Luang Prabang strikes cultural note with Lao songs

Published on May 13, 2013

All entertainment venues and restaurants in Luang Prabang province are now playing Lao songs for their customers in a bid to promote Lao culture and immerse visitors in the local atmosphere.

Officials suggested earlier this year that such places play exclusively Lao music, Director of the province’s Information, Culture and Tourism Department Mr Onchanh Souvannalith told the Vientiane Times on Friday.

“They agreed with us when we advised them to play only Lao songs. We felt this was appropriate to enhance the special characteristics of the province and to give people a true taste of Laos.”

Luang Prabang is a World Heritage Site and tops the itinerary of most foreign visitors to Laos, and officials felt that if Lao songs were played it would give them a more uniquely Lao experience.

Local residents may play music from other countries as well, but are asked not to do so all the time, because the goal of the provincial authorities is to promote Lao culture.

In the past, most places of entertainment and restaurants played songs popular in neighbouring countries, which officials felt confused foreign visitors, especially when Thai songs were played, as the pronunciation of words is quite different to Lao.

Even if visitors don’t understand Lao they can still enjoy the music they hear, and the melodic and relaxing rhythms of Lao songs will enhance their enjoyment of their meal and add to their overall satisfaction.

Ms Mouknapha Phetsavanh, who owns a barbecued goat stall along the Mekong River, told Vientiane Times last week she has been playing Lao songs over the past few months after the provincial authorities asked her to do so.

“Nothing much has changed among my customers, who are both Lao and foreign, since I’ve been playing Lao songs,” she commented.

To begin with some Lao people asked her to play Thai songs but when she explained the situation they accepted it. Sometimes she heard people commenting that more Lao music should be heard in Luang Prabang since it received World Heritage Site status in 1995.

“In all the time I’ve been playing only Lao songs I’ve never had foreign visitors who come here to eat grilled goat and beer ask me to put on some other music instead,” Ms Mouknapha said.

Officials at the province’s Information, Culture and Tourism Department denied they would fine a person two million kip if they were found to be playing songs that were not Lao.

They said there was no truth in t his rumour and officials had never made mention of such a fine, but had merely asked people in the service sector to play more Lao than foreign songs in the World Heritage Site.

Source: Vientiane Times
By Khonesavanh Latsaphao
May 13, 2013