays considerably from the structure of the composition both in pitches and time, making its idiom strikingly different from that of the other instruments. It seems to float over the rest. The Khmer reed (sralai) plays a more regular version of the melody along with the others. This may stem from the singing practices of the two cultures. Thai classi-

cal singing (the style determinant for reed playing) is also distant from the structure, with great latitude in rhythm and pitch. This is likely enhanced by the fact that Thai is a tonal language, and its inflections must be made clear in the singing contours. Khmer is minimally tonal, and thus lexical tones do not need to be coordinated with melodic contours. Khmer singers do not just follow the melody more closely and simply, but to the point that several singers can sing in unison. Khmer musicians also do not display the virtuosity heard commonly in Thai music. This may stem from preference, but the fact that the tradition had to be rebuilt several times is certainly a factor as well. “Promenade en Foret” (“Walking in the Forest”) suggests that this is music to accompany action, mostly used in the masked drama or dance drama. Among the most commonly used “action tunes” for walking are “Damnoeur Khmer” (“the Khmer walking”), “Lao Doeur Prey” (“a Lao walking in the forest”), and “Cheut Chhing” (“walking using the chhing cymbals for accompaniment”). Two compositions are played here, the second being “Cheut Chhing.” Khmer theater music includes numerous such “action tunes” for specific situations. Listeners who know the repertory can often tell from the music what is happening on stage, even without seeing it. TM Cambodian roneat ek player (Paris Colonial Exposition, 1931)





B8 C A M B O D I A

Khmer Kroak

B9 L AO S 1950s

Khmer People, Get Ready to Fight Performed by Wohar Sam Philips 5 9 0 41-A

Thet Mathi/ Sthu Ku Lak-kham-kaeo/ Wat Vientiane 1927 Buddhist Preaching for the “Mathi” Section Performed by Buddhist monk Jan V ic tor 4 0 0 7 9 -B

Cambodia’s greatest storytelling genre, chrieng, is performed by a male singer, who relates epic stories in poetry accompanied by one of several possible instruments. When the long-necked lute (chapey) is used, the singer accompanies himself. In northeast Thailand, chrieng is sometimes accompanied by the Lao free-reed mouth organ (khene), a wind instrument, in which case there is a separate accompanist. Here the singer Wohar Sam accompanies himself on the chapey, performing an excerpt of “Khmer Kroak,” roughly “Khmer People, Get Ready to Fight.” While the traditional function was to relate ageold stories, the medium was also ideal for didactic texts designed to influence peoples’ thinking, including texts created by the government to serve its purposes. TM 


Chapey player

This track consists of Buddhist preaching of the story of Prince Vetsandon (sometimes romanized as Vessandara), the last of the 543 lives of the man who achieved nirvana, becoming a Buddha, thereby escaping from the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Prince Vetsandon lived an exemplary life, and his story, divided into fourteen chapters (kan) is read from a large palm-leaf manuscript written in the old Lao alphabet during the Boun Prawet festival, which, in Laos, occurs during February or March. Each chapter of the story, individually sponsored by a family, is read by a different monk. In actual practice, even though the monk holds the manuscript before him, he more often than not preaches the section from memory, perhaps in his own version. In contemporary practice it is also possible to “preach” the story using memorized poetry in a highly melodic fashion, but because Buddhist monks may not “sing,” they use the verb “preach” to describe this style. Even when read from a manuscript, the monk must realize the linguistic tones in a way that suggests melody. Here, a former monk named Jan, in Luang Phrabang style, chants from the Mathi section (kan 10), Mathi being the wife of Vetsandon. In this dramatic episode, Mathi went to the forest to collect fruits but




finds little. On her way back to the cottage she met tigers and lions blocking her path, but after hearing her pleas they allowed her to safely pass. At home she could not find the children and began a futile search. In deep sorrow, she fainted. Vetsandon returned and found her and was able to bring her back to life. Then he told her the truth about the children, that he had given them to an old man named Chuchok. Mathi understood Vetsandon’s profound generosity and blessed him for his deed. TM (The first side of this record can be heard on Dust-to-Digital’s Black Mirror: Reflections in Global Musics.)

(lakhon). Because the music is classical, it could be either. In either case, the singers are separate from the dancers and musicians. It is usual for the dancers to act out the actions described in the song text using a vocabulary of gestures and stances known to connoisseurs of Khmer classical dance. TM

B11 T H A I L AN D

Zhan Zhao Bi Jian


Mr. Zhan Zhao in a Sword Competition Performed by Zhong Zheng Shun Xiang Chaozhou Opera Troupe Tiger L S. 10 4 8 D

B10 C A M B O D I A

Cha Pi


Old Drama Performed by Ms. Taeng, Ms. Sam, Ms. Huch, and the Ensemble of Mr. Soi Sang Wan

The Tiger label was produced by Leesong and Company and seems to consist solely of folk operas of the Chaozhou immigrants, from southern China. Tiger’s recordings were made in Bangkok, but Leesong and Company may have possibly been headquartered in Singapore, which also has a large Chaozhou community.

Beka 7575 4 -1, 411

This record features three female singers alternating, with a classical ensemble. While the label provides the names of the three female singers (Ms. Taeng, Ms. Sam, Ms. Huch) and the name of the ensemble (pinpeat ensemble of “Mr.” Soi Sang Wan—but should be Ms.), it does not provide the title of the theater piece from which it comes, referring to it simply as Cha Pi or “old drama.” Also, the term used to describe the genre seems to mix “masked drama” (khon) with “dance drama”


Even during the Ayuthaya period (ca. 1350-1767) there were significant numbers of Chinese in the old Siamese capital. Most came from eastern Guangdong province and spoke Chaozhou (pronounced Teochiu in dialect) Chinese. After the capital was reestablished in Bangkok in the late 18th century, increasing numbers of Chinese immigrated to Siam, so many in fact that during the first few decades of the 19th century, the Chinese outnumbered the Siamese in Bangkok. As the Chinese worked their way up the economic scale from basic

laborer to shop owner to factory owner, they enjoyed not just their own restaurants, clubs, secret societies, recreations, and products, but their music and opera as well. Indeed, Bangkok Chinese had much greater wealth than their counterparts suffering through civil wars and economic malaise back home. Consequently, Bangkok became a center of Chaozhou opera production, boasting of several permanent theatres where new operas were premiered. Probably recorded in the early 1930s in Bangkok, this side features a somewhat unexpected phenomenon, a chorus of five young singers, in fact, teenagers. Among Chaozhou opera’s many distinctive features is the use of a children’s chorus, sometimes the children of the adult actors, sometimes young Thai more or less given to the troupe by dirt poor parents, especially from the northeast. Until 1937 Chaozhou opera had no women actresses in Thailand, their roles played by teenage boys, but in that year the government banned teens from performing, allowing women to enter the stage. The same restrictions did not occur in China until 1950. The opera from which this song comes is “Zhan Zhao Bi Jian” (“Mr. Zhan Zhao in a Sword Competition”) performed by members of the Zhong Zheng Shun Xiang Chaozhou Opera Troupe. Of the five singers, all male teens, two play the role of qingyi (female) and three of xiao sheng (young male). Their names are given, family name first: Li Zhu, Xue Hen, Sheng Zhi, Qui Ying, and Ming Zhu. TM


Chaozhou Actors, Singapore



B12 T H A I L A N D

Pleng Sen Lao, Na 1

ca. 1950

Offering of Alcohol to the Gods, Part 1 Performed by the Thewaprasit Ensemble S angthong S TC 10 2 2 , MSK 4 6 8 2

Sangthong was one of the many labels that proliferated in Thailand after World War II. Most of these labels featured classical music but began to focus on the popular luk thung and luk krung styles in the latter half of the 1950s.

“Phleng Sen Lao, Na 1” (“Offering Alcohol to the Gods, Part 1”) is a phleng naphat (action tune) from the highest class of repertory played by the piphat ensemble. Normally played during a wai khru (teacher greeting) ritual, the composition is here played in the context of “reading” or “preaching” the epic story of Prince Wetsandawn, the penultimate life of the Buddha just before enlightenment. As such the story is a Jataka (Chadok in Thai). The reading of the story once a year throughout much of Thailand is an important marker during the Buddhist calendar, but in central Thailand, where it is called thet mahachat (preaching the great Jataka), it occurs during the middle of the year. In the northeast, where it is called Boun Prawet and remains


very popular, it occurs early in the year, around February. In Laos such chanting is also prominent, enough so to have been among the early recordings from Laos featured elsewhere in this collection (see track B9). The “reading” requires either a Buddhist monk, or a former monk, to recite the story from traditional palm leaf manuscripts, though in the northeast it is more usual now for monks or laymen to “preach” in a form of heightened speech called thet lae that resembles singing (Buddhist monks are not permitted to sing, they “preach,” however much it sounds like singing to laymen). Northeastern Boun Prawet involves no music but central Thai performance, at least in the past, required a piphat ensemble to play naphat compositions between sections of the story. In this case, the story comes from Part 5, “Chuchok.” It refers to an old man encountered by Prince Wetsandawn who requests the prince give his children to the beggar. This he does to show his utter generosity and obedience. Consequently, this is also considered the saddest section of the story, and the chants are sometimes given added emotional weight with elaborate melismas. The track included here, however, includes only the piphat ensemble, this being a “hard mallet” ensemble with both taphon horizontal drum and a pair of klawng that barrel drums. TM (Part 2 of this record can be heard on Dust-to-Digital’s Black Mirror: Reflections in Global Music.)

B13 T H A I L A N D

Lam Toei Jep Saep

ca. early 1960s

Stinging Pain Performed By Molam Nuanchan and Amphon Sangachit, with Thongsa Khrongsap, khene Columbia GE T 10 3 0, CEI 319 3 8

Lam is the typical form of repartee singing for Lao both in northeast Thailand (Isan) and Laos, though each area has distinctive characteristics. Lam klawn denotes lam in Isan and means the performance will consist of three sections, called lam thang san, lam thang nyao, and lam toei respectively, and performed in that order. Lam klawn was the most prevalent form of repartee singing in Isan until eclipsed by luk thung popular songs in the 1980s. As heard here, the typical accompaniment is with a khene free-reed bamboo mouth organ with 14 or 16 pipes. If the male and female voices have different ranges, the player can switch modes between lai yai and lai noi, the two pentatonic modes (minor sounding, A-C-D-E-G) used for toei. Here, however, both voices work well with the same mode, lai noi. Male and female alternate four times without break, but a complete stage performance could last as long as 30 minutes. Toei is the conclusion for a feigned courtship between the two singers, from their first meeting and getting acquainted, to expressions of love, to parting. That their separation is difficult is borne out by the title, which means “Stinging Pain.” Amphon Sangachit was leader of the well-known Ubon Phatthana band, from Ubon Ratchathani, Isan’s easternmost province. TM




B14 T H A I L A N D

Homrong Chan Chao

ca. 1940s

Chan Chao Overture Performed by Piphat Phataya-koson Rabbit T 8 4 3 4 -3, CEI 31521

The Rabbit label was likely the first of Thailand’s independent record companies. It was founded by T. Ngek Chuan, a resourceful small businessman who started out selling books and records. In 1925 he decided to begin making his own records, sending the masters to Germany to be pressed. His company thrived in the 1930s and 1940s, recording a remarkably wide variety of music: classical ensembles, brass bands, string bands, folk music from all around the country, even the government propaganda tunes of Luang Wichitwathakan. When the German pressing plants he relied on were destroyed in World War II, new local companies began to supplant his label.

One of four sides that together present a classical composition titled “Homrong Chan Chao,” homrong means roughly “overture.” Such works could be performed independently in any of a several circumstances. The ensemble, a piphat mai khaeng (hard-mallet piphat) appears to be dominated by the pi because the microphone has been placed too close, but there are at least two to four other instruments, plus percussion. TM



B15 C A M B O D I A

Srey Sroh Mien Thrung

B16 V I E T N A M 1930

Beautiful Lady Mr. Muean and Ms. Aet with the Sak Som Peo Ensemble Columbia GF 6 75, W LI 313

Here is a typical village-type string ensemble with singers. This repartee song titled “Beautiful Lady” alternates a male singer (Mr. Muean) and a female singer (Ms. Aet), who are accompanied by a pair of two-stringed fiddles (tro ek and tro u) and small cymbals (ching). The ensemble is described as a string ensemble (khrueang khasae) and its name is Sak Samphao, which literally translates as “sailing ship.” The genre is not clear from such a brief performance but may be ayaye, a well-known genre of repartee song sung in villages. TM


Đờn Huế, Cổ Bản

B17 L AO S

An Nangsue Thawng Kan


Huế Instrumental, Ancient Piece Performed by Cậu Tôn Út (Uncle Youngest Tôn), đờn bầu Cậu Quế (Uncle Quế), đờn nhị Cậu Ba (Uncle Three), đờn nguyệt

“Reading a Book” in repartee form Performed by Phuma and Pheng Bing V ic tor 4 0 0 70 -A

Beka 2 0 3 4 6 -1, 9 2 9 8 4

“Cổ Bản,” meaning “Ancient Composition,” is an example of Huế instrumental music (đàn Huế or đờn Huế according to the regional spelling on the label). The musicians who played đàn Huế were usually officials of the imperial court then located in Huế in the central region of Vietnam. This music was often derived from the ceremonial and entertainment music of the court. “Cổ Bản” is part of a group of pieces known as “Sáu Bắc,” or “Six pieces in northern mode.” Northern, in this case, means China—the Bắc mode is a pentatonic scale that corresponds to the typical Chinese modal pattern of C-D-F-G-A. “Cổ Bản” is probably a Vietnamization of a Chinese melody. It is moderate and soothing in affect. The music is heterophonic: the three instruments, đàn bầu (the monochord), đàn nhị (a two-string fiddle related to the Chinese erhu) and the đàn tranh (a 16-string zither related to the Chinese guzheng or Japanese koto) perform the same abstracted skeletal melody. This music starts with a brief introduction that explores the mode. One of the musicians strikes a castanet (song lang) every two measures as well.


The three musicians are identified only by first name with an appellation of cậu, meaning a younger maternal uncle. This is a very familiar and endearing way of addressing a young man. It’s possible that the đàn tranh player, cậu Ba, is actually Nguyễn Hữu Ba, who would have been 18 when this recording was released. As a teenager, Nguyễn Hữu Ba studied music with the musical masters of Huế. Later in life he became a leading scholar and pedagogue of traditional music in the Republic of Vietnam. He later appeared on recordings released by UNESCO and Musicaphon. JG

The track is described as an nangsue, which literally means “read a book.” The book in question, however, would have been a palm-leaf manuscript into which were scratched the texts for Buddhist sermons, local stories, and other forms of literature. The scratches are filled with lamp black. In the past it was customary at funerals for an older, learned man to “read” the manuscripts of stories to entertain and teach the mourners in a kind of elevated speech that, by realizing the tonal contours required by the linguistic tones of the words, produced a melodic style. But in Luang Phrabang there is a style of unaccompanied repartee singing with the same name but not the same meaning. Its singing, however, is little beyond the melody produced by old-fashioned “reading,” and like speech, it has no fixed meter. But the singing genre is a form of repartee consistent with other Lao forms normally called khap or lam. Here a former Buddhist novice (siang) named Phuma and a female, Pheng Bing, perform an nangsue in “wat” style, a term unknown to us. Understanding the language of this poetry is difficult for outsiders to the Luang Phrabang dialect, and consequently we cannot provide a translation. Because the style of singing heard here is otherwise unknown (because an nangsue as heard today is somewhat different), we also cannot explain what is meant by “wat” style. TM


B18 V I E T N A M

Chúc Anh Đài


Zhu Yingtai Composed by Viễn Châu Performed by Lệ Thủy, singer Nam Cơ, đàn sến Bảy Bá (Viễn Châu), đàn tranh L am S on 5 9 8 -1

The lyrics of this piece are based upon “The Butterfly Lovers” (“Zhu Yingtai” 祝英台, in Vietnamese “Chúc Anh Đài”), a well-known Chinese story from the late Tang period that is sometimes compared to Romeo and Juliet. Zhu Yingtai is the heroine of this love story about a young woman who disguised herself as a man in order to get an education. The furtive romance she has with a fellow student leads to tragic consequences. Viễn Châu (a.k.a. Bảy Bá or Huỳnh Trí Bá) transformed a scene from this tale into a 6-minute work in the vọng cổ form that the cải lương actress Lệ Thủy premiered near the beginning of her career as a teenager. Viễn Châu, one of cải lương’s most prolific authors and recording artists, was born in 1924 in Đôn Châu hamlet, Trà Vinh province and as of this writing is still alive in Saigon. Lệ Thủy’s full name is Dương Thị Lệ Thủy. She was born May 20, 1948 in Vĩnh Long province to a poor family and was the oldest of eight children. At the age of 10 her singing talent was noticed and cultivated. She heard a vọng cổ record and learned it by heart. A local


cải lương troupe leader heard her and decided that she should be taught the full repertoire of arias. She gradually worked her way into performing troupes and more important roles, establishing her fame as a leading performer for the Kim Chung troupe. This recording presents her as a 15-year-old. The government of Vietnam has recognized her as an “eminent artist” (nghệ sĩ ưu tú). This recording opens with the Viễn Châu melody “Hành Vân” (“Floating Clouds”) thought to be light and relaxed in affect. At 0:53 seconds into the piece, the vọng cổ starts with a rạo, an unaccompanied introduction, considered a chance to show off one’s vocal prowess. The vọng cổ melody proper starts at 1:03. This work is a self-contained concert aria where the “Butterfly Lovers” story is encapsulated, the heroine confiding to the listeners her state of mind and emotions, often through metaphoric scenes of nature. The mist expresses her reluctance to leave the school and her true love: Sương trắng nhuộm rừng thông vấn vương Đưa tiễn em lên đường White mist tints the pine forest, lingering It sees me off on my trek




As the blossom, she confides her wish that she and her love had had a chance to clarify their feelings, but the current (life’s vicissitudes) has carried them far apart. For the audience, the Butterfly Lover’s story could be transposed into their own lives—their own hopes for love and marital harmony also dashed by circumstances like the star-crossed lovers of the legend. JG

B20 L AO S

Huang A-lai

Worry Performed by Nang Salit and Nang Nak, singers and the Ensemble of the Governor of Vientiane V ic tor 4 0 0 8 0 -A-1

B19 T H A I L A N D

Rabam Dawadoeng, Part 2

ca. 1940s

Dance of the Second Tier of Heaven, Part 2 Performed by the Duriyapranit Piphat Ensemble & Chorus Columbia GE T 4 4 3 -2 , CEI 3 70 6 8 -1BT R

Here the composition “Rabam Dawadoeng” is performed simultaneously by a piphat ensemble and a chorus of females. Rabam means dance, and thus this work likely accompanied a kind of dance drama in which the singers tell the story. The piphat, however, is not a standard “hard mallet” type but the “soft mallet” form (piphat mai nuam), which normally uses flute and fiddle instead of double reed. Thai classical dance has roots in Indian dance. Both are vocabulary dances in that the gestures and body positions convey the literal meaning of the sung text. Dancers learn these gestures through imitation and as a fixed vocabulary as the dance teacher calls out the terms denoting them. The most basic vocabularies have been organized into student compositions called, e.g., mae bot lek, or “small basic lesson.” The lyrics



of this track describe the beauty, plenty, and comfort of Dawadoeng, the “second level of heaven” according to the Buddhist concept of heaven having seven levels. In addition, the lyrics describe the thewada (“angels”) who inhabit this level of heaven. TM

“Huang A-lai” is a well-known Thai/Lao classical composition whose title means worry or anxiety. It can be used in many forms of theatre with words appropriate to the situation. In Thailand this piece would normally be used in lakawn nai (“inside [the court] dance drama), lakawn nawk (“outside [the court] dance drama), or likay, a form of central Thai theatre. In this recording, members of the Governor of Vientiane’s Ensemble, including two female singers, perform poetry from the epic drama “Inao,” actually a series of episodic stories derived from Java where it is known as “Panji.” “Inao” became a staple of Thai literature after King Rama II (reigned 1809–1824), a skilled poet, created a 20,520 verse adaptation of “Panji” for use in the private court dance drama (lakawn nai). Excerpts from “Inao” were, and continue to be, performed in the above mentioned theater genres. Because likay was not common in Laos, this excerpt is more likely from lakawn nai. The song text describes the frustrated love between Prince Inao and Butsaba. Earlier Inao had agreed to marry Butsaba but fell in love with another elsewhere and abandoned Butsaba. Now he has returned to the city and rekindled his love for Butsaba, but she says he came, not because of love, but for war against the city, now under enemy control.

Although not presented here, she continues in the second side of this record, accusing him of coming for war, not love, and finally tells him to return to the other woman. The ensemble alternates with two female singers, Ms. Salit and Ms. Nak, who sing in unison accompanied only by small cymbals. The ensemble plays the same melody separately and consists of mouth organ, xylophone, fiddle, flute, and cymbals, as heard in track A6 and A7. TM


Vietnamese musicians



B21 T H A I L A N D

Khaek Khao


White Indian Performed by the Yot Silapin Ensemble Thep Nak hon T T 10 0 8, T S –16 9

B22 T H A I L A N D

Phram Dit Nam Dao


A Brahman Priest Plucks a Gourd Performed by the Yot Silapin Ensemble Thep Nak hon T T 10 0 8, T S –18 9

These two sides, both played by mahori ensembles (side B qualified as “large”), present compositions by known composers. “Khaek Khao,” literally, “White Indian,” was composed by Montri Tramote and refers to northern Indians, whom the Thai considered to have lighter skin than southern Indians. Side B presents “Phram Dit Nam Dao,” a composition in samniang khamen (Cambodian accent) by Thailand’s most famous historical composer, Luang Phradit Phairaw. The fanciful title literally means “A Brahman Priest Plucks a Gourd,” but the meaning, though having nothing to do with the sound of the composition, is more complicated. A phram could be a Hindu priest or a male ritualist who conducts the bai sri sukhawn ceremony when he “calls back” a person’s khwan, or spiritual essence. The


ceremony has little to do with Hinduism. The nam dao could be a gourd, but here it is a chest-resonated chordophone from Northern Thailand related to the better known phin pia. Luang Phradit Phairaw, born Son Silapabanleng in the 1880s but later known by his honorific name, was Thai classical music’s most famous composer. Like all Thai composers, he created his compositions orally and dictated them to other members of the ensemble, each then “realizing” the structure into the idiom of his or her particular instrument. Thai music is transmitted from master to apprentice through imitation and into rote memory. There is no discussion of theory or principles. Much of this process can be seen in the semifictional Thai film, Homrong (The Overture), produced and directed by Ittisoontorn Vichailak and released in 2004. No other film has ever portrayed Thai classical music in such a dramatic and realistic way, and after an initial poor reception, the film went on to win numerous international awards and has been released with English subtitles. TM




B23 T H A I L A N D

Lam Khaen


Khaen Song Phloen Phromdaen Nok Iang 3 0 9

The late 1950s saw the birth of the luk thung craze that followed the rise to stardom of singer Suraphon Sombatcharoen. Many new labels emerged to promote this popular new genre and Nok Iang was one of the most prolific. Nok Iang, Nangfa, Dok Bua, Meuang Leung and other labels often shared the same numbering system, suggesting they were all pressed at the same factory, possibly with the same owners.

Performed by Phloen Phromdaen and his accompanying musicians using electric organ, drum, cymbals, and perhaps other percussion, this is a ramwong song, one of the immediate predecessors to the luk thung (“country songs”) that now dominate Thai popular music. Ramwong, meaning "circle dance," originated from a central Thai folk dance called ramthon (“dancing with the thon drum”) but was formalized by (Than-phuying) La-iat, wife of Prime Minister and Field Marshall Plaek Phibun-songkhram in the 1950s, as a distinctively Thai ballroom dance that avoided violating the touching taboo characteristic of Western ballroom dance. Ramwong lyrics, unlike those of the


sophisticated phleng luk krung (“songs of city people”), addressed the lives of ordinary people, including farmers. While there was a form of ramwong advanced by The Fine Arts Department (called ramwong matrajan), there was also a more popular form enjoyed by ordinary people. Entrepreneurs founded troupes consisting of ramwong musicians and numerous young women who would dance with young males on temporary stages at temple fairs upon payment of a small fee. The present song, while sung in central Thai, inserts a northeastern melody known as “Toei Khawng” as the second stanza while the rest is newly composed. Why the main title of the track is “Lam Khaen” is difficult to say because that was an old central Thai term for northeastern lam repartee singing, and except for the lam toei insertion, this is not an example of northeastern style. Even though this is intended for ramwong dancing, the tempo and style is for the Latin ballroom dance “cha cha cha,” as heard at the end of each musical interlude. Phloen Phromdaen was one of the biggest stars of the early luk thung era. A farm boy from Aranyaprathet, a town on the Cambodian/Thai border, he became famous for his self-produced hit “Chom Thung” (“In Praise of the Fields”), recorded when he was only 20 years old. “Lam Khaen” was recorded at those same sessions. TM (See Dust-to-Digital’s Luk Thung: Classic & Obscure 78s from the Thai Countryside for more of Phloen Phromdaen.)










C 1 BU R M A

Maung Kyaw Ei Sandaya Nyunt: Ah Hson


Maung Kyaw Ei’s Piano Style; Ending Performed by Sandaya Maung Kyaw, YMCA Music Competition First Prize Gold Level Champion Columbia RE 201, WEI 5269

By 1826, Burma was divided by the British into upper and lower sectors. The British held lower Burma where they established their capital in Rangoon and the Burmese King held upper Burma with courts at Amarapura and later, Mandalay. In the 1870s, King Mindon had heard of pianos owned by the British in lower Burma and was presented with one by the Italian ambassador. The court musicians named the instrument sandaya and immediately began using it with the hsaing waing gong percussion ensemble, employing finger techniques derived from Burmese instruments to play Burmese music. In the early 20th century, sandaya was used extensively to accompany silent films and to record as an accompaniment instrument for singers because of its loud dynamic range that was easily picked up by early microphones. The virtuosic styles of playing on the pat waing (set of 21 pitched drums) and saung gauk (harp) were extended even further by sandaya players. In 1931–1932, the Young Mens’ Christian Association held a contest for sandaya players to display their let swun pya, or solo improvisational styles. Maung Kyaw took the Gold Level First Prize at the age of


19 and added “Champion” to his stage and recording name. Audiences at that time were astounded by his technique, creative ideas, and flourishes. Maung Kyaw made his first recording in 1933 with Ma Kyi Aung, Burma’s most popular recording vocalist. Maung Kyaw was known for his classical Mahagita interpretations, especially his recording of “Htu Ma Cha Na,” a Patpyo genre song. Sagaing Hla Shwe, pianist and author, observed that of all the sandaya players at the time, Maung Kyaw was the most gifted in Burmese sandaya techniques: ah twe ah pet (alternating left and right hands), let pu ti (fingers intertwined on a melodic line or turn), ah ku ah set (crossed hand playing), ah hpi ah hneit (delicacy of touch and pressure), and dalu dyan (particular sensitivity to including the use of the rising third/falling fourth and to the falling third in composing finger patterns). In this recording, Maung Kyaw’s let swun pya playing is cheered on by a female listener. The piano, an upright, is in better condition than most pianos heard on early recordings. As was very common, his extemporizations moved easily from Burmese figures to short displays of chords and melodic patterns in Western style. What is always interesting to hear is that vamps stayed frequently on one chord, a harmonic pedal without harmonic motion to support right hand melody. Champion Maung Kyaw died at the untimely age of 21 in 1934; his last recording for Columbia was “Thingyan Bwe Kyo,"featuring star singer Ko Lu Kalay. KY



Fawn Jao Sri Oi


Performed by Kotsanabanthoeng Paired Piphat Ensemble Sunt haraphon S SP 0 0 8, K S S 3 2 9

The first side of this record presents the composition “Fawn Jao Sri Oi,” a classical composition here played by the piphat mon ensemble, which is immediately recognizable from its low-pitched, somber-sounding quadruple-reed aerophone, the pi mon, along with its set of seven tuned drums, the bueng mawn khawk. The piphat mon, though now a Thai ensemble played by Thai musicians, originated with the communities of immigrant Mon who escaped from the wars in Burma going back to the 18th century and were settled throughout central Thailand. Although most compositions played by this ensemble are in samniang mon (Mon accent) and are primarily heard during funerals, the ensemble also plays for unrelated occasions—for display of virtuosity and even to accompany the admittedly low-class likay theater. In this case the label indicates the ensemble is sponsored by the Khotasana Department, a now disbanded “department of propaganda” supported by the Thai government. TM


Doi Rup


Performed by Bunyong Ketkhong Sunt haraphon S SP 0 0 8, K S S 3 4 4

Side B of the record heard in the previous track, “Doi Rup,” is played as a ranat ek xylophone solo by the now deceased master artist Bunyong Ketkhong. Ketkhong was formerly leader of the Fong Naam ensemble which included American composer and performer, Bruce Gaston, and which made a number of recordings on European labels. Thailand’s most characteristic instrument, the ranat ek is a xylophone with 21 hardwood or bamboo bars suspended on two systems of thin ropes over a hollow, boat-shaped resonator sitting on a pedestal. As for all classical instruments, the player sits cross legged on the floor. The ranat can be played with pairs of either hard or soft mallets consisting of long sticks with disc-shaped beaters on the ends. While the standard style consists of octaves, solo playing requires numerous other techniques, including intricate ornamental patterns, hand crossing, glissandi, and spectacular solo patterns. Males have typically played with these flashy techniques, though in recent years females have come to prominence. TM


C 4 BU R M A

Mingala Ma Thein Nyunt, Ma Sein Thin, Ma Sein Thi A Ngyeint, Lay Pyay Htoh Lu Byet Ka, Ma Sein Hkaw 1911

Welcoming Ma Thein Nyunt , Ma Sein Thin, Ma Sein Thi and Their A Ngyeint Dancers and Singers with Finale, Clown Dance, and Introduction of Ma Sein The Gramophone Comp. GC- 8 -113 3 8 ( H 8 8 0 5R)

clowns while singing and dancing for the audience. The engineers when recording this instrumental introduction placed a Burmese pattala, a lead instrument, in this case played in exaggerated Thai style, and a bamboo flute close to the microphone. In the background can be heard a let swe baja (concertina). The male clowns welcome Yodaya Ma Sein Thin and her sorority of dancers. Either she comes from Thailand or is of Thai background; hence, the sobriquet Yodaya before her name and choice of song. KY

The next two tracks were recorded by Max Hampe in August of 1911. Hampe first recorded in Asia in 1904 as the assistant to William Sinkler Darby. He went on to become the Gramophone Company’s resident recording expert in India from 1911 to 1913. India was used as a launching point for Southeast Asian recording trips.

Both this track and the following are recordings of a performance of a ngyeint, a theatre form that developed popularity at the end of the 1800s and thrives today. The clowns and musicians engage in a long session of jokes, gags, and satire when allowed, before they introduce the dancer or group of dancers whose conceit is to treat the comedians as pests, but will engage in repartee with the


C 5 BU R M A

Mingala Ma Thein Nyunt, Ma Sein Thin, Ma Sein Thi A Ngyeint A Hsan Hhtoh 1911

Mingala Ma Thein Nyunt, Ma Sein Thin, Ma Sein Thi A Ngyeint Presenting Some New Tunes Gramophone Comp. GC-9 -13 2 3 9 ( H 8 8 0 6 R)

The a ngyeint presentation continues from the previous track, Ma Sein Thin calls to the musicians, “Listen to my song!” and they all begin a Yodaya – Mahagita style song but with very pronounced Thai characteristics. The pattala continues to play in Thai style—where the Thai ranat players would play fast tremolos and long rolls with their mallets in octaves, the Burmese pattala and pat waing players imitate with slower repetitions. The bamboo flute takes a primary melodic role over the usual outdoor obbligato line played by Burmese hne, hne gyi (or in Thai piphat ensembles, the pi nai or pi nawk). KY 175




Mon Ap Son

C 7 BU R M A 1950s

The Fairy Performed by the Yawt Silabin Troupe Phillips BTC-10 12 2 , JOB-2 7 2

“Mon Ap Son” (“The Fairy”) is performed by an odd combination of a vibraphone (substituting for a ranat ek) along with other piphat mon instruments. This recording perhaps reflects the emphasis the Fine Arts Department placed on performing Thai music on Western instruments during and after the administrations of Field Marshall Plaek Pibun-Songkhram (1938-1944, 1948-1957), who banned many “traditional” activities, including the performance of classical music, in the name of modernizing the country. The Fine Arts Department also issued full scores of many Thai compositions that included instructions for playing these works on a Western percussion ensemble, since the performance of classical music on authentic Thai instruments by musicians seated on the floor was declared to be less than civilized. Because this track is neither fully Western nor Thai, it suggests a certain ambivalence at the time about this process. TM


Hnit Kan Pyaing Hpuza

ca. 1964

Love’s Double Destiny Composed by Ko Bo Khin Performed by Mar Mar Aye, singer and the Mandalay Myoma Ensemble Toe Na Yar T NC 2 9 9 B

Toe Na Yar was one of the many Burmese-owned labels that proliferated in Rangoon in the 1950s and 1960s. The label was run by Daw (Mrs.) Than Yin out of her house, where she had set up a tape-based recording studio. The records were sold in record shops along Rangoon’s Bo Soon Pat Street, some pressed in editions of less than 500.

Mar Mar Aye, one of Burma’s most extraordinary singers, now living in the United States, relates that she was 23 when she made this recording in the label owner’s home in Mandalay. The sandaya (piano) player is U Sein Thaung who lives now in Los Angeles. The accompaniment is filled out by a kyauk lon pat (six-pitched drum set), pat ma (large twosided drum), hne (shawm), and si wa (bell). Each generation in postwar Burma referred to the prior generations’ music as khi’ haung, or old period, while the music of their contemporaries was kalarbaw, or modern. As early as the 1920s, the sit kyo khi’, or pre-WWII Burmese music for British and Burmese silent films used elements from both Western and Burmese musical languages. Frequently a Yodaya style melody would be followed by a chorus


employing a chordal vamp. Note the very last verse of “Hnit Kan Pyaing Hpuza,” with its brief altered piano accompaniment. Mar Mar Aye sings of lovers who swear eternal fealty, never to suffer hatred in their betrothed lives into reincarnation. The Mandalay Myoma Musicians Association—a gathering of amateurs and professionals—was organized in 1925 by composer Myoma Ngyein to address the need to understand more about Western music through notation, begin to present Burmese music through notated scores, and to provide music merging Burmese music with Western harmonic structures for festivals, silent films, and recordings. Toe Na Yar is the word for a mythical creature from the Himalayas whose image is illustrated on the record label. KY


Pleng Khrawp Chakara Wan Thao Tawn Abu Hassan Taeng Ngan ca. 1930

Sida Cordifolia Flower in Three Tempo Levels, from “The Marriage of Abu Hassan” Performed by Nai Po & Thai Royal Page Military Brass Band Columbia 510 6 8 -3, S 70 0 47 2- C

The use of a military brass band to play such a traditional classical form is quite surprising. Brass bands first came to old Siam with visiting delegations from Europe and the United States in the early 19th century. By the end of that century enough Siamese musicians had


learned to play these instruments to form bands connected with the court and military. A few Western bandmasters visited Siam, some staying long enough to teach in some of the ephemeral music schools that arose. These bands were tuned in Western equal temperament and played arrangements using a limited degree of harmony, but as is heard, their tuning was not yet sure-footed. The custom of brass bands playing Thai classical compositions continues to this day, in many secondary schools, in private organizations, and for funeral processions, where the bands may be seen playing from flat-bed trucks. King Rama VI (1910–1925), the author of this stage work, was apparently more interested in the arts than in governing. His theatre piece about Abu Hassan, taken from the “Tales of 1001 Nights,” included music, but it is doubtful that it was performed as theatre with the accompaniment of a brass band. This track is only one side of a much longer composition called “Phleng Thao,” in which a composed melody is expanded proportionally into a drawn out version (sam chan—third tempo level), then immediately played in its original form (sawng chan—second tempo level), then reduced by half to a compressed form (chan dio—first tempo level), each preceded by a vocal section accompanied only by drum and small cymbals. This track apparently begins in sam chan with the vocalist, and although the ensemble normally continues playing in sam chan, this recording has the ensemble speeding up greatly, then slowing for the return of the vocalist, evidently singing the second section of the sam chan. Thus, this track is but a small part of the whole. TM

C 9 BU R M A

Son Nant Tha Myaing: Sha Pon Gyi

ca. 1928

In the Fragrant Forest:The Princess Seeks Her Lost Consort Performed by Yadana Myit, singer Taung Dwin U Kyawt, saung gauk HM V P 14 57 8, 8 0 - 8 52

The form of Son Nant Tha Myaing is a poetic recitation. Sometimes sung, sometimes half-spoken/half-sung, it is known in Burmese as Ya Du and is appended to songs or inserted toward the middle. The saung gauk (harp) begins an ostinato pattern that frames Yadana Myit’s narrative of the story. When melodic figures appear, her voice intensifies the than aet (the Burmese term for a dramatic style of breaking the voice to represent crying), while in the lyrics she despairs of ever finding her lover as the ostinato accompaniment returns. Listen to the gentleness of the saung gauk strings as they are plucked. This is the sound of silk strings that older Burmese saung gauk aficionados remember from their childhoods. Very faint is the sound of the tayaw (horn violin) as it weaves its way, accompanying both saung gauk and voice. Yadana Myit’s singing led to her later career as a film actress. KY




C10 T H A I L A N D

Lakhon Rueang Kraithong, 6


Kraithong, Part 6 Performed by Nai Chon & Nai Suk with the Luang Sano Phinphat Ensemble Gramophone Concer t GC 7-12 3 4 5, 12 5 9 3 o

The first Siamese recordings were made by Fred Gaisberg on his famous 1902–1903 recording expedition to Asia for the Gramophone Company of England. Beginning in Calcutta, he then traveled to Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore, finally arriving in Bangkok in June of 1903. Over the course of 4 days he made 100 recordings. His assistant, George Dillnutt would eventually return to Bangkok while leading his own recording tours. Dillnutt made this record in the spring of 1910, on a trip that included the Middle East, many Indian cities, as well as Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.

Among the dance dramas of Thai classical music, lakhawn nawk (outside [the court] dance drama) was most accessible to the broader public, primarily played by males, and of a more down to earth nature than the all-female lakhawn nai (inside [the court]) heard only within the confines


of the court. “Krai Thawng” is a well known stage work by King Rama II (1809–1824) whose protagonist is a mythical crocodile hunter. The accompanying ensemble is described as the Luang Sano Phinphat Ensemble, using an old term for what is now called piphat; it is likely a five-piece group (piphat khrueang ha) consisting of ranat ek (higher xylophone), khawng wong yai (lower gong circle), pi nai (quadruple reed aerophone), drum, and ching (small, bronze cymbals used to mark the cyclic meter). Although recorded in 1910, making it one of the oldest extant recordings, stylistically it could have been recorded today. This suggests performance stability over a long period, though there is no way to know whether the style of 1910 was also long-standing. Since the dancers do not sing, their roles are spoken/ chanted/sung by male singers in the ensemble. As is heard in this track, the person speaking for the stage dancer ranges seamlessly from normal speaking to heightened speech, which, while musical, is not considered melody. TM


C11 T H A I L A N D

Lao Phan, Part 1

C12 B U R M A 1950s

Khaen Song, Part 1 Performed by the Honorable Mom Luang Thawi Watriwong Rabbit 161-1, MSK 3 757

The mandolin, a small plucked chordophone of Italian origin, is hardly Thai, but in this rare recording it is made to sound convincingly like a Thai instrument. Its style comes closest to the krajappi long neck lute, though without the lower pitches, but stylistically it is also similar to the idiom of the jakhay, a three-stringed zither played horizontally on the floor with a large buffalo horn plectrum. The anonymous composition, “Lao Phan,” likely originated in central Thailand after the two invasions of the Lao capital, Vientiane, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when the Siamese army forcibly resettled thousands of Lao in the provinces surrounding Bangkok. Although they have long since forgotten their original Lao musical culture, in which the khene freereed mouth organ is central, they certainly retained it through at least part of the 19th century before transforming themselves into central Thai. The composer created a short melody that is played in alternation with other short melodies or in variation form; consequently, a performance can be short or long depending on what is included. TM


Thet Hta

late 1950s

Loving You with All My Soul Performed by Hta Thr ee Flags DP 117, MH 10 6 4

Though Shwe Taing Nyunt died when his daughter Hta—a stage name for Ma Tin Aye—was only 2 years old, his circle of friends, musician colleagues, and fans were constantly in touch with Hta’s family. Her earliest memories were of listening to her father’s recordings with these friends visiting the house. She played the let swe baja (concertina), mandolin, saung gauk (harp), and sandaya (piano), which gave her a firm basis in rhythmic precision. This recording, from the 1960s, became a hit. Hearing her on radio, her fans were completely devoted to the ayatha, or aesthetic nuances, in her vocal delivery. She was a favored singer of the Sit Pyi Kyit post-World War II period famous composer and sandaya performer Gita Lulin U Ko Ko and sang in his ensembles on Myanmar Radio and Television. Many composers and lyricists wrote songs for her, and she served for many years as a judge on the government So-Ka-Ti-Ye annual competition for singers, dancers, musicians, and lyricist-composers. Hta still does some performing on Myanmar Radio and Television and lives in Yangon. Hta sings “Thet Hta” accompanied by a full hsaing waing ensemble: pat waing (21 pitched drums), kyi waing (small bronze gongs in a circular frame), maun (brass gong set), kyauk lon bat (drums, gong, and clappers). KY




C13 T H A I L A N D

Tap Phraw Law 

C14 B U R M A 1930

Phraw Law Suite Performed by Lady Charoen, singer and the Bang Khun Phrom Palace Khene Band Columbia 510 0 3 -15, S 70 0 0 4 2- O

Among all the recordings of Thai music presented here, this one is the most surprising. The work, “Tap Phraw Law,” is performed by a khene wong, that is, an ensemble of khene mouth organs from northeast Thailand. Normally, the khene is played individually, both solo and to accompany a singer, but for most Thai, khene ensembles were only created in the 1970s for use in schools and consisted of instruments either of the same pitch or an octave apart playing central Thai classical melodies in unison. Here the ensemble plays a suite of short central Thai compositions related to the epic story of Phra Law, which originated in northern Thailand. Bang Khun Phrom Palace was located along the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, but was an area inhabited by members of the old Lao royal family who had been captured and exiled from Vientiane in the 1770s. In addition, musicians, dancers, and artists from the court were settled in Bangkok, while ordinary people were settled in villages in the provinces surrounding Bangkok. We can only assume that the Lao descendants still played khene but adapted it into an ensemble to play central Thai music. Such ensembles are not only long gone, but long forgotten. TM


Sanda Min Yodaya

C15 B U R M A 1929

Hpon Taw Bwe


The Moon Performed by Ma Sein Sin, singer and Saya Htun Hpe, saung gauk Arranged by Saya Htun Hpe with lyrics from O Tha Tint Sone Yodaya

Homage to a Royal Eminence Performed by Ma Thin

George Dillnutt began his career at the young age of 17, and soon joined

HM V N 3 2 4 6, 8 0 -2 210 ( bx 6 0 9 6)

Frederick Gaisberg as assistant on his first Asian recording tour in 1902. He then

HM V P 5 3 8 7, GC 13 -13 0 8 0

assisted Frederick’s younger brother Will on a 1906 recording trip. Dillnutt evenArthur James Twine was the Gramophone Company’s recordist in Persia in the

tually became the Gramophone Company’s resident recording expert in India

late 1920s. He also made recordings throughout Iraq, India, and in Rangoon,

in 1908, leading his own expeditions in the region until he was relieved by Max

where this track was recorded.

Hampe, toward the end of 1910. With careful listening one can hear the engineers’ voices at the end of the song saying “How was that?” followed by “good."

To bring songs to record companies quickly, sometimes musicians would take traditional Yodaya tunes, mix and abridge them to match the length of a record side as mentioned above. Of all the genres in the Mahagita, the Yodaya songs were flexible enough to be drastically edited in this way, and yet also become an occasion for creative use of the song. Saya Htun Hpe was a harpist whose style in this Yodaya accompaniment keeps a staccato plucking style reminiscent of the early Burmese–Siamese styles of presentation, imitating original mallet patterns on the Siamese ranat. Ma Sein Sin was a well known a ngyeint dancer and singer. She sings of the clarity of the night with a full moon shining over the earth. KY

Dillnutt’s voice is surely one of them. But which one? And who is the other?

The label description in English tells us that this is a “Song with Piano,” but there is no description on the label in Burmese for the instrumentation. The piano sound (in fact, clanging more like a set of brass gongs [kye waing] with a rhythmic thwack in the foreground marking the timing) that we hear is actually typical for the upright pianos lingering from late 1885 when the Mesquith piano company, from Madras, set up shop in Rangoon catering to British and rich Burmese patrons. Because so many of these uprights were left untuned, unvoiced for so long, the hammer felts saturated by tropical moisture, their sound became the typical sandaya (piano) sound for Burmese audiences of


the time. The thin bell-like textures on this recording were preferred to pianos with heavier sound and tempered tuning. The song form Bwe is found in the Mahagita and this performance is an abbreviated version. The language is florid and typical of descriptions of homage paid to courtiers and the royal family. Although Ma Thin made several recordings with HMV, there are no accounts of her background. Her singing style is the heavy thrust of singers used to outdoor performing and the early recording techniques of shouting directly into the microphone. KY

C17 T H A I L A N D

Khap Mai Ban Doh


Singing with Percussion Performed by Piphat Troupe of Khru, with teacher Rawt Aksarathap of Chiangmai DC J BAT-3 3, DG 15 8

D. Couper, Johnson & Co. (DCJ) of Bangkok was an early independent Thai record label. It appears that at one point they were also a liquor importer/ distributor. They recorded both classical music and luk krung, a popular music influenced by Western styles.

C16 B U R M A

Shit Hkan Palin (Ah Sa)

ca. 1940

The Eight Royal Thrones Performed by Maung Pwa Gyi, singer Composed by Shwe Taing Nyunt HM V N 17 70 3, OMF 7 6 7 9

The Burmese collective psyche was deeply scarred by humiliation and shame after the British sacking of Mandalay in 1885. Frequently, song texts—even up to independence—focused on the loss of the throne, the court, the connection to royal lineage, and a grand history and culture. In “Shit Hkan Palin,” Shwe Taing Nyunt speaks of the magnificence of the royal thrones in Mandalay (the Lion throne, sole survivor now on view at the State Museum in Yangon). The eight thrones also represented eight virtues of the king. The three noble supports connecting


the earth to the cosmos were the throne of Indra and the celestials, the throne of the Buddha, and the thrones of human monarchs. Nostalgia, yearning, and loss are frequent companions in songs that grieve for Burma’s sad history. As a composer, Shwe Taing Nyunt was particularly gifted in using poetic images to move the singers of his songs. A singer whose voice could evoke this yearning, or lunsaya, was treasured by audiences. Maung Pwa Gyi opens “Shit Hkan Palin” with a declarative description of celestial beings and their connection to Burma’s kings. He is accompanied by banjo, tayaw (horn violin), slide guitar, and a pat waing (21 set drum circle). KY

Unusual in many respects, this recording presents “Khap Mai Ban Doh” played by a piphat ensemble in northern Thailand, probably Chiangmai. Because piphat ensembles were atypical of the north and required some wealth for support, we speculate that this was the ensemble of Princess Dararatsmi, the last member of the royal family of Lanna (the old name for the northern kingdom). In addition, instead of using central Thai pi, there are two northern aerophones used, likely pi nae in both small (noi) and large (luang) sizes. The composition is one of the oldest in the repertory and was probably derived from a northern composition called “Prasat Wai,” but the form of this performance is odd in that the sections are played: 1, 3, 2, 3, 1. The title alludes to the earlier use of the ban doh drum, a small two-headed drum with a handle and string with a small stone or other hard object attached to the end; when the player twirls the handle back and forth, the ball swings back and forth hitting

the two heads. This instrument is now obsolete but was formerly used in the old mahori ensemble that consisted of a saw sam sai fiddle, a krajappi lute, and small percussion. Indeed, performance of this work by a piphat sounds awkward because so many pitches must be sustained, and the repeated strikes on the khawng wong gong circle do not blend well with the somber character of this piece. TM




C18 B U R M A

Ba Ba Win


Glorious Beloved Performed by Pyi Hla Hpe, singer Composed by Sein Wai Hlan HM V A .1.F 16 0, OMH 7 3 2 2

Pyi Hla Hpe (1912–1990), from Pyay, (British: Prome) was well known as a recording artist and made famous the song “Nat Shi Naun,” about a historical figure of great courage. Pyi Hla Hpe moved to Rangoon for study and within a short time, with his musical talent, also quickly learned acting skills and started working with the A-1 Film Company. In 1936, he became director of the A-1 music ensemble which became one of the finest in Burma. For some of his silent films, he would stand behind the screen and sing live while the audience watched the film. At Burmese Independence in 1948, Pyi Hla Hpe left behind recording, singing, and the stage to enter the new army of independent Burma.


The opening structure of “Ba Ba Win” (known as “Ba Ba Win Win” in song collections) combines new lyrics with a genre from the Mahagita known as Teidat, performed in myinzain mode. In this version, the initial two verses are followed by a chorus of Western chord changes which accompany first Pyi Ha Hpe and then coronet/trumpet with a mute. The ti kwet, or instrumental patterns, are frequently played in unison by tayaw, sandaya, and slide guitar after the chorus returns the song to its Burmese musical home. Songs of the Sit Kyo Khit (pre-World War II) period would frequently mix forms in this way: Burmese tei thwa (melody) for opening lyrics and Western chord changes or vamps for a chorus. This compositional practice continued into the 1970s, but with chorus sections replacing cha cha patterns with harmonic changes and styles from rock and roll. KY

C 19 B U R M A

Son Taw Myaing 


The Forest Paradise Performed by Ma Kyi Aung, singer Composed by Shwe Taing Nyunt Columbia V E 2 0 4 6, W EI 12 3 5 -1

This selection, “Son Taw Myaing,” and “Mi Ba Myitta” (track C22), happily give us two opportunities to hear Burma’s first widely popular female recording artist, singer Ma Kyi Aung, and including “Shit Hkan Palin” (track C16) three occasions to hear the songs of composer Shwe Taing Nyunt (the father of Hta, heard in track C12). Ma Kyi Aung (1899–1956) came from a family of theater performers and was already a singer and dancer in an ah ngyeint troupe at the age of 17. Her popularity as an early recording artist was such that Columbia signed her on to an exclusive contract for 8 years when she was 25. Ma Kyi Aung’s singing style set a standard for popular singing of the time: total control of timing nuances, imaginative in melodic decoration, strong in low registers, using the breath to creative advantage,

always charming and conveying humor, irony, and finding the right emotional textures for dramatic lyrics. Because this recording is a continuation, there is no instrumental introduction. We hear Ma Kyi Aung, a slide guitar as accompaniment, and in the far distance a Burmese horn violin (tayaw), most likely played by Tayaw U Ko Ko Kyi, who famously played in Ma Kyi Aung’s ensemble. The role of the violin (in classical music usually the palwe [flute] or hne) is to accompany the singer and saung gauk (in this case, slide guitar) by coupling the same line, but weaving in different melismas. The slide guitar, tuned to Burmese pitch, offers harmonic pivot points in accompaniment. Shwe Taing Nyunt adaptated “Son Taw Myaing” from the Pat Pyo song “Phone Mya Mya Min” (“The ManyGloried Prince from the Ramayana”). Pat Pyo is a genre of extended song later added to the compendium of genres in classical Mahagita collections. The lyrics are in a repeated verse style and describe how the forest heals the hurt from the difficulties that lovers experience. KY


Burmese actors and actresses



C20 B U R M A

Taw Hnit Taung Swe

ca. 1939

The Lure of the Forest and Mountains Performed by Thaton Ba Hein The Twin F T 7 2 6 5, OMF 8 2 3 2

The Twin Record Company began in India at the end of 1927 as a subsidiary of the Gramophone Company. At first, the label was used primarily to reissue Indian recordings, using pseudonyms, at a lower price. There were many Burmese recordings included during the 1930s and 1940s, some reissued from the His Master’s Voice and Zonophone labels.

To fit onto a record side, the grand Mahagita songs had to be necessarily edited and shortened from what in live performing circumstances would be at least a half hour of repeated verse with ti kwet, or instrumental interludes, also repeated. The repetitions gave singers and instrumentalists opportunities to embellish with great skill a melody simply rendered on the first iteration. Arrangers took liberties with verses for recording, even adding lines from other songs to better fit a record side.


Only the first two verses of “Taw Hnit Taung Swe” are on this recording, both repeated. The lyrics on the recording have not been changed from the original Mahagita text. This Yodaya piece was classified in Burmese as kye thwa from the Thai cheut klong, both meaning “procession on stage with gong” for the original Siamese characters from the Ramakien. The song describes the beauty of the forest, how the bird calls beckon the royal personage to stay and abandon human company. Singer Thaton Ba Hein (born 1909) arrived in Rangoon from Thaton, in the southern Tenesserim region, with fellow musicians and actors at the beginning of World War II. Thaton Ba Hein auditioned for the Anglo-Burmese manager of The Twin (in Burmese Ah Hmwa Nyi Naung) record company. At the audition, he was asked to sing at the loud and soft extremes of his voice and was rewarded with a contract for his first song, “Daung Ya Byan,” and a compliment of “very good." Thaton Ba Hein has a lovely, expressive than aet, or glottal breaking in the voice, which is always appreciated by Burmese audiences as evidence of a singer’s emotional depth. In addition to his music career, Thaton Ba Hein also acted in movies. He died at the age of 66 in Rangoon. KY

C21 B U R M A

Miss Whiskey


Performed and Composed by Myat Lay HM V Brit ish Burma Film 8, O JB 6 015

Unlike other Southeast Asian countries, the beginnings of Burma’s local record industry grew out of it’s cinema. The British Burma Film Company began in the early 1930s and were pioneers in the development of Burmese “talkies.” Like other companies, their records consisted solely of movie songs (see track C18).

U Myat Lay, known as a charismatic actor in the 1930s, recorded “Miss Whiskey,” which was also the title of a movie in which he starred, produced by the British Burma Film Company. In the Burmese period of silent film, the wide distribution of 78 rpm records with their hit tunes were excellent promotional tools to bring in new audiences to the movies to see singers act. Frequently, the musicians who recorded a song would also perform when the movie was shown in the big city theatres of Rangoon and Mandalay. As for the intent of the song “Miss Whiskey,” Myat Lay’s character says, “Whether you’re pining after old things or looking for the new, kindness doesn’t show itself in this world where love is scarce. Miss Whiskey will show you kindness.” A trumpet, hne, pat waing, and sandaya spin into chromatic slides toward the end of this section (notably experimental and emblematic of Western music to the Burmese) of the song as U Myat Lay laughs in a pose of drunken stupor. KY


C22 B U R M A

Mi Ba Myitta

C23 B U R M A 1930s

Parents’ Compassion Performed by Ma Kyi Aung, singer Composed by Shwe Taing Nyunt

Yodaya Bwe Gyi


The Grand Yodaya Song Performed by Mah Thane May, singer The Gramophone Company 3 -13 3 7 7, E 4 5 8 4

Columbia V E 212 5, CEI. 815 3

This track was recorded during the Gramophone Company’s third tour of India,

Shwe Taing Nyunt (1908–1942) had an extraordinary reputation as musician and composer. His name, meaning “The Golden Pinnacle,” was bestowed on him by Ma Kyi Aung because of the many songs he composed for her with memorable lyrics, characterized by his keen, insightful perspective on human foibles. Shwe Taing Nyunt was the most prolific composer of the Sit Kyo Khit (pre-World War II) period. He was brought in by Columbia, after he began his recording career at HMV, to compose for Ma Kyi Aung. As a child, he was lauded for talents on the pattala and as a hsaing and sandaya player in his father’s ah ngyeint and zat pwe troupes. He became fluent in the improvised musical responses to the patter of clowns on stage, and he writes this into the opening of “Mi Ba Myitta” as the repartee of Ma Kyi Aung with her listeners. “Mi Ba Myitta” is extracted from a Jataka (stories of the lives of the Buddha) tale reminding children of a parents’ love, no matter if karma brings evil consequences—in this case the murder of a king by his son, the prince. KY


led by Will Gaisberg, Frederick’s younger brother. Will had been taken under his brother’s wing in 1901 and quickly worked his way up to recording engineer. This third tour was focused mostly on India, where the Gramophone Company was a market leader and therefore under pressure to keep up a steady supply of new releases. Will Gaisberg, with his brother’s former assistant, George Dillnutt, made nearly 1,300 recording between May 1906 and the beginning of 1907 in cities across India, as well as in Burma and Hong Kong.

Among the genres of song in the Mahagita, the Burmese traditional classical canon, are the Yodaya (Burmese for Ayudhya, the old Siamese capital) songs. These are Burmese adaptations of specific tunes known as Nah Pat in Thai used in the Ramakien dance-drama and for honoring teachers. During the reign of King Hsinbyushin, from 1763 to 1765, the Burmese conquered Ayudhya and took hostage Siamese artisans, theatre performers, and musicians who lived at the Burmese courts of Amarapura and Inwa, near present day Mandalay. Myawaddi Mingyi U Sa, the legendary musician and composer, adapted these songs in the 1780s from the Siamese musicians and rewrote lyrics in Burmese—no


longer always related to the Ramayana characters and action‑praising the palace, courtesans, and forest scenes for the royal court. Myawaddi Mingyi U Sa composed this “Yodaya Bwe Gyi” for court performance of the “Inao” drama, originally from Java. Framing the story of a Javanese prince, it was adapted by the Siamese and brought to Burma. Because of their relatively short verse forms, recognizable instrumental introductions (kyay sin), and interludes (ti kwet), the Yodaya songs were easily abridged by musicians for recording in the studio on a 3-minute record side. Later, composers would use a Yodaya style to compose contemporary melodies known as khi’ hsan. According to writer and singer Shwe Ku Nan Nwe Nwe, Mah Thane May’s vocal quality in this recording—constricted throat, nasal delivery, shouted delivery—is indicative of an outdoor theatre voice and singing loudly for the early microphones, but also characteristic of singers from Mandalay who learned their craft from the descendents of the Siamese teachers at the royal court. She remarks that Mah Thane May’s melismas do not accommodate well to the Burmese language, especially in the opening verse praising the palace, “Nan Le, Hmyaw ba Nan,” suggesting that her style of singing is closer to earlier Siamese prosody. Mah Thane May’s kwet sait, or interpretive embellishments, are cropped and shortened, unlike other Burmese singers of the early 20th century whose singing style of classical music emphasized elaborate embellishment and more open-throated approaches. Interesting to hear in this early 1906 recording is the prominence of the clapper (wa la khot) in a steady duple meter on what Burmese


musicians hear as upbeats, but with inaudible downbeats played with cymbals known as si. The kye waing gong circle and hne (double reed shawm) perform the interludes, while the pattala (bamboo xylophone) accompanies Mah Thane May in Thai style mallet playing of parallel octaves rather than the right-left alternating distribution of intervallic and melodic material in Burmese style. KY


C24 B U R M A

Nyut Nyut Hsaing Hsaing


The Lingering Gloomy Atmosphere Performed by Yadana Myit, singer HM V P 14 6 2 3, 8 0 - 47 9 4

In this recording of “Nyut Nyut Hsaing Hsaing,” the microphone is placed so that we can really hear the untempered tuning of Burmese sandaya (piano): a lowered seventh and raised fourth. Both the banjo and tayaw (horn violin) are played with Burmese tunings in pule mode as they shadow the piano line. The lyrics are abridged from a Papyo Bawle song in the Mahagita. In the original Papyo, the lyrics focus on the author’s longing, unbearable on a gloomy day, asking the Rain God if monsoon rain and storm is a punishment for human indiscretion. The classical tempo would have been slower, the melisma more florid, as each verse is repeated twice. The many Paypyo and few Bawle songs were added to the repertoire of the Mahagita in the early 19th century. Paypyo lyrics are more lengthy than the Yodaya genre and their instrumental accompaniment is more florid. In the text of “Nyut Nyut Hsaing Hsaing,” the Papyo form is extended by Bawle, a particular musical introduction and short verse. However, in Yadana Myit’s version, the Bawle section is left out. KY


Papyo How gloomy the atmosphere, with a darkening fog, Longing pierces my heart while my eyes try to see. The northern wind blows and withered leaves fall through branches, The orb of the sun behind clouds, like a peacock’s eye, as summer approaches with a new year, lighting up suddenly this forest glade. Bawle Thazin flower blossoms intoxicate the forest, awaiting royal collection. Parakeets, wing on wing sing in chorus among the mountain cliffs. Even the greatness of the Royal Palace cannot assuage this longing. The lonely one languishes. Blinding rain with its chill drops causes a blur of existence in all the eight directions of the universe. O, Rain God, what mightiness causes you to blind us with rain, flash at us with lightening and deafen us with mighty roars? O, Rain God, perhaps you cannot bear the lonely ones. Your war on us who languish at the entrance to your celestial abode, punishing us with your battle cries. O, Asura the Great...muster your deafening and blinding battalions.










D1 I N D O N E S I A



Pure Heart Performed by Nji Ajat, singer, with Tjelempoeng Orkest “Panglipoer Galih” Canar y H S 131 (A 7 2 6 7 )

The Canary label was introduced in 1939 by Pathé Orient, by then part of EMI. Canary recorded in Indonesia and pressed its records in China. It was distributed in Indonesia and in Singapore by Tom Hemsley. Hemsley had previously been involved with the Chap Singa and Chap Kuching labels. Canary was focused on Sundanese recordings as well as other popular forms.

This piece by a Celempung orchestra (Tjelempoeng Orkest) is essentially a Sundanese (West Javanese) gamelan saléndro. These gamelans, like most in Java and Bali, were symbols of prestige and power, even if owned by families rather than by nobles. This ensemble and this piece, however, are both unique and clearly of historical interest. Though the orchestra names itself after the celempung, a zither used in some


gamelans, the instrument does not appear in the recording. The labeling of these discs was not always accurate as the marketing agent or producer or someone not in the ensemble sometimes developed the descriptions. And, though this is a Sundanese gamelan saléndro, one core instrument of that ensemble, the bonang gong-chime, is absent. The recording does, however, capture the spirit of a celempung ensemble in featuring vocal music accompanied by a small ensemble. The piece is a Sundanese tune (lagu kawih) featuring an arrangement to fit the instrumentation available for the recording. The singer is closely recorded probably because of the quality of her singing and the importance of the poetry. One of the featured instruments, which sounds too close to the microphone, is the gambang xylophone.

The piece is introduced by the rebab (two-string fiddle), and uses a 16-beat cycle. Other instruments include kendang (drums), go’ong (large gong), and kempul (smaller gong). One important Sundanese characteristic—a syncopated kempul pattern during the last four beats of the cycle—is clear in each of the cycles. The tuning is the anhemitonic (five note scales with no semitones) pentatonic saléndro and the featured vocalist is Nyi Ayat (Nji Ajat). DH


D2 I N D O N E S I A

Dji Hong (Lagoe Tionghoa)


Performed by Miss Riboet Beka B. 1510 7-2 , 2 7 7 75

Miss Riboet was popular enough as a stage performer that Beka started a “Miss Riboet Records” series. This was recorded by Max Birckhahn (see track A21).

This is a fascinating piece featuring the wellknown singer, Miss Riboet (also called Miss Riboet Orion), who is credited with popularizing both stambul songs and tonil (Malay dramas with contemporary settings and dramas based on everyday life). She was so popular that there was even a “Miss Riboet II” in a rival theater company. The song mainly uses Malay/Indonesian language with some Hokkien words inserted. Such language mixing was not uncommon but was usually restricted to Chinese Indonesian and Malaysian audiences during the early 20th century. This is a song used in stambul theatre, which is also known as the Malay Opera. Komedie Stambul (literally Commercial Entertainment Is-

tanbul) emerged in 1891 in Java and is a Eurasian/Malay hybrid largely based on the stories of “1,001 Nights” combining song, (sometimes bawdy) comedy, and drama. Miss Riboet, whose career was pushed forward by the impresario Tio Tik Djien, was a famous drama and stambul singer in Jakarta and recorded a large number of songs in a variety of forms. Tio Tik Djien was also well known for compelling the artists in his productions to play soccer as well as master their art. Though a stambul song, this particular recording omits some of the Western instruments normally used and instead sounds more “Chinese” and might have been featured in a Chinese play. The instruments include violin, piano, and woodblock; the latter is reminiscent of Chinese music and controls the rhythm in Chinese opera. The piano is played in octaves in a style to replicate the sonority of the Chinese yangqin zither and the violin might be substituting an erhu fiddle. The melody, similar to what we find in opera, is heterophonic; that is, the violin, piano, and vocal perform nearly the same melody without the use of functional harmony. The gapped scale used is similar to both the Chinese pentatonic and the Javanese slendro. DH

D3 M A L AY S I A / S I N G A P O R E

Dondang Sayang, Part 1


Love Song, Part 1 Performed by Miss Rohani, Pancharan Muda Kr. Party, and the Chap Ayam Orkest Chap Ayam / Pathe 610 2 6, A 7514

Pathé was one of the first labels to establish offices in China, setting up in Shanghai by 1908. The Chinese branch of Pathé was acquired by British Columbia, which soon merged into EMI in 1931. While Pathé records in various Chinese languages—including Hokkien, Cantonese, Amoy, Chaozhou—had been distributed widely in Southeast Asia, it wasn’t until the late 1930s that they began marketing Malay language records with their Chap Ayam series, which continued until about 1960.

Meaning "love song," dondang sayang is a type of social syncretic music performed by the Malays and Peranakan (Chinese who have acculturated to Malay culture) of Malaysia and Singapore. In a performance of dondang sayang, singers create a good-humoured atmosphere as they exchange witty Malay verses in repartee (jual beli pantun). The Malay pantun

verses are created spontaneously, and are based on themes such as love, wisdom, the natural surroundings, luck, and fate. Each verse of the pantun has four lines: the first couplet is known as the pembayang (imagery) and the second couplet as the maksud (meaning). Some lines of the pantun are repeated in the stanza. Because each side of the record is limited to 3 minutes, only one female vocalist singing two verses of the dondang sayang is featured in this Chap Ayam recording. The dondang sayang singer is accompanied by the ronggeng ensemble, which consists of a violin, two rebana (frame drums), and a knobbed gong. All dondang sayang songs are based on one melody with an introductory motif played by the violin, which is familiar to singers and audiences. As in asli music, the singer and violinist carry the melody heterophonically with variations in ornamentation. The rebana drums play interlocking patterns of the eight-beat asli rhythmic cycle, which is marked by the gong at beat eight The diatonic major scale is employed in the pembayang section. The melody of the second maksud section modulates to a fourth higher before returning to the tonic. SBT

Malay ensemble, Sundanese ensemble with blown gong (following pages)





D4 I N D O N E S I A



Way of Moving

also introduces the piece and plays in between verses. This music and these instruments indicate indigeneity and are related to the preIslamic/Christian cultural strata. DH

Folk ways 14 3 6 a

Although ethnographic field recordings were made in 1890 by Jesse Walter Fewkes, shortly after Edison invented the first cylinders, it wasn’t until Moses

D5 I N D O N E S I A

Tumba Lela-Lelan

Asch started Folkways in 1948 that documentary recordings became widely


available to the public. Harold Courlander, a novelist, folklorist and anthropolo-

Folk ways 14 3 6 b


gist, served as the first editor of the Folkways ethnic series, producing over 30 albums during his tenure. The next two tracks first appeared on his 1950 Folkways set Music of Indonesia.

Batak is a collective term used to identify a number of ethnic groups in North Sumatra, including Toba, Karo, Pakpak, Simalungun, Angkola, and Mandailing, each of which are distinct but related in terms of language and culture. The music styles of the various groups vary, as do the religious practices. Some, like the Toba, are largely Christian; most are predominately Muslim; and a few have held onto pre-Islamic and Christian practices. This piece features what appears to be a gambang xylophone and male vocal accompanied by a drummer. A gong, and perhaps tube zither in off-beats, along with the drum, create a static, four-beat cyclic background structure in support of the music. The text in parts concerns longing. The gambang and vocal melody are related and generally move in parallel directions in a flexible heterophony; the gambang


The Minangkabau (Victorious Water Buffalo) are the world’s largest matrilineal ethnic group located in the coastal and highland areas in West Sumatra, famous for their architecture of peaked roofs in imitation of curved water buffalo horns. In general, the Minangkabau are Muslim, and often very strongly Muslim, but they have retained pre-Islamic cultural customs (adat) particularly in the uplands area, and Islam had to be tempered with matrilineal patterns. The people are also known for their extensive, sung oral histories. This upbeat piece is likely a song in the “cheerful” category, distinct from “sad” songs and laments. It features a male vocalist, children’s choir, fiddle (rabab), and hand-clapping that keeps the pulse. The soloist sings four phrases and is joined by the children’s choir for two phrases in a kind of responsorial structure, then he sings four more phrases and is accompanied once again, and so forth. The vocal and fiddle melodies are performed in close heterophony. DH


D6 I N D O N E S I A

Angkat Angatan


To Depart Performed by Gender Wajang, Koeta Odeon 2 0 47 6 6, Jab 5 5 9

By the time Beka and Odeon first traveled to Bali in 1928, they had been recording in the Dutch East Indies for years, and were both controlled by the German Lindstroem company. The initials in the “dead wax” of the records indicate that each label used a different recordist; Heinrich Lampe for Beka and Siegfried Frenz for Odeon (see track D15). It is not clear if the trips were made together or separately, or in what order. The Balinese recordings were considered a complete commercial failure: apparently the Balinese had so much live music that they couldn’t understand a need for recordings. Although these were the only commercial Balinese recordings made during the 78 era, they had a wide impact, inspiring Western composers such as Colin McPhee.

Gender wayang (note: the "g" in gender is hard) is a Balinese quartet of 10-keyed metallophones in slendro tuning, a nearly equidistant pentatonic scale. One pair of metallophones is an octave higher than the other pair and musicians use two mallets each, unlike other gamelan playing where musicians play a mallet with one hand and damp keys with the other hand. In gender wayang, the musicians must play and damp keys with both hands. The players’ left hands normally play the

same melody in unison and octaves while the right hands perform melodies in interlocking figurations. The ensemble is used to accompany wayang kulit, the shadow puppet play in Bali; other wayang kulit theatres with differing music accompaniment exist in Java, Sunda, and Lombok. Gender wayang in Bali is also sometimes used to accompany life-cycle rites such as cremations, other rites for the dead, and teeth-filings. This piece is “Angkat Angkatan,” meaning in this case to depart, and used in the theatre to accompany the travels of puppet characters through forests or space when they leave from one scene, for example at a palace, en route to another. Compositions for wayang kulit are divided between “sitting pieces,” performed before the beginning of the story, and those pieces used to accompany the characters and action as directed by the puppeteer or dalang. Though normally performed within the story, this recording of “Angat Angkatan” was commissioned and performed outside of a wayang performance and features most of the piece (these recordings were limited by the recording medium to a maximum of 3 minutes or so), including brief dense moments of batel, a form used for battle and action scenes. The performers are led by I Wayan Lotring, one of the most famous Balinese musicians and composers in Balinese history. Lotring was a master not only of gender wayang, but also of a variety of gamelan styles. He directed several gamelan groups in addition to this gender wayang quartet in Kuta. DH

Balinese reyong players





D7 M A L AY S I A / S I N G A P O R E

Pengantin Berarak Wedding Procession

ca. 1911

HM V P 2 8 0 3, GC 8 -10 52 6 (mx: H 9 9 70 R)

Max Hampe, and his older brother Franz, were prolific recording engineers for the Gramophone Company. Max Hampe began recording in 1904 and ended his role with the company around 1916, after recording some 17,000 sides. Hampe arrived in Batavia (now Jakarta) on December 1, 1910 to replace engineer George Dillnutt. By January 1911 he had recorded 250 sides in Indonesia and then left for Rangoon, and then India. By late October of 1911, he had returned to Singapore where he most likely made these recordings. A group of five records featuring this ensemble were released:P 2801-2802-2803-2804-2805.

The traditional weddings of the Peranakan (Chinese who have acculturated to Malay culture) of Melaka, Singapore, and Penang comprised a series of rituals that lasted 12 days. These rituals were brought by the Hokkien who migrated from Fujian province in South China to Malaya. “Pengantin Berarak” (“Wedding Procession”) is a recording of the instrumental music performed by a seroni ensemble during Peranakan weddings. The ensemble is played at specific ceremonies, such as when the groom is carried in a sedan chair in a procession to the bride’s house, during the purification and initiation ceremony, the meeting of

the bride and the groom, or when the wedding couple pay their respect to their elders. The seroni band resembles the regional drum and blowing music ensemble (guchui yue), which perform during processions, festivities, weddings, and funerals in China, but the seroni band has been localized. The main instrument of the seroni ensemble is the Chinese double-reeded shawm known as suona. The suona is made of wood or metal, with the lower end shaped like a bell. The player rests his lips against a small metal lip-disc. The Peranakan named this instrument seroni after the Malay shawm serunai. Two different sizes of seroni are used in the wedding ceremony. Other instruments in the ensemble include the Chinese flute, a pair of small cymbals, drums, and flat Chinese gongs. A Malay or Javanese knobbed gong has been added by some ensembles, and some Malay melodies have been incorporated. In this HMV recording, the seroni and a higher pitched flute play the main melody while a lower-pitched flute replies in antiphonal style with the other two melodic instruments. They are accompanied by an eight-beat interlocking rhythmic pattern played on two different pitched gongs and a small drum (woodblock). This softer style is usually performed during the quieter moments of the wedding resembling the softer style of guchui yue. The larger seroni performed together with the other percussion instruments is usually played for processions outdoors. The latter is similar to the louder style of guchui yue. SBT

Chinese wedding ensemble



D8 I N D O N E S I A

Tjikadjangan (pelog)


Song in the Style of Cikajangan City Performed by Oman, Doeleh, and K.O.E. Sabri HM V NS7 2 4, OMG 5 8 8 4

Tembang Sunda, which features sung poetry accompanied by kecapi (zither) instruments and suling (bamboo flute), is a classical vocal style originating from the Sunda kingdom of highland West Java. Developed in the court of the regent Kebupaten Cianjur in the late 19th century, the tembang Sunda is one of the most serene of Indonesian ensembles. The style began as an entertainment in which aristocrats would sing in poetic meters derived from West Javanese or Central Javanese vocal forms. A variant, kecapi suling, which arose in the 1970s and omits the vocals, is performed in restaurants and hotels in many parts of Indonesia due to its soft and mellifluous sound. There are normally two kecapi: the lower-pitched kecapi indung and the higher-pitched and kecapi rincik or anak. Functioning respectively as mother (slower, outlining bridges and interludes) and child (faster, filling in parts), the indung has 18–20 strings and the rincik (which often plays at twice the density of the indung) normally has 15 strings. One to eight vocalists might participate in performances of tembang Sunda. Musicians traditionally hold performances in the evenings and are not paid for their services. Pieces begin with free meter and heavily ornamented songs (mamaos), followed by fixed-meter songs (panambih).


This piece, like most, features a vocalist singing poetry (tembang) in the Sundanese language. The tuning is pelog. The male vocalist sings in meter (panambih), and the kecapi players follow the vocal melody. The suling player, who opens the piece, intersperses melodies in between verses of poetry, thus never overlapping with the vocalist. Tembang Sunda serves as a sonic link to the past for aristocrats. DH


D9 M A L AY S I A / S I N G A P O R E

Gambos Ya Omar


Performed by Salih

HM V P 2 7 8 4, GC 9 -12 8 5 4

This recording was made by Max Hampe in Singapore on the same trip as track D7. Aside from one brief 1909 recording session conducted by George Dillnutt in Penang, all other Malay recordings were made in Singapore.

“Gambos Ya Omar” is a love song from a Middle Eastern bangsawan play. Omar, the male character, pleads with Siti not to be angry after they had just quarrelled with each other. The song is sung in Malay using the dance-song genre called zapin. The Malay zapin is an adaptation of the Arabic zapin, which was brought to the state of Johore by Arab migrants. The dance was performed by men only in the early days, but was modernized as the zapin was adapted and employed in the Middle Eastern stories of bangsawan theatre. New zapin dance motives and choreography were created for both men and women dancers in bangsawan. The Malay bangsawan, ronggeng groups, and later, Malay film, were responsible for popularizing the zapin and spreading it to other parts of Malaya. As the title of the recording shows, the main instrument in the ensemble is the gambus, a Middle Eastern oud, which has a wooden pear-shaped body, a round back, and a short neck. The gambus has five to eight strings in double courses and a single high string. The Arabic mode and the style of plucking of the gambus strings give the song a Middle Eastern essence.


This recording resembles the zapin in the village setting, where the melody is performed by the vocalist, gambus, violin, and harmonium. The marwas hand drums and a cone-shaped drum dok play the four-beat zapin rhythm. The song starts with a short gambus introduction, which is based on the melody of the song, emphasizing the zapin rhythm. This is followed by stanzas sung in the AABB form. Section B of each stanza has a tonal centre that is a fourth below that of section A. The loud and sharp interlocking rhythms of the marwas at the end are characteristic of the zapin tahtim (coda) for the dance ending. SBT


D10 I N D O N E S I A

Lagu Daerah Sumatera

ca. 1955

Sumatran Song: The One Who Sits Has an Impeded Voice Performed by Plah and Raslah IndraVox 1.3 9 s.a., X R 2 4 3

Dutch-born ethnomusicologist Bernard IJzerdraat made this recording in the mid-1950s. He was sponsored by Radio Republic Indonesia to take documentary music recordings of peoples in remote areas of Indonesia, including Kerinci and other areas of Sumatra, along with places like Makasar in South Sulawesi and the isolated island of Roti (Rote). The 78 rpm discs were distributed to RRI stations under the name Indravox, but were not sold publicly. IJzerdraat, who was deeply immersed in Indonesian (particularly Javanese) culture, was in later years known variously as S. Brata, Suryabrata, and Bernard Suryabrata. Indravox evolved into the well-known Lokananta label in the late 1950s.

This a cappella (without instruments) vocal piece by two females is an example of regional entertainment from Kerinci in central Sumatra near Mount Kerinci, the highest peak and one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia. The singers perform a metric song in close heterophony; one voice occasionally precedes the other in moving to a new pitch or expresses slightly differing ornamentation. The performance both is melismatic—that is, the vocalists sing single syllables of text while moving through a variety of tones—and features long, sustained tones. DH

Sumatran dancers



D11 M A L AY S I A / S I N G A P O R E

Shier Zhulei

D12 I N D O N E S I A

Ka Abdi


Twelve Drops of Tears Performed by Mei Yu

ca. 1957

To Me Performed by Upit Sarimanah, singer with Gamelan Sunda “Pusaka,” led by R. Tuteng Djobari

Pagoda V 3 2 0 2 a

Nusant ara 4 57- 4 2 , Imco 75 6

“Shier Zhulei” represents a type of narrative-style singing from the southern Fujian provinces of Quanzhou and Amoy. Using the Minnan (southern Fujian) dialect, the female singer expresses her longing for her lover who is far away. Known as kua-a in the Amoy dialect, these songs were brought by the southern Fujian immigrants into Taiwan, and were later developed into an operatic form called kua-ahi (also known as Taiwanese opera). Kua-a songs were passed down not only through oral tradition, but were published in songbooks that were widely distributed. Many of the songs were used in the famous opera stories, such as “San Bo Ying Tai,” “Chen San Wu Niang,” and “Mengjiangnu Seeking Her Husband at the Great Wall.” The stories and music were introduced to Southeast Asia, and popularized by Chinese opera troupes and singers who performed in the region. The kua-a songs often have 10, 12, 24, 28, 30, or even 48 verses. In many of the songs, the singer will begin the first verse with the word “first,” the second verse with the word “second,” and so on. This example has twelve verses: the first verse starts with the words “first step,” the second verse with the words “second step,” and the last verse ends with the words “twelfth step.” The song is accompanied by the nanguan ensemble (known as nanyin in southern Fujian today). It consists of


Nusantara was one of the many subsidiaries of the Irama label.

the dongxiao (end-blown flute), erxian (two-string spiked fiddle), pipa (four-string short-necked plucked lute), and sanxian (three-string longnecked plucked lute). SBT

This recording features the Sundanese (West Javanese) gamelan saléndro, an ensemble of metallophones, gong chimes (bonang), gongs, drums, a bowed spiked lute (rebab), xylophone (gambang), and vocalist. Gamelans emerged in Sunda in the 16th century from the courts of Cirebon and Javanese regents. As elsewhere in Java and Bali, gamelans were aristocratic symbols of prestige and power. The gamelan saléndro is very versatile and has been used for instrumental performance, to accompany a female vocalist (as here), to provide the background for life-cycle rites (weddings, circumcisions, feasts, celebrations, and government occasions), and to accompany the rod-puppet theatre (wayang golek), dramas, dance-dramas, social

dances (jaipongan), and sometimes even martial arts. The drummer is responsible for tempo and dynamic changes and leads the dance accompaniment. The Sundanese saléndro (as well as the Javanese slendro) is a pentatonic, anhemitonic scale (a five note scale with no semitones.). The rebab player leads off this piece and the drummer and metallophones (saron) quickly enter in interlocking parts, playing patterns determined by the patokan (structural outline) of the piece. The gongs, consisting of the large go’ong, the smaller kempul and the horizontally mounted kenong kettles outline the form, in this case a 16-beat cycle. The rebab part is important enough that the player (Hamid) received a credit on the record label. The vocalist, Upit Sarimanah, enters after the first cycle. A male vocalist adds some commentary in the background. Upit Sarimanah (1928–1992), featured in this recording, was one of the bestknown female vocalists (sinden) in Sunda during the 1950s–1960s. Born with the name Suyamah, she first appeared as a vocalist on stage at age 7. She performed extensively for both Dutch and especially Indonesian radio and recorded a great many songs. In addition to gamelan, she also was famous for singing popular music. DH




D13 I N D O N E S I A

Babarlajar Mataram

ca. 1940

Mataram Set the Sail Performed by Gamelan Musicians of Yogyakarta, Java Odeon 2 7 818 7a, Jab 2 3 9 7

This recording features the gamelan of Central Java. The title, “Babarlajar” (today “Babar Layar”) refers to a gendhing bonangan, a repertoire that features the bonang gong-chime. Gendhing bonangan (or soran) are “loud” pieces omitting vocals meant to be played outdoors and contrasting with what is sometimes called gadhon, a repertoire that feature vocals and “soft” instruments intended for indoor palace enjoyment. The other part of the title, “Mataram,” refers to the 16th–18th century powerful Islamic kingdom of Central Java. This short recording features what is generally performed as the second and last part (inggah) of the composition. After an introduction by the player on the bonang barung (featuring chimes in two rows), the musicians perform several cycles of the melody, then the piece accelerates during the secondto-last cycle, and then quickly ritards in the last cycle to the conclusion. The core melody (balungan)


is played by the saron metallophones while the bonang plays a complementary leading melody and the kendhang (drum) player directs the volume, tempo, and conclusion. In this recording all of the inner punctuation is clearly audible, as well as the bonang panerus, a gong-chime pitched an octave higher than bonang barung and playing at twice the density, and perhaps the bonang panembung, a gong-chime pitched an octave lower than the bonang barung. Javanese gamelan music includes forms that are irregular or short in numbers of beats per gong cycles, or gongan (e.g., 8 or 16 beats per gong stroke), up to compositions with 512 beats per gong stroke. “Babar Layar” is a well-known gendhing tengahan (middle-size composition of the large-size gendhing repertory), meaning in this case that there are 128 beats per gong stroke or gongan, in pelog tuning in pathet (mode) lima. Interestingly, the piece emphasizes the fourth pitch in pelog tuning (not found in any pathet) toward the end of the cycle. The peking (highest-pitched saron metallophone) playing style indicates that the piece was recorded in Yogyakarta; the piece “Babar Layar” is often associated with that palace tradition. The pre-World War II date may mean that this was a palace gamelan of either Yogyakarta or the nearby minor court, Pakualaman. DH


Javanese actors


Sumatran musicians (right)


D14 M A L AY S I A / S I N G A P O R E

Gambos Sri Mahkota Kelantan

ca. 1930s

Gambos Crown of Kelantan Performed by Obid, singer with the Special Singapore Malay Orchestra Odeon A 2 0 619 3b (s t r 16 47 )

Gambus refers to the short-necked Middle Eastern lute called ud, which is the main instrument used in the gambus ensemble. In Malaysia, the gambus is played during religious occasions such as the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, the end of the Muslim fasting month, and the Muslim New Year. It is also played at Malay weddings, circumcisions, and other festivities. Because of its association with Islam and the Middle East, it is performed in the bangsawan plays of Middle Eastern origin. “Gambus Sri Mahkota Kelantan” is a love song from the Malay opera that is sung in Malay. Performed by an urban orchestra, the piano has been added to the traditional gambus ensemble comprising a gambus, violin, and hand-held marwas drums. In the urban orchestra, a flute, rebana frame drum, tambourine, and a knobbed gong can also be used. Through the Malay opera, folk social ensembles such as the gambus and ronggeng ensembles were modernized and popularized throughout British Malaya. The music of these ensembles that was recorded became the first popular music in the country. In this recording, the gambus performer does not improvise on the Arabic mode in the introduction, but begins with a short preamble


based on the melodic theme of the song. However, it is interesting to note that even though the piano has been introduced, it plays the same melody (in octaves) as the gambus, male vocalist, and violin, thus maintaining the heterophic texture of the melodic lines of village gambus music. Only a few triads are played by the piano at the end of the piece. Short interludes between the verses are also played by the piano in octaves. SBT

D15 I N D O N E S I A

Poetih Poetih Sapoet Andoek


White White Bathing Towels Performed by Ni Lemon, singer with the group Djanger Abijan-Timboel Odeon R A 2 0 47 9 0 b (JA B 57 3)

Another example from Siegfried Frenz’s 1928 Balinese session (see track D6).

Among the many genres on the island of Bali is janger, which roughly translates as “infatuation” and began as a youth style of music in the 1920s–1930s, partially in response to stambul theatre. It was one of the few non-gamelan styles of early 20th century music and featured equal numbers of young men and women singing and performing choreography together, generally while seated in a square. Janger still exists as a form today, though it is rare and considered quaint. This rendition is typical of the style of janger as developed from the 1920s–1950s.

Janger performances centered around social occasions, including cultural and political meetings, and was also performed occasionally for tourists in the 1930s. Women (called janger) were usually dressed similarly to legong court dancers or rejang temple dancers, virtually always including an arched headdress in the shape of a cili (rice goddess), while the men would dress in a hybrid styles wearing a kamben or bapang cloth on top completed with Western dress, including berets, tennis shoes, short trousers, knee socks, and sometimes even sunglasses. The movements often included acrobatics, salutes, and

gymnastic exercises, and the flexible style of music and dance gave young adults the opportunity to interact and flirt. This piece opens with men performing a style of kecak (rhythmic unison vocal chant on the syllable “chak”; in fact, the males are called chak or kecak), originating from the Sanghyang trance dance tradition (this is about the time that kecak was extracted to become its own dynamic form). The males are quickly joined by a rebab (bowed lute) playing a repeating melody in the pelog scale (hemitonic pentatonic form) in a 16-beat cycle, and the men perform syncopated vocal lines against the melody. The music Kecak dance is punctuated by a frame drum (terbang or rebana) and small gong (klentong or klenang) playing on offbeats. At a signal from the lead male vocalist, this section ends and a group of women enter singing a folk tune in pelog tuning with men responding with an interweaving countermelody and a suling bamboo flute added, following the women’s melody. The women sing text describing the beauty of the janger intermixed with nonsense syllables. The music in this section begins at a moderate pace and progressively accelerates and grows in volume, then ends again with a male vocal signal. DH




D16 M A L AY S I A / S I N G A P O R E

Chek Siti I


Miss Siti 1 Performed by H. Dolmat and Saianah Pagoda V3 6 6 6 a

Pagoda was active during the 1930s and resumed after the war with some further releases during the 1950s. Some were reissued on Columbia with the same V3000 series catalogue number. Based in Singapore, Pagoda recorded

The two singers enter into a dialogue in the second section of the recording. The male vocalist asks Siti for her hand in marriage but she rejects him. He then sings a melancholic slow asli song known as lagu nasib (song of fate) in the third section, and is accompanied by two violins, a piano, and a guitar. Lagu nasib depicts a sad situation in bangsawan plays, such as the separation from or rejection by a loved one. Rubato is used to express the heart-rending emotions. The final section ends with a joget again, sung by the female vocalist. The male singer says he wants to kill himself because of this rejection. SBT

Chaozhou and Amoy operas, as well as popular styles of the time, such as krontjong, stamboul, dondang sayang, and others.

“Chek Siti” is a duet from a Malay bangsawan play that consists of four sections. The traditional ronggeng ensemble comprising the violin, Malay frame drum (rebana), and gong is used in the singing sections. The first part is sung by two well-known bangsawan performers, H. Dolmat and Saianah. The male character announces the name of the song in Malay at the beginning. This is followed by an exchange between the two singers about love, using the joget dance song. Joget is a fast and lively dance song performed by the ronggeng ensemble during weddings and other Malay festivities. A unique feature is the use of the compound duple meter and a four-beat rhythmic pattern that juxtaposes units of two notes and three notes played in succession. This feature is also found in Portuguese music, showing a strong influence of this music on joget. Joget uses the strophic form; each stanza of the Malay pantun verse is sung with the same melody.


D17 I N D O N E S I A


ca. 1930s

Bridge to Death Performed by Mas Adjeng P. Laras Aroem with Gamelan Tjakran of Tuan Liem Yoe Giok Odeon A 2 0 4 4 4 3 b, JA B 157 1

The Central Javanese gamelan is perhaps the best-known type of ensemble in Indonesia. Here, “Titipati” is performed by a smaller gamelan in a quieter, refined, and indoor style. This style features the “soft” instruments of Javanese gamelan, such as rebab fiddle, suling flute, gender metallophones, gambang wooden xylophone, celempung zither, and, especially, vocal poetry (tembang) sung by a female soloist (pesindhen).




Central Javanese gamelan is sometimes divided into loud and soft styles. The recording displays the floating quality of the soft style without the prominent sounding of the balungan, or skeletal melody, featured in the loud style. The melody here is implicit and sometimes referred to as lagu batin (inner melody). The musicians perform cengkok, the melodic elaborations particular to their instrument, in interaction with each other and with the pesindhen, whose melody floats more freely with greater rhythmic and melodic independence from the music’s pulse. This piece also features ciblon drumming, the active middle-size drum used to accompany some forms of action and dance. The two bonang gong-chime instruments, the lower-pitched barung and higherpitched panerus, perform in an interlocking style called imbal (or pinjalan). The piece uses the anhemitonic, pentatonic scale, slendro. DH


D18 I N D O N E S I A

Kitjir Kitjir

ca. 1955

Glorious Beloved Performed by Jetty and Suhairi, singers with Orkes Gambang Keromong S enandung X BK 0 18 ( imco 2 6 3)

Senandung was another of Irama’s many sublabels. Recordings might appear on multiple Irama labels, such as Bamboo, Nusantara, Gembira, and Putri.

The Chinese communities around the Indonesian capital of Jakarta (formerly Batavia) maintained or created a number of musical forms to meet their needs. Among these is gambang kromong, an ensemble of Chinese and Pribumi (“native”) Indonesians. This hybrid ensemble features one or two Chinese-style fiddles (tehyan), a side-blown Chinesestyle flute (using the Indonesian term, suling), an Indonesian 18-keyed xylophone (gambang), an Indonesian gong-chime of ten kettle-gongs (kromong), and various Indonesian percussion instruments. In addition, guitars are sometimes added. Gambang kromong once used a large number of Chinese melodies as part of its repertoire, but the events of the mid-1960s—when tens of thousands of communists (and sometimes merely Chinese money lenders) were killed or brutalized—have led to a gradual disappearance of Chinese pieces and their replacement by local songs. The current ensemble normally performs at weddings and other Peranakan (mixed-blood, Chinese Indonesians) cultural events.




This is a love song sung in Indonesian by a woman and man back and forth to each other. They sing about the troubles and remedies of love between a couple. One of the fiddles leads off the piece with the gambang, kromong, and suling clearly audible in the background, and this same combination, backed by dynamic drumming reminiscent of that of gamelans in Sunda, separates the verses. The verses use a strophic repeating melody with implied harmony going from a tonic to dominant chord; the woman and man alternate singing verses two times, then she sings a final verse. The lines for each verse, set in couplets, end with the same vowel, proceeding i, a, u, a, a. DH

D19 M A L AY S I A

Ogingo Mamangka Vuhan The Forest Paradise Performed by Irene Tungou

ca. 1958

Radio Sabah RS 13

Although the state of Sabah was not established until 1963, when it joined the Malaysian Federation, Radio Sabah began broadcasting in the early 1950s, in what was then British North Borneo. The station broadcast in English, Malay, two Chinese dialects, and eventually Dusun, the most widely spoken language of the Kadazan people of North Borneo. This was part of a nine record set that included popular music as well as traditional gong-based styles, and was in-

A type of secular Kadazan song from Putatan, an area near Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of Sabah, this is a love song sung by a female vocalist about someone who is beautiful. It uses the traditional pentatonic melody called sinding in Tambunan in the interior of Sabah or hius in Penampang and Putatan, where this song originates. Sung in the Kadazan language, this kind of song would have been sung for entertainment in the home at night or during a social gathering or drinking (tapai or rice wine) session. In the olden days it would have been normally unaccompanied (but sometimes a long-necked lute called sundatang was used). During the 1950s, these secular pentatonic songs began to be accompanied by the guitar using the diatonic scale as the instrument was introduced into the villages. The accompanying band in this recording includes a banjo or a ukelele, guitars, and a double bass, plus wind instruments. This kind of traditional singing accompanied by a dance band became popular and was played over the radio during the 1950s to 1980s. This gave rise to the Kadazan Dusun pop music industry in the 1970s.  This song was recorded at Radio Sabah (now Radio Television Malaysia). Radio has been the most popular medium throughout Sabah for more than 50 years, and even in the remote interior, people still listen to the radio for information and entertainment. Radio Sabah, or today’s RTM, has several sessions in Kadazan Dusun, Timugon Murut, and west coast Bajau. People like to tune in to these at certain times to hear the news and also find out who has died. SBT

tended for airplay, rather than sale to the public.



D20 M A L AY S I A / S I N G A P O R E

Wak Daing


Performed by Saemah, singer with the Osman Ahmad Orchestra Chap Ayam P T H 13 9 ( PA 9 2 57 )

Pathé’s Chap Ayam (Rooster Brand) series was aimed at the Malay language market. They began with a series numbered 60000 in 1938 (see track D3). In 1951 they switched to a series with the prefix PTH. Both series were recorded in Singapore.

Bangsawan is a form of Malay commercial theatre that developed in British Malaya at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Also known as Malay opera, bangsawan was syncretic, and incorporated Malay, Chinese, European, Indian, Arabic, and other stories and elements. The term bangsawan (meaning “nobility”) referred to the stories and characters that mainly concerned royalty. Each performance consisted of one or more stories accompanied by songs, and interludes called “extra turns” were performed during set changes. Depending on the type of story performed, the music adapted to the musical influences from Malaya as well as other parts of the world. “Wak Daing” refers to the name of a warrior in a bangsawan play who has gone away to fight for his kingdom. In this song, the female vocalist (probably the heroine in the play) sings of her love for him, and about how she misses him, in the Malay language. As a song from the


Malay repertoire, “Wak Daing” combines Malay and Western characteristics. The Malay Orchestra (orkes Melayu), led by Osman Ahmad, mixes the in­struments of the ronggeng ensemble (comprising a violin, accordion, rebana, and a knobbed gong) with Western instruments (such as the piano, double bass, and guitar). The ronggeng ensemble accompanies social dancing at Malay weddings and other social occasions. “Wak Daing” is a slow ronggeng asli song that is characterized by an eight-beat rhythmic pattern played by the rebana and lower register of the piano, and marked by the gong on the seventh and eigth beats. Other Malay characteristics include the independent melodic lines by the singer, violin, guitar, and higher register of the piano, and a tense and nasal vocal style. The melody of each stanza is repeated with different texts that use the four-line Malay verse (pantun) form. Western characteristics include the use of the diatonic scale and triads played by the piano. SBT

D21 I N D O N E S I A

Aer Mata Djato Berlinang

ca. 1930

Tears Flow from the Eyes Performed by Moh Aminor Aidjawi, singer with Orkest Setia Pamoedah Beka B 8 8 52 7-1, 12 3 4 4B

Another recording from the engineer Siegfried Frenz, possibly made near the end of his expedition that began with his Balinese Odeon recordings in 1928. While Beka and Odeon were both controlled by Lindstroem, it’s not clear to what extent the labels were integrated. In this case, Frenz, who had made many Odeon recordings, was also recording for Beka. In 1933, Frenz returned to the Berlin studios where he recorded until 1941.

“Are Mata Djato Berlinang” is a sad song, or lagu nasib (song of fate), associated with a Middle Eastern story in the Malay musical theatre or opera. The singer tries to remember a loved one who has passed away. He is accompanied by a modernized gambus ensemble comprising the gambus, accordion, violins, double bass, marwas drums, and maracas. The gambus begins with a short improvisation (similar to a taksim) introducing the Arabic mode. This introduction is followed by the singing section where the male vocalist, accordion, and violins carry a similar melody but perform in heterophony. Each stanza consists of four lines that are divided into two melodic sections. The singer and melodic instruments are joined by the rebana (frame drum), maracas, double bass, and plucked gambus that play the

four-beat masri rhythm. Masri is similar to the rhythmic pattern masmudi kabir of the Middle East and is often used in devotional Islamic songs, such as nasyid. The gambus style of plucking, masri rhythm, and mode used give the song a Middle Eastern essence. Compared to the earlier versions of lagu gambus, the texture is thicker as more instruments are played, with the double bass providing a jumping bass line based on the masri rhythmic pattern. SBT










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Norton, Barley. Songs for the Spirit: Music and Mediums in Modern Vietnam. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009. Phạm Duy. Musics of Vietnam. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1975. Toan Ánh. Cầm Ca Việt Nam. Sài gòn: Lá Bối, 1970.  Trainor, John P.  “Significance and Development in the Vọng Cổ of South Vietnam.” Asian Music, 7/1 (1975): 50–56. Trần Văn Khải. Nghệ thuật sân khấu Việt nam. Sài gòn: Khai Trí, 1970.

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van Zanten, Wim. Sundanese Music in the Cianjuran Style: Anthropological and Musicological Aspects of Tembang Sunda. The Netherlands: Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkelnkunde, 1989. Williams, Sean. “Sunda.” In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: Southeast Asia. Edited by Terry E. Miller and Sean Williams, vol. 4: 699–725. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1998 . TERRY E. MILLER: Chan Moly Sam. Khmer Court Dance. Edited by Diana Schnitt. Newington, CT: Khmer Studies Institute, 1987.

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Young, Kit. Conversations with Guitar U Tin, Shwe Ku Nan Nwe Nwe, U Toh, Ne Myo Aung: 2011, Yangon




JASON GIBBS researches Vietnamese music and popular culture and

DAVID MURRAY is the curator of Haji Maji (www.HajiMaji.com), a

DAVID HARNISH is chair of the Music Department and director of

SOOI BENG TAN is professor of Ethnomusicology at the School of Arts,

is the author of the book Rock Hà Nội & Rumba Cửu Long. He wrote the entry for Vietnam in the Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World and has published articles in a number of journals, including Asian Music, Journal of Vietnamese Studies, and Southeast Asian Research.

Gamelan Gunung Mas at the University of San Diego. He is the author of Bridges to the Ancestors: Music, Myth, and Cultural Politics at an Indonesian Festival and cowriter/editor of Divine Inspirations: Music and Islam in Indonesia. TERRY E. MILLER is known primarily as a specialist in the musics of

Mainland Southeast Asia, especially Thailand and Laos. He has also worked extensively in the United States, the West Indies, the United Kingdom, and China. His most widely known work is as coeditor and writer of The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: Southeast Asia and as cowriter of a survey textbook, World Music: A Global Journey. Dr. Miller retired from Kent State University in 2005 where, in addition to teaching, he founded and directed both the KSU Thai and Chinese Ensembles.


blog dedicated to the exploration 78 rpm Asian music. He previously produced two LPs for Dust-to-Digital; Luk Thung: Classic & Obscure 78s from the Thai Countryside and Kassidat: Raw 45s from Morocco. In addition to collecting and researching old records, he is a musician and graphic designer in Oakland, California.

Universiti Sains Malaysia. She is the author of Bangsawan: A Social and Stylistic History of Popular Malay Opera and coauthor of Music of Malaysia: Classical, Folk and Syncretic Traditions. Current research projects include the study of Malay 78 rpm recordings in Malaysia, the development of popular music in Southeast Asia, and the comparison of Chinese music in Malaysia and Indonesia. KIT YOUNG began study of Burmese piano “Sandaya” styles in the 1980s

and as pianist and composer performs frequently with Burmese colleagues. She lived in Myanmar for 5 years and, with Burmese friends, started Gitameit Music Center in Yangon, which, in 2007, began digital archiving of Burmese 78 rpm recordings and video documentaries featuring elderly Burmese performing artists.

Produced, edited, compiled, and designed by David Murray Design and production consulting by Debbie Berne Annotations and essays by Jason Gibbs, David Harnish, Terry E. Miller, David Murray, Sooi Beng Tan, and Kit Young 78 rpm transfers by Jonathan Ward Audio restoration and mastering by Michael Graves, Osiris Studio Records and images from the collection of David Murray Additional records from Jonathan Ward, Michael Robertson, Terry E. Miller, and Will Summits Additional images from Philp Drillien, Axel Ebenböck, Jason Gibbs, and Hugo Strötbaum Photograph of record sleeves (end papers) by Matt Knoth Proofreading by Laurie Dunne

Thank you to everybody who contributed: Poonpit Amatayakul, Amy Armstrong, Ne Myo Aung, Mar Mar Aye, Quả Bảo, Debbie Berne, Jarernchai Chonpairot, Peter Doolan, Philip Drillien, Laurie Dunne, Michael Graves, David Harnish, Benno Häupl, Rick Heizman, Liam Kelley, Jacqueline PughKitingan, Laurentius Kitingan, Matt Knoth, Aileen Kuo, Wah-chiu Lai, Lance and April Ledbetter, Rob Millis, Phong Nguyen, Shwe Ku Nan Nwe Nwe, Michael Robertson, Panya Roongruang, Sam-ang Sam, Will Summits, U Tin, U Toh, Bùi Trọng Hiền, Vanessa Võ Vân Ánh, Su Wai, Jonathan Ward, Andrew Weintraub, Sean Williams, Wang Yingfen, Wim Van Zanten.

A very special thanks to Terry E. Miller for so much input and effort.

Printed in China by Asia Pacific Offset Color separations by iocolor, Seattle

Thank you to the contributing authors for sharing their time and expertise: Jason Gibbs, David Harnish, Terry E. Miller, Sooi Beng Tan, and Kit Young. I would like to acknowledge the following record researchers for their tireless and important work: Pekka Gronow, Alan Kelley, Michael Kinnear, Ross Laird, Rainer Lotz, Christian Zwarg, Dick Spottswood, Hugo Strötbaum, Paul Vernon, and Philip Yampolsky.

All text © ℗ 2013 by the respective authors This release © ℗ 2013 Dust-to-Digital Components under license from various sources

Dust-to-Digital PO Box 54743 Atlanta, GA 30308-0743 www.dust-digital.com


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