Tag Archives | Laos

Let’s Write a Song, the Words are Like a Poem

Yesterday we learned about the Laotian and northeastern Thai form of traditional music called “Mor lam.” In the form, a singer will create an improvised song consisting of Laotian glawn poetry, interacting playfully with the audience. Improvising a song is scary! In class, though, sometimes we work up our confidence and take a leap. In this video we start with a Laotian mor lam melody, a nugget of an idea of a topic for a song, and we…try.

In Laos Mor lam is Where it’s At


In its most traditional form, Mor lam, from the landlocked Southeast Asian nation of Laos and the Isan region of northeastern Thailand, is a kind of a bluesy improvised poetry song. The term translates loosely as “expert song,” referring to the “expert singer,” the vocalist who is singing. Mor lam singers will have a prescribed rhythm but make up a story as the song goes along. The words of these songs often border on the bawdy, focusing on themes of love — often unrequited — and addressing the challenges of Laotian life. We particularly enjoy the mor lam performed in this video. (Note the guys playing the Laotian “free reed” khenes.)