Songs of Memory
2019 Newsletter
Songs of Memory
If a village has no music,
how can it be called a village?
- Akha Saying
  Ya Fu, Lahu Nyi Musician of the Sae Mu Lute
Ban Ja Peu, Mae Chan
Chiang Rai Province, Thailand
May 2019

Songs of Memory Project
As the Akha saying goes, aw lawv lawv-aer, “step by step,” the Songs of Memory Project moves on its “songlines,” continuing to enter the world. This year has been filled with a flurry of activity above and below the surface with numerous reviews, presentations, and articles on the power of music in the mountains. This included the coveted cover photograph and 12-page photo-essay in the prestigious Asian Geographic Magazine (June 2019). Additionally, the Songs films have found their way to the Musical Instrument Museum in Arizona.
What’s Black and White and Red All Over? an exhibition of photographs from Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, and China, will run at the new Daifa Lifestyle Café in Chiang Mai from November 2019 to April 2020. If you happen to be in town, you are invited to the vernisssage on Friday, 15 November, from 7 to 9 pm. Welcome!
Very importantly, research and documentation of ancestral musical traditions—rarely heard and quickly vanishing—continue. Below is just a sampling of some of the spectacular practices recently added to the Songs of Memory Collection.
Finally, it’s a pleasure to introduce the newly designed Songs of Memory Site and Songs of Memory CD, which better showcase the ever-growing body of documentation and outreach. Please enjoy exploring these at:

What’s Black and White and Red All Over?
An Exhibition of Photographs from Southeast Asia
Daifa Lifestyle Café
Thapae Road, Chiang Mai, Thailand
15 November 2019 – April 2020
Hmong Songs of Memory
Lenten Friends, After Dyeing Indigo
Ban Soptud
Luang Nam Tha, Laos
Palaung Girls Harvesting
Wan Hoc
Keng Tung, Myanmar
Hmong Songs of Memory
Rhiav Lis, White Hmong Shaman
Ban Nam La
Luang Nam Tha, Laos
Taugnyo Woman with Offering
Taung Nyay Char
Taunggyi, Shan State, Myanmar
Wo Lee, Sha Sha Lisu Shaman
Dian Tan
Yunnan Province, China
Hmong Songs of Memory
Na Gii, Karen Woman
Ban Um Da
Mae Hong Son, Thailand
Boua Sone, Lenten Bride
Ban Nam Dii
Luang Nam Tha, Laos
Sua Muas, Hmong Woman
Ban Nam La
Luang Nam Tha, Laos
Eng Headman
Ban Pa Cho
Keng Tung, Myanmar
Hmong Songs of Memory
3,400 Novices and Monks
Sapyan Pwe Ceremony
Nyaung Shwe, Shan State, Myanmar
Buddhist Novices
Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery
Nyaung Shwe, Shan State, Myanmar
To see more images, please visit:

Hmong Songs of Memory
Asian Geographic
No. 136, Issue 3/2019

Cover: Akha Peu Sau Girl, Ban Huay Sang Mai, Phongsali, Laos
Article: A Trove of Cultural Treasure in the Golden Triangle
June 2019
Asian-European Music Research E-Journal
No. 2 (Winter 2018)

Article: Reach Back, Reach Deep, Reach Out:
A Case History of the Songs of Memory Project in the Community

December 2018

Vanishing Musical Traditions
Fieldwork and documentation of the music and ceremonies of SE Asia are ongoing. This past year has been devoted to updating the first book, Songs of Memory: Traditional Music of the Golden Triangle, which is presently out of print. Highlighting the musical heritage of the Karen, Hmong, Mien, Lahu, Akha, and Lisu, this new edition, soon to be published, will include age-old instruments and customs that are so rare they are difficult to find and are on the cusp of disappearing. Let us savor – and save -- such intangible heritage before it passes.
Hmong Songs of Memory
Asau Jutong, Ulo Akha
Bau Lau, Central Embouchure Flute
Ban Phra Du
Chiang Rai, Thailand
April 2019
Lalua and Mapho, Kayan Lahwi
Man Juae, Funeral Panpipes
Ban Nai Soi
Chiang Rai, Thailand
May 2019
Nyiaj Pov Lauj, White Hmong
Nkauj Laus Ncas, Bamboo Fiddle
Ban Than Thong
Chiang Rai, Thailand
May 2016
Hmong Songs of Memory
Ado Jutong, Ulo Akha
Courting Pipe, Hulu Peu
Ban Phra Du
Chiang Rai Province, Thailand
April 2019
Asau Jutong, Ulo Akha
Bau Lau, Central Embouchure Flute
Ban Phra Du
Chiang Rai, Thailand
April 2019
S’gaw Karen Mahout and Elephant
Elephant Bell
Sok Kae Gla
Tak Province, Thailand
December 2006
Hmong Songs of Memory
Su Lin, Iu Mien
Kheu Chin, Mouth Harp
Ban Lau Chi Kwa
Chiang Rai Province, Thailand
May 2019
Athu Pochear, Ulo Akha
Dar Bo, Bird Caller
Ban Sawjai Pattana
Chiang Rai Province, Thailand
May 2019

Hmong Songs of Memory Book and Film
The Hmong Songs of Memory Book and Film, propelled by numerous reviews and presentations, continue to move into international libraries, peoples’ homes, and, thrillingly, the curricula of universities and schools with an interest in Southeast Asian Studies and traditional music, religion, and culture.
Hmong Songs of Memory
Hmong Studies Journal
Volume 19 (2) (2018)

Review: Hmong Songs of Memory: Traditional Secular and Sacred Hmong Music
By Dr. Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy
December 2018
“The (Hmong Songs of Memory) publication provides meaningful and timely insight into the role of memory in maintaining cultural identity and traditional practices of the Hmong in Laos and in the diaspora. The video and book deserve multiple viewings and readings, but can also be used in sections for lectures or classroom teaching.
One of the most remarkable accomplishments of this dual publication is the interrelationship of the DVD with the written explanatory texts, the RPA (Hmong Romanized Popular Alphabet) transcriptions of sung or chanted lyrics, and their English translations. Watching the video and reading the book expand one upon the other. Ideally the process should be circular, with repeated and alternating viewings, listenings, and readings, dipping in and out of parallel sections from one medium to the other.
The author, Victoria Vorreiter is a formidably talented professional photographer, ethnographic filmmaker, musician, writer, and curator of tribal music and rituals of Morocco, Laos, Thailand, Burma, and China. Vorreiter’s book is coherently structured to carry the reader through her research experiences and perceptive understandings, with artistic sensitivity and intellectual rigor. . . This masterful opus will serve not only to evoke the sweet pain of nostalgia for Hmong people, but will validate Hmong identity and history, as well as instilling pride in the human spirit, for all humanity.”
Dr. Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy
Professor of Music of SE Asia
UCLA Department of Ethnomusicology
Journal of American Musical Instrument Society Newsletter
Volume 47, No. 3 (Winter 2018)

Review: Hmong Songs of Memory: Traditional Secular and Sacred Hmong Music
By Dr. Andrew Shahriari
December 2018
"This work is a formidable contribution to the understanding of Hmong musical culture and the experiences of their daily lives and worldview. The author’s passion and preparation for presenting the work is considerable and rare. Hmong Songs of Memory implicitly reminds us that extended ethnographic fieldwork should be appreciated and valued among all scholars of cultural studies. As such, this book and film should be on the shelves of libraries at any institution that offers programs of scholarships in any area of cultural study."
Dr. Andrew Shahriari
Professor of Ethnomusicology
Kent State University

Educational Curricula
University of California, Los Angeles
Dr. Helen Rees, professor and chair of the Department of Ethnology, has included Hmong Songs of Memory in her curriculum of the Music of China's Peripheries.
Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
Dr. Megan Graham presented the shamanic healing ceremony highlighted in the Hmong Songs of Memory book and film for a class in medical anthropology.
University of Nottingham, England
Dr. Lonán Ó Briain is incorporating the Hmong Songs of Memory book and film in the syllabus for his “Music in Asia” course.
Rajabhat University, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Professor Songkran Somchandra has added Hmong Songs of Memory as a resource for his World Music program.
Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minnesota
Boone Nguyen, a Vietnamese American artist of the Southeast Asian diaspora, used Hmong Songs of Memory as a source for his multi-media installation of the ritual instruments of Hmong shaman Mai Vang Yang, which explores spiritual practices, memory, and transformation (October 2019).
Lincoln Elementary School, Madison, Wisconsin
Photographs and recordings from the Hmong Songs of Memory archives have been integrated in teaching materials—flashcards and “A Hmong Moment” video series—for the young Hmong American students of Gwen Kong.
Hmong Children’s Book
Photographs from the Hmong Songs of Memory project appear in “Who are the Hmong People,” a new children’s book by Kha Yang Xiong, which informs young Hmong-Americans of their ancestral heritage. (Published by Cultivating Voices, November 2019)

Multi-media Presentations
Payap University
Hmong Songs of Memory:
Traditional Secular and Sacred Hmong Music

Chiang Mai, Thailand
12 December 2018
Hmong Songs of Memory
Songs of Memory Threads of Life Hmong Songs of Memory Hmong Threads of Life
If you would like to host a Multi-media Presentation on Traditional Music or Textiles
Please contact Victoria at

Films and Recordings
The Musical Instrument Museum, in Scottsdale, Arizona, is highlighting two excerpts from the Songs of Memory ethnographic films for its permanent display of ritual musical instruments from the highlands of Southeast Asia.
Hmong Songs of Memory
Wedding Ceremony of Gau Fo and Fua Wen
Nai Sheng, Dzatt Musician, and Percussion Ensemble
Ban Nam Thin, Phayao Province, Thailand
Hmong Songs of Memory
Rhiav Lis, White Hmong Shaman, and Assistant, Cib Yaj
Soul-calling Ceremony, Ua Neeb
Ban Nam La, Luang Nam Tha Province, Laos
Please enjoy the trailer for the film:
Hmong Songs of Memory Film
Songs of Memory CD
The Songs of Memory Compact Disc, recordings showcasing the traditional music of the Karen, Hmong, Mien, Lahu, Akha, and Lisu, has a new look! While the cover may have changed and the liner notes are more detailed, the music remains the same – or as they say in Thailand, “Same same, but different.”
Hmong Songs of Memory
Enjoy this mesmerizing Kayah song,
accompanied by the paplaw bamboo tube zither and whistling:

Songs of Memory Recordings

Everything old is new (appropriated) again. An image from Valentino’s Summer 2019 Collection juxtaposed to those from the Songs of Memory Archives show that the Italian designer’s creation harkens back thousands of years to the ancestors of the Loimi Akha of Loimi Mountain, Shan State, Myanmar.
Hmong Songs of Memory
Loimi Akha Girl
Ban Hok Yin
Keng Tung, Shan State, Myanmar
Valentino Couture
Model with Akha-Inspired Headdress
July 2019 Collection
Abeu and Boo Sheu
Loimi Akha Girl and Mother
Wan Baw Ah Ku Kok, Loimi Mtn.
Shan State, Myanmar

Since its launch nearly fourteen years ago, the mission of the Songs of Memory Project has unwaveringly endeavored to serve as a voice for the peoples of the Golden Triangle through their cultural heritage – their ancestral music, ceremonies, and traditions. My journey as an independent documentarian to research, record, and share these practices through diverse media could only have been possible through the gracious support of many who believe in the importance of preserving such intangible, irreplaceable heritage. To all of you, please receive my sincerest thanks.
Among the advocates of the Songs archives I would like to pay special tribute to my dear friends Mimi and Bud Frankel. Through their Frankel Family Foundation, they have shown steadfast support over many years to help this body of work grow. Recently Bud has passed away, having lived a long, inspiring, and purposeful life. He is loved and admired by so many family, friends, and colleagues. Mimi and Bud, I share my love and gratitude with you both for your friendship and the trust you have placed in the Songs project and me.
The Frankel Family Foundation
Leslie and David Bosch
Marsha and Philip Dowd
Golden Triangle Gallery
Jim Thompson Foundation
William Klausner
Tamarind Village
Liza Zinola
Mary Averill
Dorée Huneven
Marty Knight
Helen Brunner
Ron Simpson and Panya Suwan

The International Documentary Association (IDA) has accepted
The Music of the Golden Triangle project in its Fiscal Sponsorship Program
so that it receives non-profit status in the US.
IDA Letter of Endorsement

If the Songs of Memory project resonates with you,
please consider helping it continue.
Sponsorship Information
Donate Now

To learn more about the Songs of Memory project
or to order the Songs of Memory materials, please visit