Rough Guide to the Music of Vietnam

Vietnam may have experienced an onslaught of Western culture in the last twenty years or so, but a strong Vietnamese identity and tradition remains firmly intact. This shouldn’t come as a surprise when you consider the Vietnamese have already seen off Chinese, French and American occupiers. The Vietnamese are a proud people. Proud of their history, proud of their resilience and proud of their culture and music.

Like anywhere in the world, manufactured idols are popular with the new generation, but even they like to include the strains of the one stringed dan bao into the mix somewhere. The energy and bustle of today’s Saigon (officially Ho Chi Minh City) is reflected in a thriving music industry. Like the organized chaos of thousands of scooters in a perpetual near miss accident, so random rows of CD stores are dotted along the streets. There are no big western chain stores to buy from, while on-line stores have yet to make an impact. Instead people buy in the old fashioned way; go to their local friendly independent shop, listen to the latest sounds and hand over their hard earned cash.

Like other Southeast Asians, Vietnamese like a catchy melody and love nothing more than singing karaoke, whether that be in a bar, at home or even on a bus. Singers are therefore the biggest stars, held in great esteem. This album features some of the very finest including the wonderful female vocalists Thu Hien and Van Khanh.

Even with the so-called economic miracle and the further opening up to foreign influences, one thing will always remain. Vietnamese musicians are able to tap into one of the world’s richest musical cultures. Unlike their near neighbours in Southeast Asia, Cambodia and Thailand, Vietnam shares its closest artistic and musical heritage with the Far East; China, Japan, Korea and possibly Mongolia. China occupied the country for a thousand years until 938AD and has had a profound influence on the musical tradition. Instruments such as the dan tranh sixteen stringed zither) is intimately related to the Chinese guzheng, while the Ty Ba lute is very similar to the Chinese pipa.

Vietnam also came under the influence of the Hindu kingdom of the Champa and the Khmers, yet some instruments appear to be purely Vietnamese in origin. Foremost among these is the monochord, dan bao, probably the instrument that most represents the quintessential sound of Vietnamese music. The dan bao can be heard on many tracks on this album in a variety of musical styles, from traditional to modern.

Western music was first introduced into Vietnam by the French, with songs such as La Marseillaise becoming popular following World War One. By the 1930s, the Vietnamese were making their first stabs at a homemade version of western music. Over the years this has metamorphosed into the popular style of playing Westernized music on mainly Vietnamese instruments such as the dan bao, dan tranh and dan sao trio you can hear on this album, or the crossover pop from stars such as Cam Ly and Quang Linh.

Vietnamese ex-pats have also made a significant contribution to the music scene, especially from Westminster, California. Arguably however, the greatest contribution beyond the Vietnamese communities has been made by Parisian based singer Huong Thanh and guitarist Nguyen Le.

From north to south, from ancient court and traditional music to living folk songs, via some of the biggest stars of contemporary Vietnamese music, this Rough Guide offers a unique glimpse into the rich variety of sounds emanating from one of the world’s least understood nations. The Vietnam war might still resonate in the minds of many in the West to a soundtrack of popular 60s and 70s US hits. Meanwhile the Vietnamese themselves have long moved on, mixing vibrancy with tradition and real beauty.

Female singer Huong Thanh and guitarist / producer Nguyen Le mix up Vietnamese traditional music with jazz and other kinds of extraneous influences. Huong Thanh was born in Saigon, where her father, Huun Phoc, was one of the biggest stars of cai luong, renovated Vietnamese theatre. She started performing in shows with her father from the age of eight, and in 1977, her family moved to Marseille in France. Thanh sang both pop and cai luong for the Vietnamese community, which she continued to do after her family moved to Paris. She still considers cai luong to be at the heart of her singing style today. Nguyen Le was born in Paris to Vietnamese parents who came to France after the end of French colonization in 1954. He started out playing rock before taking up jazz and is one of Europe’s leading jazz guitarists playing with a glittering array of musicians including Gil Evans, Quincy Jones, Peter Erskine, Ornette Coleman and Ralph Towner. Eventually he wanted to explore his own identity, which opened up the possibility to mix the Vietnamese music he remembers as a young child, with jazz and the other styles that he grew up with in Paris. Meeting Huong Thnah in Paris in 1995 allowed him to fulfil this ambition and she featured on his solo album Tales from Vietnam in 1996. Huong Thanh has since recorded three of her own albums, produced and arranged by Nguyen Le. Crossing the Valley is taken from the second album, Dragonfly, released in 2001. It is a traditional tune given a new arrangement, with poetic lyrics- ‘the monkey climbs up the tree and the birds are singing. In the murmur of the valley I’m dreaming’. It features the sao (flute), dan tranh (zither) and traditional wooden percussion instruments together with guitar, keyboards and bass.

Situated in the north of Vietnam, to the east of Hanoi, Bac Ninh Province is home to Vietnam’s oldest singing tradition, quan ho. A genre of songs featuring call and response group singing, believed to date back to the 13th century, quan ho are performed during the famous spring festivals that took place at the numerous pagodas in the region. Originally sung in exchange between mandarin families, its popularity spread throughout the northern region, and is today one of the most important types of Vietnamese folk song. Men and women take turns singing in a kind of challenge and response to each other. Women and men are afforded equal status, with mutual respect and some good natured banter. From upbeat tunes to melodious and graceful songs, quan ho were originally unaccompanied, but these days can feature dan-bau (monochord) sao-truc (bamboo flute) tam thap luc (dulcimer) with occasional guitar and keyboards. Male singers carry a black silk umbrella while women hold a fan underneath a palm-leaf hat that is tucked underneath the arm. Thanh Quy is an exceptional female quan ho singer, whose male counterpart on the album from which this track is taken, is Quy Trang.

Born in Saigon, Cam Ly is one of Vietnam’s most loved pop singers. She first grabbed the public’s attention in 1993 after winning first prize in a city-wide duet singing competition along with her sister. Soon after, Cam Ly signed to Kim Loi Studio one of Vietnam’s most prestigous record labels which propelled her to pop stardom with a succession of best selling albums. She is the recipient of numerous music awards and Cam Ly has also proven to be a versatile and talented singer when it comes to traditional folk music, especially with southern style songs. She has toured in many countries around the world and has released over 15 CDs and DVDs featuring short musical movies. Em Gai Que is the title track to her album released in 2004.

Blue Asia is the project of possibly Japan’s most innovative producer Makoto Kubota, together with his assistant and arranger Yoichi Ikeda, and the Malaysian top producer team of Mac Chew and Jenny Chin. Since the 1970s Kubota has been at the cutting edge of Japanese productions of world music, with groundbreaking albums by among others Indonesian singers Elvy Sukaesih, Detty Kurnia and Malagasy band N’Java.
Blue Asia travel to work with artists in their own locality, including in 2003, Saigon, Vietnam. Inspired by the undeniable blues quality of some Vietnamese traditional music, Blue Requiem features top dan bao player Thuy Hanh, and the sampled drums of legendary funk and jazz drummer Bernard Purnie. This pairing created some unique down-home Mekong delta blues.

From Hue, the ancient capital in Central Vietnam, Thue Hien has been one of Vietnam’s most enduring and popular singers. In 1962, during the escalating war, she joined a well-known performing art group. In 1966, she started her solo career spending most of her time performing throughout the country, especially in the fierce war zones of central Vietnam. Thu Hien has earned the most prestigious recognition title, as ‘the People’s Artist’. Over the last forty years Thu Hien has released more than 20 albums mostly of northern and central folk and traditional revolutionary songs. Her songs are typically based on folk melodies with Vietnamese traditional instruments, such as the dan bao, set over a luscious texture of western keyboards and percussion with her sumptuous voice gliding over the top.

Kim Sinh was born in 1930 in Hanoi and lost his eyesight when he was three months old. He started to learn the dan nguyet, a two stringed Vietnamese lute, when he was eight. At the age of twelve he modified a guitar to sound like a Hawaiian or bottleneck guitar and during the French occupation performed in Dance Halls. Self taught, he had never heard black American blues or jazz and he developed his bluesy style of playing in apparent isolation, based entirely on his own ability and instinct. Through the years he became known as a master player and singer of cai luong, the kind of theatre which was revised and improved in 1916-17 by a group of Southern Vietnamese music lovers. Li Giao Duyen is his own arrangement of a traditional song from Southern Vietnam.

Khac Chi Ensemble features dan bao virtuoso Khac Chi Ho, together with vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Ngoc Bich Hoang. Chi attended the National School of Music and undertook an extensive musical education before becoming a master instructor at the Department of Traditional Music at the Hanoi National Conservatory. He later became conductor of the Conservatory’s acclaimed Traditional Music Orchestra and in 1988 was awarded first prize in the national annual Improvement of Traditional Instruments Awards for his developments of the dan bao. Bich was a scholarship student at the Hanoi Music Conservatory and studied a multitude of instruments. She performed with many of Vietnam’s most prestigious musical ensembles and was a regular on national radio and television. She too is the recipient of various awards including the first woman to receive the top prize for her dan bao playing in the 1988 Vietnam Competition for Professional Instrumentalists. Since 1992 they have both lived in Vancouver where they continue to teach and perform. On the Bamboo Bridge is a southern Vietnamese folk song. The male and female vocals accompanied by a variety of instruments such as the dan bao and its bass version the dan bao tram, dan mo (wooden percussion) dan nguyet (two stringed lute) dan tranh (zither) and ken bao (conical double reed).

Traditional instruments not only accompany pop singers, but are used to create a modern form of instrumental music. The most popular ensemble is the trio of tranh (zither) sao (flute) and bao (monochord) of which dozens of albums exist. A cheesy keyboard and a tinny drum machine are added in varying quantities to create a range of syrupy concoctions, from the simple and sweet to the super saccharine.

Hat tho is a worship chant, that is part of hat van, a traditional folk art that combines a kind of trance singing with dancing. Hat van originated in the Red River delta in the 16th century. It later spread to the entire country and combines the beauty of folk songs from all regions, north to south. The music is mostly slow, exquisite and dignified with a range of rhythms and pauses. The instrumental backing is sparse yet creates the atmosphere. The main instruments are the dan nguyet, dan-nhi, (two stringed fiddle) dan tranh and various Vietnamese guitars. These are interspersed with the striking of the phach (a piece of wood or bamboo) marking the rhythm, xeng (clappers), trong chau (drum) and chieng (gong). A form of ritual music, its original purpose was to call upon spirits and reconnect them with the living in a trance ceremony. Only since the mid 1980s has hat van been practiced openly again, as for many years before it was deemed not to be conducive with the anti-religious leanings of the government.

The Dan Tranh is a sixteen stringed zither that originated in Hue and is derived from the Chinese guzheng. It is an extremely subtle instrument with delicate nuances mainly due to it being strung with light metal strings. Some modern instruments have seventeen or more strings and are flatter than the concave shaped original. It is believed to date back around 800 years and is one of the most loved of all Vietnamese instruments. The dan tranh is plucked using all the fingers, the player usually wearing finger-nail plectrums. It is used in different situations; as part of a small ensemble, accompanying a singer or played solo, unaccompanied. Nguyen Thanh Thuy has released one of the most successful solo dan tranh albums of recent years. In 1998, she won the first prize in the Third National Young Talent Dan Tranh Contest, and the first prize in a traditional art performing contest. Since then, she has performed in numerous music shows and festivals in Vietnam and around the world.

Van Khanh was born into a traditional music family and is a fantastic singer of central style country and folk songs, which combine traditional Vietnamese flavours with a modern accompaniment. When she was aged twelve, she joined the Quang Tri performing art group and toured across her province performing most nights. When Blue Asia (see track four) were looking for a singer for their Hotel Vietnam album, they chose Van Khanh for the sweetness and pure quality of her voice and ability to straddle the line between traditional and modern folk. She has lived in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) Vietnam’s entertainment capital for the last nine years, and her name is now synomonous with the central Vietnamese folk music she has helped to popularize.

Not surprisingly Vietnamese pop far out sells traditional music, and Quang Linh is one of the country’s most adored pop stars. He was born in Hue, and was reportedly a banker in Hanoi before becoming a super star. He started singing when aged nineteen at the Youth Culture House in Hue. He made his professional debut in 1996, when he joined the Ha Noi Performing Art and Dance Theatre. He subsequently moved to Ho Chi Minh where his popularity soared as a solo singer. He is known for singing both romantic pop ballads and the folk / country style of music.

Set on the picturesque Perfume River, the city of Hue was Vietnam’s capital from 1802 until 1945. A world heritage site, Hue is the cultural centre of Vietnam with a rich musical tradition. The best known of those traditions is ca hue, literally Songs of Hue. Ca hue partly originate from the so-called ‘Ten Royal Pieces’ that were introduced from China and modified for Vietnamese tastes. The voice in ca hue is sometimes uniquely tense without much vibrato. Chau Dinh is one of the great vocalists, sometimes called the Queen of Ca Hue and is backed by an ensemble of four instruments; dan bao, dan nhi (two stringed fiddle), dan nguyet (two stringed lute) and dan tranh (sixteen stringed zither). And the ten reasons why we love Hue girls? Black hair loose on the shoulders, nice way of walking, sweet voice, beautiful dark eyes, slim body, Hue style conical hat, nice teeth (they make even the most precious pearls jealous). beautiful way of standing next to the Perfume River, steps so light, and dress waving in the wind.

The dan bao, one stringed monochord, has been a feature on many songs on this album, but never quite as on this track. With just the one string and a wooden sound box, the pitch is regulated with the ball of the thumb and the wonderful sliding sounds by bending a lever arm. In the family band Dan Bao Vietnam, the father plays the dan bao, his two daughters are on wooden percussion and his son on Casio keyboard. This was recorded live next to a swimming pool on Saigon’s harbour to an audience of mostly Japanese tourists.

Go to the Rough Guide to the Music of Vietnam CD


Rough Guide to the Music of Thailand

Thailand may be one of Asia’s most popular tourist destinations, but very few of it’s five million visitors bother to get to grips with the local music. An undiscovered beach, is more likely to be on the average tourist’s mind, than the undiscovered music. Which is a shame, because Thailand offers some of Asia’s most pulsating sounds.

Without having to try you’re likely to encounter some local music. Some might stumble across a small classical combo in a hotel or a Bangkok restaurant. If you’re really lucky, you might even hear a traditional ensemble at a Buddhist temple, or more likely a tape that an orange robed Buddhist monk will gladly sell you. The traditional music can be spellbinding, and rather eerie, played on a variety of melodic and rhythmic percussion instruments, stringed and wind instruments. Walk into most record stores, especially away from the tourist areas, and the shelves are filled with lukthung, the central region ‘country’ music. You might even hear the emotionally charged vocals of lukthung from the back of a taxi, if you’re driver is tuned into one of the lukthung stations, or catch a concert on the TV by one of the big stars. Meanwhile, Thai girl and boy bands compete with their western and Japanese counterparts, blasting from speakers outside the local KFC. It’s the sounds however, from an area that very few visitors venture to, the northeast, Isaan, that is the hotbed of Thai music. Morlam is the traditional Laotian music, in its modern form rhythmically powerful and vocally dynamic. Morlam, in it’s various styles, is popular throughout Thailand with the many migrant workers from this poor arid region, in Bangkok and other centres of population. All these styles of music and more can be heard on this album, the vast majority available outside Thailand for the first time.

What is present day Thailand, has been inhabited by the Thai people since the end of the thirteenth century. The Thai meaning ‘free’ were originally indigenous exiles from northern China who settled in the south of China about 2000 years ago. Over the following six hundred years, the Thai and the Chinese had considerable contact. When Chinese from the north fled south with the Mongul invasion around the beginning of the tenth century, the Thai had even stronger contact with cultural elements from the north, and the similarities between Thai and Chinese music can probably be traced back to this time. As it became clear the Monguls would eventually conquer the whole of China, the Thai migrated south spreading into Laos, northern Vietnam and present day Thailand. By 1450, the Thai had put an end to the Khmer kingdom after capturing Sukhotai from the Khmer, and eventually the capital city, Angkor (now in Cambodia after they were forced to cede this area in 1907 to France). Much of the Khmer culture was absorbed by the Thai, it being said that while the Thai conquered the Khmer, the Khmer civilized the Thai.

Although little is known of the music of the Khmer, it is believed it contained early remnants of early Indian music, and possibly Javanese music too. The non-Chinese elements in Thai music are therefore likely to have derived through the Khmer. With the creation of the kingdom of Sukhotai in 1257, a stronger Thai identity was forged and throughout the Ayuthaya period (1360-1767), musical styles, compositions, ensembles and instruments all emerged. The two stringed bowed lute, the so-duang (track 16) was a common instrument in various ensembles from toward the end of this period until today in classical and court music. Born in 1917, the female performer on this track Benjarong Thanakoset, is from a musical family, and was already teaching by the age of sixteen. She is now considered Thailand’s greatest player of bowed string instruments.

Other instruments are believed to have originated with the Thai themselves, including the double reed instrument the pi. The pi phat, consisting of the pi together with melodic and rhythmic percussion instruments, is one of the earliest types of ensemble, represented on this album by Fong Nam (track 12). Under the guidance of American Bruce Gaston, Fong Nam are both the custodians of rare classical pieces, and known for modernizing the traditions in experimental styles. The Hong Nang Suite is traditional Buddhist funeral music, instead of a sorrowful nature it’s lively sound acts as an antidote for the grieving mourners.

Probably the most important folk instrument is the bamboo mouth pipe organ, the khaen, central to the sound of morlam, the music of the Isaan region. Found in northern Thailand and Laos, the instrument consists of usually fourteen long thin bamboo pipes, up to four feet in length each emitting it’s own fixed pitch. To resonate the pipes, the instrument is held with two hands cupped around a mouthpiece into which air is blown and drawn. Above the mouthpiece, in each pipe a small round hole is cut. When a finger closes a hole, the air is forced up through the reed, and a pitch is sounded, the pipes sounding simultaneously depending on which holes are closed.

Traditional morlam ensembles also feature the phin, a stringed lute, somewhat similar to the guitar, with between two and four strings, but typically three. Track 3, features a solo performance on the phin, by Surasak Donchia, a virtuoso on the instrument.

The term morlam derives from two words in the Isaan dialect, ‘mor’, meaning expert, and ‘lam’ meaning song. The Isaan dialect is not understood by most Thais, who speak central Thai. The Isaan dialect spoken in northeastern Thailand and Lao is essentially the same language and although some morlam is sung in Thai, a significant amount is sung in Isaan (Lao). Isaan shares a border with Laos to the northeast , and adding to a unique cultural mix, Cambodia to the south,(through Kantrum, Thai/ Cambodian country music)and the central region of Thailand to the west. Laotians make up a sizeable group in Thailand, there are some nineteen million Isaan people, who contribute to make this one of the most culturally rich areas in south east Asia.

Aside to providing entertainment, morlam is important for the transmission of culture from one generation to the next. It is not known when morlam first emerged, it’s birth linked to the belief in the power of spirits, the perpetuation of folk tales and allurement of the opposite sex.

There are as many as fifteen forms of traditional morlam. Chawarewan Damnern (track 8) is Isaan’s greatest female singer of traditional morlam, and a specialist in at least two styles, morlam klon (narrative tales) and morlam mu (a theatrical style performed by a troupe). Born in 1945 in Ubon Ratchathani province she is the seventh generation in a family of morlam performers. She started touring with her father from the age of two, eventually forming her own group, and is accompanied on this song by her long term khaen player Thongkham. The lyrics, written by Chawarewan in Laotian and occasional Burmese ,tell of a wife’s feelings toward her husband after he nonchalantly returns after an inexplicable long absence.

Also only found in Isaan, is the pong lang a suspended vertical wooden xylophone, it’s keys arranged upside down with the low notes on the upper end, and the high notes at the bottom. The type of music featuring the instrument is usually also called pong lang. The ensemble on track 19, Chagkachan, includes the khaen, phin, and an array of unusual instruments including the wod (a bamboo panpipe), klong (a collection of several large single headed drums), and hai soon, (a plucked ceramic jar that has rubber bands stretched over it’s mouth). ‘Pong Lang Dance’ is one of Isaan’s most popular melodies.

Today, the traditional instruments in morlam are augmented or replaced by electronic keyboards, electric bass, and a western-style drum-set. The keyboard is set up to emulate the sound of a 1960s organ. Large travelling shows had become popular from the 1960s, and continue to this day, as the big stars spend most of the year on the road. The 1970s saw the rise in the popularity of a modern style, when the Isaan people migrated to Bangkok in increasing numbers as Thailand became industrialized and the economy grew. Morlam has proved to be a unifying force for the Isaan people, far from their villages back home, which are gripped by poverty, and limited economic opportunity. Isaan workers, with a generally low standard of education, have become Bangkok’s construction labourers, street cleaners, bar girls and prostitutes. Some might feel ostracized from the mainstream of society by their education, language, and skin color, which is darker than that of Sino-Thais. The lyrics tell their story, with references to people they miss, lost loves, and the exploitation of city life. At karaoke bars in Bangkok, for a few baht, Isaan people can play a video CD of their favorite morlam performer. Track 10, by Pol Panlao ‘Amazing Isaan’ gives a taste of the pride the Isaan feel of their identity. As on this track, morlam can be fast-paced, with rapid phin playing, booming bass, surging organ, and drums with an incessant backbeat. Morlam songs typically begin with a slow section, that traditionally includes the wailing of ‘Oh, La Naw’ (Oh, Fortune). This might be followed by a ‘rap’ like chorus, which unlike western rap is melody-based, and generally only one chorus long, with an Isaan vocal inflection ending a chorus, consisting of several repeated, non-word vocal sounds. Folk has never sounded funkier than in Isaan.

Morlam singers can appear in several different changes of clothes, from traditional to modern, during the course of a concert. Singers are accompanied by dancers (hang krung) who could be dressed in traditional Thai costume, or glitzy disco garb, or a combination of both. In many cases, the dancers are scantily-clad, and might appear incongruous to the music. However, dancers in similar dress can be seen in sculptures centuries old, including at Angkor Wat.

Morlam elements are commonly mixed with Thai country music, lukthung, a bit of Western pop, and occasionally kantrum to produce a kind of all embracing Thai roots music, all normally grouped by the Thai record industry under the term lukthung. A faster, jazzed up style is sometimes labeled as ‘cha-cha-cha’ lukthung, such as Sao Somparn (track 14) or Krusala (track 15). Morlam singers realizing the market limitations of singing in Lao, can easily switch to lukthung which they sing in Thai. This blurring of boundaries is evident on tracks by the male singers Anand Jaidee,(track 10), Ekachai Srivichai (track 13) or Sorn Shinchai (track 17).The mixture can be less frenetic, but equally appealing. Just listen to Man Motorgai (the Motorbike Man’ track 1), who exploits his macho image with a permanently broken nose, covered by a plaster. The title of the album from which this track is taken can be roughly translated into ‘the bridge of my nose is broken, so why do you love me?” Humour and the ability to make light of your predicament, has it’s place in Thai roots music too.

The cross exchange of styles works equally the other way. Mike Piromporn (track 4) is one of lukthung’s biggest stars, his albums purportedly selling over one million copies. Born in Isaan in 1970, Piromporn went to Bangkok when he was young, working in construction, restaurants, and a talaat yen (night market) before realizing his dream of becoming a singer. The track on this album, owes probably as much to the influence of morlam than the lukthung style he has come to represent, with the addition of a funky saxophone.

The story of lukthung, (meaning ‘child of the fields’) in some ways mirrors that of morlam. From the 1950s,and throughout the 60s, influences as diverse as latin rhythms and cowboy yodelling had started to infiltrate what was an existing folk music, lukthung, and it’s sentimental relation lukkrung, a genre still popular today with the older rich classes in Bangkok. In the late 1970s, a revolution occurred when composer and teacher of lukthung, Wichien Khacharoen took a young female singer called Pompuang Duangchan under his wing. Wichien modernized the music with pop and rock rhythms and melodies. The lyrics shifted from stories of departing lovers from the countryside to sexually seductive themes. With the rural to urban migration of the young workforce during the 1980s, lukthung’s audience was experiencing a modern lifestyle. Many of the songs reflected these lives in transition; longing for home, while enjoying the excitement of new found freedoms. Probably though, the main reason for the re-emergence of lukthung was the captivating voice of Pompuang Duangchan herself.

It takes a special voice and talent to fully exploit the depth of feeling in a lukthung song. Notes are held, wavered and ornamentation added to drain every last drop of emotion. Duangchan died in 1992, aged only 31, and was granted a royal cremation at her home village’s temple, Wat Thapkradan. Presided over by Princess Sirindhon, over 150,000 of her fans participated in the largest public mourning of a commoner in Thailand’s contemporary history.

Some predicted the demise of lukthung, but the legacy of Duangchan has inspired a new generation of lukthung singers. The annual temple fair from Wat Thapkradan, (temple fairs are great way to experience live lukthung and morlam) is televised live on national TV and attracts current top lukthung singers as well as staging a lukthung singing contest to the backing of Duangchan’s songs. The husky voiced Siriporn Aumpiapong (track 5),is one singer following in the legacy of Duangchan, known particularly for her ballads. Born into
a farming family in Udon Thani province in1963, her father formed a family morlam troupe, and Siriporn has been performing lukthung and morlam ever since. Namoiy Thammalangka (track 2) and the young stars Jieb Benjaporn (track 11) and Paijit Aksornnarong (track 18) are three other current outstanding singers.

Sales of most lukthung CDs and cassettes however, pale in comparison to the Thai/Chinese female pop duo China Dolls (track 9), whose albums sell over one and a half million copies. Their catchy, vivacious, hook a minute tunes look set to conquer Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia too. The almost identical Hwa Hwa and Bell got together in 1999, singing songs for the Chinese New Year, mixing Thai and Mandarin pop. ‘Oh Oh Oh’ sung in Thai, was one of the Bangkok pop duo’s biggest hits in 2001, and is taken from their second album.

To an unsuspecting listener, computer generated studio doctored idol pop, might sound less human than the incredible Thai Elephant Orchestra (track 5). From the Thai Elephant Conservation Center near Lampang, the elephants were taught to play specially designed musical instruments by composer Dave Soldier and the center co-founder ‘professor elephant’ Richard Lair. The instruments were designed to certain criteria, among them obviously large enough to be played by an elephant’s trunk, but also to withstand the jungle humidity and to have a Thai sound. They built huge slit drums, large marimba type instruments much like Thai renats, a stringed instrument that sounds like an electric bass, and a gong made from a saw blade. They bought harmonicas, finger cymbals and a khaen from Isaan, and a bass drum. After learning the instruments, the elephants improvise and play their own music, without overdubs or editing and the track you hear is exactly as the elephants performed it. The results are amazing, not just for the obvious musicality but also for its beauty. The orchestra now performs daily concerts near Lampang. Obvious logistics mean they won’t be embarking on a world tour soon, (that would be some rider) that is, unless they get their own jumbo jet!

The first orchestral music by non-humans, certainly adds to the already dazzling array of music in Thailand. One of the few countries in south east Asia where contemporary regional roots music and homegrown styles reflect deep feelings and traditions to still maintain a place in the mainstream of society.

Go to the Rough Guide to Thailand CD

Rough Guide to the Music of China Vol.1

Everything about China is so big, it’s daunting. The size of the country, stretching from the southern Himalayas to the Mongolian steppe in the north to the tropical coast of the South China sea. The population, numbering over a billion Han Chinese, (92% of the population) more than Europe and North America put together. Their history, dating back 2000 years to the time of the Roman Empire. But whereas Rome was eventually overwhelmed, China, was to rise again into a centralized empire. Younger civilizations didn’t supplant aging ones, but civilization progressed, lurching from excessive order to excessive disorder and back again. Sixty to a hundred years of unrest between dynasties, the present, half obliterating the past. In China, the past doesn’t loom in front of you in the shape of statues of generals, and there are few old buildings. Yet whereas ancient history is somehow vivid, more recent history can be murky.

Culture did not prosper during the Cultural Revolution of 1966-69. Instead intellectuals learned to keep quiet, and students went to class to make their teacher parade up and down wearing a dunce cap. Just about everything in the arts old or new, Chinese or Western was banned for it’s ‘feudal’ or ‘bourgeois’ ideas. A bubble of pent up creativity burst at the beginning of the 1970s with the downfall of the Gang of Four, in all art forms, including music.

Music in China is inextricably linked to its history, and political ideology has played a central role. When the Qing dynasty was overthrown by revolutionaries in 1911, it ended the long history of a court music tradition. China then modeled its educational system to that of the west and only westernized music was taught. With the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, an effort was made to encourage, research and collect folk music. Emphasis was placed on rigorous training and political content was infused into music. Post Mao China is not so obsessed with excluding the outside world and the old culture is not being excluded either. Instead musicians are increasingly drawing from both western and Chinese influences.
This CD offers a snapshot of a myriad of Chinese music, each track displaying the emotions and attitudes of its own place in time and circumstance, from Cantonese opera to Beijing punk, from ancient traditions to revolutionary rock, from 1930s pop swing to 1990s pop folk. Chinese musicians who have gone to live overseas have generally been freer to experiment and combine the modern with the traditional, the east and the west. Several of the best of these artists are included. As are the minorities represented by contemporary music from Inner Mongolia and traditional music from Xinjiang. Excluded is music of the people who might not consider themselves as part of China, (Taiwan) or as Chinese (Tibet).

The law of averages would suggest there is more latent talent and musical possibilities in China than anywhere else in the world. Musicians still operate under restrictions and limitations, so perhaps the best is yet to come. But here, is a part of the evolution and revolution in Chinese music until now.


Cui Jian first burst upon the Chinese music scene in 1986 at a nationally televised pop music competition staged at Beijing Worker’s Stadium. The other acts were mostly bland Cantonese pop, or crass imitators of American MOR rock, which made the contrast of seeing the then 25 year old Cui Jian, swaggering on stage dressed in army greens and gyrating to his pulsating electric guitar, all the more illuminating. The rock revolution had arrived. Bootlegs of Cui Jian’s televised debut circulated around the country like wildfire. ‘Nothing to My Name’ became an anthem for students during the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in 1989. Born in 1961 to parents of Korean descent, he was a trumpet player with the Beijing Philharmonic Orchestra before becoming smitten with smuggled tapes of western rock music. In post-Mao China, Cui Jian was John Lennon, Bob Dylan and Kurt Cobain rolled into one, a one-man rock and roll revolution, blending in Chinese folk music and traditional Chinese instruments, such as the oboe-like Suona, heard on this song. Pushed to the margins of the Chinese music scene, where he is seen as the bad boy of rock ‘n’ roll, Cui Jian was not allowed to play public concerts in Beijing, until 2003 when he supported the Rolling Stones.


Born into a family of livestock farmers in the southwest of Inner Mongolia, Urna’s formative years were ingrained with a feeling of the endless expanse of the steppe, raised among horses and sheep and head-high grass and sand dunes. She learned traditional Mongolian songs from her grandmother and parents, and still today collects songs and stories from the elder singers of her homeland. She studied yangqin (Chinese dulcimer) at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, where she joined Robert Zollitsch’s Gaoshan Liushui ensemble as the featured singer. She still collaborates today with Robert including on this track, their arrangement of a traditional tune. Urna’s music mixes elements of Mongolian folk with a variety of other influences to create an original and fresh sound. At the centre, is always her voice, improvising, soaring and striking in its range and beauty.

JIU KUANG “The Drinking Song”

Guqin (old qin) was generally in the past called simply the qin, the seven stringed zither. (see track 12). Yao Gongbai, from Shanghai, was born in 1948 and is the son of the noted scholar and musician Yao Bingyan. His father is credited for reconstructing “lost” qin pieces after devising a way in 1959 to read ancient manuscripts and tablature, particularly in discovering the originally intended rhythms of the pieces. “The Drinking Song” is thought to be approximately 1,700 years old and was passed down through the generations via such ancient manuscripts. Yao Gongbai learnt from his father, who initially didn’t want to teach him the qin, but recognized his talent. He has now developed his own sense of rhythm and style of playing.


Born in 1919, Bai Hong was one of China’s original pre-1949 idols as a singing movie and stage star in Shanghai. At the age of 11 she joined the Bright Moon Song and Dance Troupe, the era’s premier breeding ground for talent. In 1934, a Shanghai newspaper named her ‘Queen of Song’ and as a 15 year old she made her motion picture debut in ‘A Mortal Fairy’ one of China’s earliest musicals. In 1936 she married Lin Jinhui, leader of the ‘Great China Song and Dance Troupe’ and joined their year long tour of southeast Asia. She returned to cinema in 1938 and appeared in several pictures during the Japanese occupation, including the all-star ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’, before retiring from the screen in 1948. She re-married stage actor Mao Yanhua in 1950, and together they performed in revolutionary plays throughout China. Her golden years as a singer were all but forgotten by the subsequent generation. She made her last stage appearance in 1979 and died in 1992. Her death resulted in a resurgence of interest in her in southeast Asia, and in 2001, guitarist Gary Lucas, best known for his work with Captain Beefheart, recorded an album. ‘The Edge of Heaven’ that included many of Bai Hong’s songs.

MY 1997

‘My 1997’, the title track to Ai Jing’s first album, caused quite a controversy when it was released in 1992. The song, ostensibly a love song, relates to the return of Hong Kong to China, alluding to undertones of freedom. It also became a hit in Japan, where it is still the best ever selling Mandarin album. Born in 1969 in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, Ai Jing grew up with music, her father being a traditional musician and her mother a dancer. She learnt to sing, play guitar and started to write songs while still at school. In 1987 she moved to the capital, where she joined the Beijing Song and Dance Troupe, turning solo in 1988. She is almost unique in China as a female singer songwriter, away from the Mando-pop mainstream. Although influenced by western music, such as Suzanne Vega and Bjork, she believes her music has at its root the traditional Chinese music she grew up with. Still creating controversy, her latest album, “Made in China’ was banned by the Chinese authorities for it’s lyrical content.


From Nanjing, Min Xiao Fen is a virtuoso on the pipa and ruan, two types of plucked lutes, which she learnt from her father, a pipa master.. She was a pipa soloist with the Nanjing National Music Orchestra, won several competitions, and performed with the Shanghai National Music and Symphony Orchestras before relocating to the USA in 1992. She has since performed with many top American symphony orchestras, has worked with top Chinese and American contemporary composers, and improvised with avant garde and experimental musicians and guitarist Gary Lucas. Stone Forest Nocturne is a modern composition inspired by the Stone Forest, a spectacular rock formation in Yunnan province. Min Xiao-Fen performs this piece on the ruan, which has a more mellow tone and a lower range than the pipa.


Chinese opera dates back to the Tang dynasty with Emperor Ming Huang (712-755 AD), while Cantonese opera can be traced back to the southern Soong dynasty (1179-1276 AD) when hundreds of thousands of Soong people migrated into the province of Canton, following the invasion of the Mongols. In the mid Qing dynasty, (1855), the ruling Manchu government banned Cantonese opera, following an unsuccessful anti Manchu coup led by a Cantonese opera performer. Cantonese opera troupes disbanded, only a few continuing to perform their art in the streets under the threat of imprisonment. The ban was lifted in 1871, but their opera could still not be performed in Cantonese. In the 1920s, the use of Cantonese was re-established, the all male and all female troupes merged, the tradition of men playing the lead female role ended and the focal point shifted from the bearded face Mo Saung (male warrior) to a more scholarly, clean cut warrior. Cantonese opera is popular today among Cantonese speakers in Hong Kong, Singapore and those living overseas. The traditional plots are often based on literary classics, with themes of forbidden love and scenes of secret rendevous. Combining singing, speech and mime, the music is generally more upbeat than the more widely known Beijing opera. ‘Hong Niang Hui Zhang Sheng’ is an excerpt from a Cantonese opera based on Xi Xiang Ji.


Silk Road Music was formed in 1991 in Vancouver, Canada by pipa player Qiu Xia He. They have established themselves as a leading ensemble playing various kinds of Chinese music and instruments, and for cleverly incorporating a variety of other influences. Qui Xia He was born in Baoji, Shaanxi province, where she taught at the Xian Academy of Music and toured with the Shaanxi Music and Dance Troupe. Since moving to Canada, she has performed with various orchestras, ensembles and musicians from a variety of countries. ‘Shaanxi Air’ is Qui Xia’s arrangement of a traditional tune from her home region, that features her vocals and pipa playing as well as the erhu (a two stringed stick fiddle) of Shirley Yuan from southern China, and the da ruan, (bass round bodied lute) of Zhi Min Yu.


In March 1999 in Beijing, female high school students Wang Yue, a budding vocalist met up with guitarist Yang Fan, and bassist Yilina. They shared a common love of rock and punk music and decided to form a band. A few months later, they played their first gig at Beijing’s Screaming Club, singing their own original songs in their own version of English, littered with expletives. Thus, China’s only all girl punk band was born. Sixteen year old drummer Sheng Jing joined soon after and they were snapped up a record company, and released their first album, titled ‘Yellow Banana’.


Kin Taii whose father is Chinese and mother Japanese, went to live in Japan in 1979 when he was 15. Until this time, he had only listened to Russian classical composers and Chinese revolutionary songs. His first shock came when he listened to the Rolling Stones and then the Smiths before hearing the technopop of Japan’s YMO (Yellow Magic Orchestra) and Kraftwerk. He bought himself a synthesizer, but finding that western rhythms were not a natural expression for him, he set about composing Chinese sounding melodies. He combined these melodies with electronic rhythms such as on ‘Nocturnal Light’ featuring the erhu (Chinese fiddle) playing of Tei Noka.


The life of Li Xiang Lan is an extraordinary story. She is heralded as one of the top singers of the shidaiqu era (popular Mandarin songs) that captivated especially Shanghai from the 1920s until 1949 when the communist party took control of the city. Both her parents were Japanese, and she was born Yoshiko Yamaguchi in Manchuria in 1920. After the Japanese invasion of Manchuria she adopted a Chinese name, Li Xiang Lan (in Japanese, Ri Ko Ran), and appeared in propaganda films and other movies produced by the Japanese. Following World War II she avoided execution for treason by revealing her Japanese identity, and established a career as Shirley Yamaguchi in Hollywood and on Broadway, appearing in films during the 1950s in Hong Kong, Japan and the U.S. She moved back to Japan, becoming a television reporter, covering stories in Vietnam, Cambodia and the Middle East. Now, Yoshiko Otaka, following her marriage to a Japanese diplomat, she was a Liberal Democratic Party member of the Japanese parliament. ‘Lang Guei Ji Ji’ is still a popular song in China and Japan, and she remains a well known figure in both countries.


The qin, (pronounced chin), a seven stringed zither, is probably the most revered of all Chinese music instruments. The qin was the chosen instrument of the Chinese literati, who played for personal enjoyment and cultural study.. The demise of the literati as a class led to a considerable decrease in the number of players, even more so after 1949 and its association with the scholar/mandarin class, encapsulated during the Cultural Revolution. Instead it came to be described as a folk instrument. Since 1949 nearly all players used metal strings, however, on this piece, Tse Chun Yan, reverts to the traditional silk strings. From Hong Kong, Tse Chun Yan is a recognized virtuoso, who has performed in Shanghai and London.


Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in the far north west, is one of China’s least hospitable and remotest regions, 3000km from any coastline, consisting of oasis towns that once strung out along the northern Silk Road. The Uighur (pronounced Weeg-yur) comprising about 45% of the population, are the easternmost branch of the Turkic peoples who inhabit most of Central Asia. In Xinjiang, temples are replaced by mosques, and it’s easier to find kebabs than steamed dumplings. The Uighur and and other minorities that include the Kazakh and Kirghiz are ethnically distinct from the Han Chinese, speaking their own languages. Their music too is equally distinct. the Uighur music consists of a large variety of classical genres, dance tunes and folk songs performed on various percussion instruments and long necked lutes. The performer on this track, Muhemmetjan Shakir, from the Hotan area, is playing the dutar, a two stringed lute, and the most popular instrument in Xinjiang.


The ensemble Wu Xing is made up of six musicians from China and Germany, mixing Chinese classical and contemporary styles, as synthesizers and percussion compliment Chinese and European stringed instruments. Wu Xing is a project of Robert Zollitsch who plays Bavarian zither and composes all the tunes. Singer Gong Linna has been soloist with Zhonyang Minzu Yuetan, China’s most revered traditional music orchestra, and won the Chinese National Singing competition in 2000 voted for by an audience of over a million television viewers. With Wu Xing she is pioneering a blend of traditional vocal styles within modern musical forms.


With the rise of an urban middle class, especially Shanghai, in the 1920s, western music arrived in China in the shape of a number of singing stage and screen stars. The music merged swing and big band with traditional Chinese instrumentation and melodies. The female singers were revered as idols, in a comparative age of decadence. The effect of the 1949 communist take over of the city was dramatic. Such entertainment was denounced, and the former stars either took on new roles or moved to Hong Kong. The Shanghai pop stars of this period, led to the eventual emergence in the 1970s of Hong Kong Cantopop. Gong Chio Xia was one of the biggest stars of her era.


From Hong Kong, Tats Lau has been an important figure in the Chinese pop and rock music scene for the past 18 years, as a well known and influential musician and composer. Like Hong Kong itself, Lau mixes the old and new, the east with the west, one of a handful of musicians in Hong Kong to embrace his Chinese roots in a contemporary sound. He began his musical career in the mid 1980s, with the seminal Tat Ming Pair, who combined rock and electronic music along with Chinese and oriental music. As a solo musician, he composed music for films, including the award winning ‘Temptation Of A Monk’. On his 1996 groundbreaking album ‘Numb’ he worked with Cantopop stars Faye Wong and Shirley Kwan and Xinjianese singer/musician Ascar, still regarded as a classic for it’s mix of Chinese elements and local pop. He has continued to work with top local singers including Jacky Cheung, Paul Wong (lead singer and guitarist with Beyond) and singers from Taiwan and Singapore, always adding a strong, often neglected, Chinese identity.


Liu Fang was born in 1974 into a musical family in Kunming in Yunnan province. She started learning pipa when she was six and when she was eleven performed for the Queen of England. She recovered from this experience to graduate from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music before moving to Canada in 1996, from where she has established herself as one of the world’s leading pipa players. The pipa is a pear shaped lute with up to twenty four frets and four strings and is used for instrumental music and accompaniment for singing genres. An early form of the instrument appeared around 221 BC, while an archetype of the modern pipa originated in Central Asia arriving in China around the 4th century. It therefore seemed entirely appropriate for a collaboration between Liu Fang and Syrian musician Farhan Sabbagh, who accompanies the pipa on mazhar an open frame drum. This piece was inspired by the music and dance of a festival in Yunnan province.

Go the Rough Guide to China Vol.1 CD

Nenes – Akemodoro Unai (Sleeve Notes)

Okinawa is an island of paradise and paradox. In Japanese terms, the place is crawling with foreigners, some 50,000 US military and personnel are based there. However, the Okinawans are less impressed or swayed by the latest Western trends than anywhere else in Japan, and the foreigners devoid of the usual wide-eyed fascination that grips most first time visitors. Just about all the Military are unaware when they occasionally venture off base to cruise down Chuo Park Avenue in downtown Koza (Okinawa City) they are in the heart of Okinawa’s local music scene. The Teruya (of Rinken Band fame) family house and store is literally just a stone’s (or in this case, sanshin or sanba) throw away. The Motown of Okinawan music, Marafuku Records have their studios just up the hill and Shokichi Kina’s retreat is perched on the hills overlooking the city. On the environs of the Kadena Air Base just to the south is the original Shima Uta nightclub where Nenes started out performing. Okinawans are clearly used to foreigners, and to many, those ‘foreigners’ include the Japanese themselves.


Much of the west coast is littered with resort hotels, packed in summer with visitors from the mainland who come for the superb beaches and to marvel at the fast disappearing coral. For the Japanese too, Okinawa represents a foreign land. Get off the plane at Naha and the atmosphere is decidedly south east Asian. There’s less of the bright neon and teaming streets of Tokyo, Osaka or any of the main cities on the mainland of Japan. The pace is slower, the people are more relaxed and speak their own dialect. They are prone to swoon over a swine, and appear happiest tucking into every conceivable part of a pig. They drink saké from bottles with a poisonous snake wrapped inside as a pick-me-up. Well, for Japanese you couldn’t get more foreign that that.

On the face of it, the sprawling military bases and gaudy hotels, seem to co-exist happily alongside the local neighbourhoods. However the population’s tolerance, belies a proud nature. The Okinawans are a people who not only strive to keep their tradition alive, but revel in it. In a sense today is no different to the past. Okinawa, and the other islands that make up the Ryukyu chain have due to their strategic position, always provided an important trading link between south east Asia and Japan, China and Korea. The resulting interchange of influences has resulted in a unique and colorful culture, and the music ‘Shima Uta’ (island songs) has been blessed with that indefinable quality of island music. The instrument at the heart of the music, the snake skinned banjo ,the sanshin, is believed to have come from China about 600 years ago, and the Okinawan pentatonic scale is identical to that used in some areas of Indonesia and related to scales used in Polynesia and Micronesia.

Throughout a tragic history of feuding for the island’s control by it’s neighbours, and in the face of much adversity, the Okinawans have refused to sit back and allow their island and culture to be dominated. During the second world war 150,000 citizens, a third of the population were killed, and music played a pivotal role in restoring strength to the people. They haven’t been afraid to experiment either, but have realised for it to survive, the music has to grow. It’s this attitude that spurned the first wave of Okinawan bred rock, born out of the clubs surrounding the American bases during the wild years of the Vietnam war, and 1972 when Okinawa was returned to Japan from the US. Primarily with Shokichi Kina and Champloose, whose first and classic album was previously re-released on GlobeStyle (CDORB 072).

Music has always been a part of the Okinawan daily life, and in contrast to Japan where traditional music is studied to a strict regiment, they learn to play music, sing and dance purely for the fun of it. Wherever you go on the island you’ll likely to hear music; piped out on the beaches, and along shopping malls, in bars, and if you’re lucky an impromptu performance on a beach. Before long you too find yourself dancing the katcharsee,with your arms raised and hands waving to the rhythm.

The relatively brief history and attitude of the group Nenes, draws many parallels to the history and people of Okinawa itself. A fierce tradition and proud identity countered by an uncanny sense for updating Okinawan music with extraneous colours. The group were formed in 1990 in an attempt to make min’yo (folk music) accessible to the young in Okinawa. In the process the band have recorded some of the most compelling Okinawan folk and pop ever, starting in 1991 with ‘Ikawu’ for an independent label. An album now considered a seminal work of the subsequent Okinawan roots music movement in Japan. Although arguably removed, the Japanese could at last claim there is a homegrown roots music in Japan to rival anything produced in the world.

When I first met the female singers of Nenes back in 1993, (for a Folk Roots cover feature in September 1993) at the Shima Uta bar, despite some success life appeared to have changed little. They were still serving the drinks, acting as ‘hostesses’ as well as playing for the odd customer on the tiny stage. They revealed their ‘Japaneseness’ by referring to the the group’s mentor, composer and sanshin player Sadao China as ‘sensei’, an honorific term meaning ‘teacher’. Such hierarchical talk seemed slightly at odds with the informality of music in Okinawa, but I soon learnt traditional musicians are held in the highest esteem. They were rather bemused by the interest of a westerner, after all not one American had set foot inside the bar. Since then however, a steady stream of Western musicians and Japanese have made the journey to their revamped Shima Uta Live House in Ginowan, where the women no longer have to serve the drinks. Michael Nyman, Peter Rowan and George Winston have all hung out there. Recording partners for Nenes have included Ry Cooder, David Lindley (on the brilliant 1994 album Koza Dabasa) and Talvin Singh. Recording locations have ranged from Los Angeles to Bali and Hawaii, but I get the feeling that Sadao China is happier with the world coming to Okinawa rather than him having to venture outside. Their first attempts to launch an international career in 1994 with a brief tour of Europe, a date in Newport USA and the release in France of their third album ‘Ashibi’ failed to gain momentum, but earned the band a few choice fans and a cult status.


Over seven albums,(plus one ‘best of’) Nenes have essentially stayed close to Sadao China’s original formula. The four women’s enchanting chorus vocals and China’s sanshin are weaved around a rich variety of keyboard textures, stringed instruments and percussion. Some albums have stayed closer to the tradition than others, while the instrumentation and influences have been adjusted in varying measures; from Balinese gamelan and Brazilian samba to Mexican and Hawaiian music to rap and reggae. There have been personnel changes, and Akemodoro Unai is Nenes’ first album without their former main vocalist Misako Koja, (replaced by Erika Touma) and ‘sound producer’ and keyboard player Kazuya Sahara. The original backing group Spiritual Unity has been replaced by the Sadao China Band, although it still features some of the former musicians. One of the most notable additions on Akemodoro Unai are Japanese acoustic guitar duo Gontiti, who render a tranquil accompaniment on a couple of tracks (Shima Yakara and Erabu no Komori uta). Nenes also try their hand at a song written by one of the many Japanese artists inspired by Okinawa, Keisuke Kuwata, leader of perhaps Japan’s most enduring rock band, Southern All Stars who originally had a hit in Japan with Heiwa no Ryuka.

Which brings us to the biggest paradox of all. For all it’s qualities as a living roots music in Okinawa with an ever vibrant local scene and a strong following on the mainland, to the outside world the music of Okinawa remains one of the undiscovered jewels of the Orient. Perhaps this CD can provide the key to unlock a treasure chest that is literally brimming with infectious music. Just bursting to get out.

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