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We are honored and priviledged to be partnering with masters in traditional lao art.

In 2018, we welcome the newest member of our team of esteemed teachers, Mr. Khounkeo Thammachaleun. He spent his youth up until his late 20's as a monk, during which time he immersed himself in the teachings of Buddhism. After leaving the monastery, he became a shaman ('mor pon'), master of 'baci' ceremonies.

Baci ceremonies are organized to celebrate a wide variety of special events, including weddings, homecomings, farewells, births, sickness, etc. Whatever the occasion, the baci ceremony is always led by a 'mor pon', who must be a former monk, but cannot currently be a monk. 'Mor pon' oversees all phases of baci, from preparing the decorations and offerings, calling the spirits through chants, blessing the ceremony attendees, showing the attendees how to bless each other by tying strings on each others' wrists, and closing the ceremony. We look to master Thammachaleun to teach our students how to properly do all things things, as well as understand the meaning of the chants and symbolism of the decorations and offerings. As the older generation is fading away, it is becoming increasingly difficult in the U.S. to find 'mor pon' who have the proper training and knowledge. This is why it is so important for us to work with master Thammachaleun.

Currently, we work with three music teachers from Laos: Sengdeuan Phengkeo, Chy Her Fai By, and Sinthavong Sengmounthong. Since 2013, these teachers have been an integral part in our music education program, particularly in our summer camp programs.

Sengdeuan Phengkeo is a professional musician in Luang Prabang where he performs almost daily, as well as teaches private music lessons. His specialty is kim, but is also well-versed in lanad ake, lanad toom, kong wong, sor ('saw'), and drum. Furthermore, Sengdeuan has extensive knowledge of many of the oldest classical songs that are rarely played these days; he has begun to notate some of them for archival and teaching purposes; we will make them available soon. Sengdeuan taught LHF students in July 2016, when LHF held a special summer camp in Luang Prabang; Sinthavong and Chy Her were part of that teaching team as well.

Sinthavong Sengmounthong is a tenured teacher at the Lao National School of Music and Dance; he is well versed in lanad ake, lanad toom, kaen, koui, kong wong, and sor. Chy Her Fai By is a tenured teacher at the Lao National School of Music and Dance, specializing in kim, lanad ake, sor, koui, and kong wong. Mr. Fai By is currently working on a doctorate degree in music. Both teachers have traveled to the U.S. multiple times to teach music at LHF summer camps.

Kaen master (ajahn) Bounxeung Synanonh (left) began playing the kaen (bamboo mouth organ), as a teenager in Savannakhet, Laos. Considered one of the world's best, ajahn Synanonh was featured on an album titled 'Bamboo Voices' under the World Music Institute label under the direction of Terry Miller, a world-renowned ethnomusicologist. Ajahn Bounxeung has been partnering with LHF since 2006 when we had just a few students. Now, we are approaching 200 students annually, largely thanks to his tireless efforts; he regularly performs across the U.S. and teaches his art to a young generation of students in California, Rhode Island, the Midwest, and the Washington, D.C area.

For his role in cultural preservation and promotion, and unrivaled virtuoso skill on the kaen, ajahn Bounxeung was bestowed the National Heritage Fellowships Award by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) on September 28, 2016. This is the highest honor that a traditional artist can receive in the U.S.

>>more on the kaen

Thongtanh Souvannaphanh (right) began playing the saw, a bowed lute similar to the Chinese Erhu and Gaohu, at approximately the age of six. He performed in the royal court of Luang Prabang before emigrating to the US in 1969. He has performed at the Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Now in his 70's and retired from broadcasting, he devotes his time to preserving and promoting Lao art, music, and literature. He gives saw instruction two nights a week and still performs occassionally. >>more on the saw

Masters Synanonh and Souvannapanh performed at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

We are also honored to partner with Nithakhong Somsanith whose work embodies the essence of Lao identity. He is world-renowned as master of the ancient art of gold-thread embroidery, as well as an extraordinary painter of Lao Buddhist temples, monks, ethnic tribal attire, and daily life. He is also accomplished in decorating temples with colored lacquer & gold leaves. Finally, he is masterful at ceremonial flower arrangement, such as the making of the 'pa kwan' and 'katong'. He works tirelessly to educate Lao communities in three continents on these arts to ensure that they are preserved.

By helping Laotians abroad and at home to appreciate their common heritage, Tiao Somsanith acts as a cultural bridge between those who emigrated to Europe & America as refugees of the Vietnam War and those who stayed behind. Through his work, he not only helps to preserve the cultural heritage of his war-torn country, but also to promote peace, reconciliation, and understanding.

We are also very proud to sponsor Nor Sanavongsay [http://www.nawdsign.com], an extremely talented multimedia artist whose passion is to digitally animate Lao folklore, namely the story of Xieng Mieng. Xieng Mieng is a witty fable character, well-loved by the Lao for many centuries. Though published in books in recent years, Xieng Mieng stories are usually passed down orally from generation to generation. Now, Nor's project will enrich the stories by adding sound and visual effects, thus not only preserving the stories but also making them especially appealing to the young audience.


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