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  1. #1
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    I've just been reading about Issan festivals in the 20's and 30's. Mor Lam keeps turning up in my reading. In what I'm reading it's generally used to refer to a person, "the Mor Lam". It's used in the usual sense of "master singer" but it's also used, for the same people, as "Singing Doctor", the Mor Lam not only being an entertainer but having the power to cure people or drive out spirits through music, dance, and song, and that people would go to the Mor Lam if the Mor Ya, the folk-medicine doctor couldn't cure them. Do you know anything about that aspect of Mor Lam, the folk-magic part? I'm really interested in finding out more about that.

    I've also read about Mor lam records from the '30s, where the singer is called a Mor Lam, like this quote from a description of children listening to a gramophone

    In another moment they heard the voice of a Mor Lam announce "This is a Rabbit label recording, from T. Ngek Chuan in Banglamphu, I will now sing a song of courtship, 'Oooh, klah ner, Sao kampaeng oei'"
    Have you any idea if it's possible to still get copies of early recordings like this?
    Last edited by DrB0b; 29-01-2010 at 10:13 PM.
    The Above Post May Contain Strong Language, Flashing Lights, or Violent Scenes.

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    Yes Mo is expert as in Mo Khaen etc Mo lam just means expert singer. I have never heard recordings that old and they must be very rare, maybe a University would have something especially Sunnee in Korat. I have heard though that Uni libraries are quite poor when it comes to this type of material.
    When it comes to healing and magic ceremonies, these are usually just briefly refered to in articles I have seen but I will have another look. I have been to a spirit healing ceremony in Surin (ram mer mot) that I was told is rarely seen and they had not had one for over ten years. That is a type of spirit possession and can take hours, but this is done to kantrum music not morlam, they do have a master of ceremonies. I don't know if Lao still have anything like this, but the khamin seem to be proud of the fact that their ceremonies are still intact and authentic, only just I would think.
    Before the war there were far fewer styles of morlam in Thailand and they were mostly people who were engaged in the off season in farming, and at special ceremonies. Morlam glawn (klon) would have been the usual common style in Issan long poetry style of delivery often about Buddhist tales and folk stories originally, a world away from some of the filth that gets served up sometimes at a lam cing performance today.
    If you want to see some pics of the khamin spirit ceremony I have some, probably not very illustrative though. The Khamin did have an ealrier version of kantrum called jarian where the khaen was used instaed of the saaw. Like glwan jarian seems to have been mostly morality tales and folk traditions.

  3. #3
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    A contact on facebook just sent me these links, I asked the same question on there. Lam Phi Fa seems to be exactly what I was trying to find out about. The article on Laos says the leader of the ritual is called a Molam Seu and the Thai article says the primary instrument is the Kaen.

    It is believed that the spirit (or phi) has supernatural power and that there are various kinds of spirit who need to be respected. If the spirit is mistreated, it will cause illnesses among people. Among the different kinds of spirit is Phi Fa, who is the most powerful and can treat ailing patients. Lam Phi Fa is a ritual of treating mentally disordered patients or those suffering from psychosomatic illnesses. This ritual also unites all the family members and makes them think whether they have done anything indecent.

    The medium or kru-ba arranges offerings for spirits, and studies the illness, its causes and severity. If the illness is a result of a minor mistreatment by the patient of a particular spirit, that spirit will be invited to accept an apology, which is usually accompanied by an offer to follow the spirits wishes. This part of the ritual is called Lam Song.However, if the illness is serious, Phi Fa will be invited to treat the patient. The musician will play his wind instrument called kaen while the kru-ba dances to invite Phi Fa, while walking around the offering. So do the assistants to the kru-ba. Upon the descent of Phi Fa, everyone will unconsciously shake and lose their consciousness. Phi Fa will give them the idea of how to treat the patient and then leave for heaven. This ritual is therefore called Lam Phi Fa
    Ritual in Thailand 3 : Lam Phi Fa | Ritual in Thailand 3 : Lam Phi Fa | Bangkok silom thai Language school


    Lam Phi Fa

    Singing to call the sky spirits



    This music accompanies a ritual in which the sky spirits are called upon to help a sick person. Often the participants dance in order to achieve a trance-like state.

    Reasons for selection
    The ritual of Lam Phi Fa and its accompanying music is being performed less and less in modern day Laos. Good documentation of this genre is required before it dies out.


    Area where performed
    All of Laos


    Essential elements of the performing art
    Music, Dance


    Detailed explanation
    Lam Phi Fa, singing to call the sky spirits, occurs when a patient who does not respond to either traditional or modern medicines, is thought to have become ill because spirits have been offended. Ritualists, usually older women accompanied by a khaen and percussion instruments, sing to invite the offended spirits to enter their bodies and reveal the cause of the illness, while the patient observes the ritual. It occurs in a home around an assortment of ritual objects ( kheuang busa )and may last several hours. A molam seun (a ritualist)ministers to a sick person whose khuan (a kind of soul or spiritual essence)has left. The ritualist uses magic formulas to call this essence back, singing the melody from the genre of Lam Somk.


    Publication and textual documentation
    not yet available


    Audio documentation
    not yet available


    Visual documentation
    not yet available


    Institution/organisation involved in preservation and promotion
    National School of Music and Dance


    Data provider
    Mr. Douangchampy Vouthisouk
    Deputy-Director
    National School of Music and Dance
    Address: Vientiane, Lao P.D.R.
    Asia-Pacific Database on Intangible Cultural Heritage(ICH)

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    Yes that is it and the explanation and photo's are interesting.The explanation could be describing the khamin ceremony I went to. It was to 'heal' a relative who had taken an oath not to drink again, and slipped up. He became very ill and hospital doctors could find nothing wrong with him. So the relatives had to intercede with spirits on his behalf, the first photo looks almost the same and when possessed the communicant dances widly giving advice and afterwards they say they cannot remember anything.
    I was afraid it would go on all night but thankfully only from 9-2 am, he did recover fully after the ceremony. Drums of one kind or another seem to be the common instrument at these types of ceremonies all over the world, the one I went to had them. The mrs tells me the khamin ceremony is also called wai kru which sounds similar to the lao term.

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    Chaweewan Damnoen (sent you a link) has recorded lam phi fah, I don't have any though, and said to be 'rarely recorded' by J Clewley in rough guide to word music. He gives 'Morlam singing in Northern Thailand' as a CD with it on by a Japanese company called king. Knowing Thai's I can understand why nobody want to record this! last year a morlam singer rang up the mrs and said she thought somebody had put a curse on her as she could not remember the words to her songs. So anything to do with spirits etc would just be tempting fate for them. I'd like to hear this style so will ask look around for it.

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    Philippine Expat Davis Knowlton's Avatar
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    A very interesting thread; thanks to you both. DB: Since you appear to read extensively about Thai history, could you recommend any book stores in Bangkok which carry a good selection on Thai history and culture (used books are fine; unfortunately, they will have to be in English)? I am particularly interested in the early 1900's. As I now live in the Philippines, I don't have enough time on my trips to Bangkok to search out used book stores, and would appreciate your thoughts. You too CD. Many thanks.

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    Days Work Done! Norton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrB0b
    Have you any idea if it's possible to still get copies of early recordings like this?
    Don't know of any in CM but there is a shop in Panthip Plaza that has large selection of classic remastered Thai recordings.

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    That's http://shop.maemaiplengthai.com/index.php
    most of it is lukrung but some is luktung and mostly only goes back to the 60's, they have no morlam from what I have seen. lady owns that company and not been going all that many years acording to an article in ks ks. They have started selling Noppporn silver gold ciscs but at inflated prices. Bangkok music discs are also expensive but you can get them on the street for 100 baht, saw some yesterday in Udom Suk. Bangkok music have outlets at MBK and seacon as well as other places.
    Last edited by crazy dog; 31-01-2010 at 02:09 AM.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrB0b View Post
    I've just been reading about Issan festivals in the 20's and 30's. Mor Lam keeps turning up in my reading. In what I'm reading it's generally used to refer to a person, "the Mor Lam". It's used in the usual sense of "master singer" but it's also used, for the same people, as "Singing Doctor", the Mor Lam not only being an entertainer but having the power to cure people or drive out spirits through music, dance, and song, and that people would go to the Mor Lam if the Mor Ya, the folk-medicine doctor couldn't cure them. Do you know anything about that aspect of Mor Lam, the folk-magic part? I'm really interested in finding out more about that.

    I've also read about Mor lam records from the '30s, where the singer is called a Mor Lam, like this quote from a description of children listening to a gramophone

    In another moment they heard the voice of a Mor Lam announce "This is a Rabbit label recording, from T. Ngek Chuan in Banglamphu, I will now sing a song of courtship, 'Oooh, klah ner, Sao kampaeng oei'"
    Have you any idea if it's possible to still get copies of early recordings like this?
    Didn't know even that much, how very interesting. Real value at Teak Door, who knew? (kidding) (kind of)

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