Identity and Cultural Adaptation of Folk Performing Arts in S ...

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Abstract

This qualitative investigation considers the new identity of folk performing arts in Savannakhet Province, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), brought about by cultural adaptation according to the government’s New Economic Mechanism policy. Through documentary review, observation, interview, and focus group discussion, the researcher examined Lam Si Jangwa, four folk performing arts in lower central Lao PDR. The results show clear differences between the four singing styles that reflect the cultural and regional identities. Lam Khon Sawan is marked by a chant ending with the repetitive phrase heya, heya, heya. Lam Phu Tai highlights the linguistic heritage of the Phu Tai ethnic group through use of the indigenous dialect. Lam Ban Sok is characterized by a short utterance at the end to abruptly cut the rhythm of the song. Lam Tang Wai originates from the Bru ethnic group and concludes with the words yuak, yuak, yuak. These distinct styles exemplify the rich cultural diversity and musical heritage found in Laotian folk singing. Results show that the folk performances were originally supported by the royal family and became protest performances against colonial rule. After a period of stagnation and neglect under the revolutionary government during the height of the Cold War, the music was revived under a government policy to reimagine the nation state. This caused rapid development of folk performing arts and resulted in their elevation to an invented national culture.