Going ‘Glocal’: Lao Music in
Adam Chapman, Ph.D.
Australian National University
Over the past five years a transnational music industry has emerged across the communities of the Lao diaspora. Still in its infancy, this industry encapsulates the changing nature of transnational exchanges between Lao communities across the globe through its utilization of the Internet, digital technologies and frequent overseas travel. The drive for much of the activity in this fledgling industry comes from a local level with individual musicians and small recording/distribution companies working to develop their niche market: “Lao music”. This local activity draws from, and feeds back into, a global Lao community extending through North America, Europe, Australasia and Southeast Asia. Through these reciprocal communicative processes music becomes a focal point for contesting, reconfiguring and reconstructing Lao identity and establishing a home away from home.
This presentation is part paper and part virtual tour through Lao digital places and spaces filled with sounds, images and words. Traveling through these transnational ‘splaces’ opens up insights into the ways that concepts of ‘the local’ and ‘the global’ are collapsing inwards as the communities of the Lao diaspora redefine Lao-ness, khuam pên laaw. The term “glocalization” (Robertson 1994) has been used to describe such processes of conflation, however, they may also be described as the dynamic fluctuations between fixity and fluidity in the material and discursive processes involving Lao communities (Connell and Gibson 2003:9-10).