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American Folklife Center Collections: Laos

This guide provides access to ethnographic resources documenting Laotian expressive culture in Laos and the United States in the collections of the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.


John Lueders-Booth, photograoher. A man playing the khene (mouth organ) at the Laotian New Year's celebration, Lowell Girls Club, Lowell, Massachusetts. 1988. Lowell Folklife Project Collection. Library of Congress American Folklife Center.

American Folklife Center collections documenting Laotians represent the diversity of their expressive culture in Laos and the United States. Among its unique collections are recordings of various genres of traditional music made in Laos and in the United States. Ethnographic collections document Laotian music in Laos, including the large mouth organ, the khene, the national instrument of Laos. The American Folklife Center's Lowell Folklife Project includes ethnographic documentation of various aspects of Lao American culture.

Lowell Folklife Project Collection

The Lowell Folklife Project was conducted in 1987-1988 as a cooperative project of the American Folklife Center and the Lowell Historic Preservation Commission, with support from the Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities, to document contemporary ethnic neighborhoods, occupations, and community life related to the history of industrialization in Lowell, Massachusetts. This year-long study yielded an ethnographic collection consisting of 196 hours of sound recordings covering a wide range of subjects and activities, including oral history interviews, religious services and festivals. Documentation of the Laotian community includes interviews with members of the Laotian American Association, an English as a second language class in the Laotian community, and a celebration of the New Year.

Additional Collections of Interest

The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.

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The Natasinh Dancers and Musicians performed Lao music and dance from Iowa, another in the Homegrown Concert Series sponsored by the American Folklife Center. The Lao Natasinh Dance Troupe of Iowa, based in Des Moines, is a group of Lao dancers and musicians trained in the Natasinh style of performance--the traditional forms, techniques and character of performing arts taught at the Ecole National de Musique et Danse Laotien (founded in Vientiane in 1956 to preserve Lao music and dance traditions). The genre includes court music for royal ceremonies and the classical dance-drama based on the Ramayana, the Hindu epic that depicts the life and struggles of the Buddha, as well as music and dance performed for social and ritual occasions. (Event date: July 26, 2006)