We sure lao-ve it here
Our third full day in Vientiane! Stash here enjoying a break before we go out to dinner with Mike Pryor, our Deputy Public Affairs Officer over at the US embassy. Today was an activity filled day with many lessons learned by all in the Earth StringBand. The day started with a workshop at Laos’ school of Music and Dance, the first official workshop the Earth StringBand has done. Being the first workshop, there was a definite nervous vibe in the air since we’d never taught to an audience that didn’t speak English, but the good stringband energy was channeled through the thick humidity and we were all sweating through our shirts before kicking off our first tune.
Since we were at the school of Music and Dance we were lucky enough to play with some very talented musicians. The instrumentation included gongs, xylophones, little ringy cymbals, and a cool drum played by a dude with cool hair; I think a Mohawk would suit this guy well. Instead of describing the music I’ll let the music speak for itself (Check video below!). There’s no doubt Lao music is an earthy concoction for the ages. We taught these guys the Earth StringBand’s version of Cotton-Eyed Joe. The lao music men learned the melody within minutes and were literally slamming it up to speed with that funky Laotian backbeat like it was their business.
The workshop soon moved to an awesome dance session. After Eric showed a few students how to do a basic shuffle step for fiddle tunes, one of the directors at the school got up and showed us how to dance a traditional Lao dance to the melody of Cotton Eyed Joe. With Eric posing as my female counterpart, they lead us through a dance that resembled a good old American square dance. At that point my pants had acquired very large sweat stains. I didn’t even realize one could sweat through one’s legs so much.
Finally, we invited the musician students to come and play with us at our concert tomorrow at the Vientiane Cultural Center. We all met later in the day at the Cultural center to rehearse our pieces and learned a beautiful Laotian folk song taught by the same students who learned Cotton-Eyed Joe earlier in the day. Wow, what an incredible tune! It’s one of those very triumphant melodies that makes you want to weep and laugh as you cross some sort of finish line, maybe after experiencing a tragedy. To top it all off, a woman by the name of saria brought 4 little girls to dance a traditional Lao dance to the song which radiated cuteness vibes across the whole 1500- seat hall.
Despite some small technical difficulties and Andy’s foray into fuse-replacement tactics on the mixing board, I think it’s safe to say today was an awesome unique workshop, and a true eye-opening experience both musically and personally. Check out the videos of our rehearsal and look out for some concert footage tomorrow. dang dang!