Khankham Phaxayavong, representing the Lao Bantheung Sinh molam troupe, collaborated with Lao American rap artist One Hunned, and the Center for Lao Studies to create a new work titled Molam Tan Smay, (Molam in the Modern Era). Molam is a traditional storytelling and entertainment genre in Laos. One of its forms, Molam Reung, is a musical folk drama that originated in rural villages and weaves together the tales of a varied cast of characters and incorporates commentary about current events and situations.
In Laos, molam is ubiquitous, but Lao Bantheung Sinh from Oakland is one of the few troupes in the United States. It has performed at numerous Lao cultural events including the International Lao New Year Festival and seasonal Buddhist temple festivals in Hawaii, Sacramento, Stockton, and Fresno.
The delivery of molam melodies is conversational, with the lyrics sung rhythmically against an instrumental or “beat” background that observers have likened to American rap music, which keenly interests many Lao youth. Bringing together Oakland’s molam troupe and a Lao rap artist to create a full-length work — performed in Lao and English — this project seeks to be intergenerational.
One Hunned has performed with such artists as TI, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, French Montana, and others, and has toured throughout the United States as well Australia, New Zealand, France, and Canada.
Founded in 2006, the Center for Lao Studies is a nonprofit resource center serving the general public as well as those of Lao heritage around the world: It advances knowledge and engagement in the field of Lao studies.
The project premiered in May 2017 at the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts.