British Library holds a significant collection of Lao material – including unpublished recordings of remote populations by Tom Vater

Laos UK

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Hmong Lao Khaen player in Vientiane 2001

The British Library holds a small but significant collection of Lao material, consisting of manuscripts, rare printed books, periodicals and post cards, mainly acquired after 1973. However, the oldest items in Lao language date back to the 19th century. The earliest book about Laos is in Italian and was published in 1663. …. Among these are numerous unpublished recordings of remote populations of Laos, Cambodia and Thailand by Tom Vater.”

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Hmong Musician in Ponsavan, Hmong New Year, 2001

Very happy to have some of the recordings of indigenous people I made in the 90s as part of the Lao collection at The British Library..

In fact, my writing career started right here, at the British Library’s National Sound Archive. I went to see them in 1993 after my first return from India. I was interested in the music of indigenous communities in the region and approached the National Sound Archive’s International Music Collection with an offer of recording and documenting the obscure sounds of Asia. A great collaboration emerged in the following years. With equipment and a small grant from the Archive I roamed around Asia and recorded musicians in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Thailand, The Philippines. Three CDs of my work were released and I lectured on disappearing music. I did my last recordings on the eve of the tsunami a decade ago in Sumatra. All my recordings remain with the archive and I hope there is some way to save all this invaluable collective memory.

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Young Hmong woman in traditional clothes singing, Ponsavan, Hmong New Year, 2001

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