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Tribal Music Asia – An online source for traditional music, ceremonies, and culture of the ethnic groups of Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia Library Group (SEALG)

Created by American researcher, documentarian, and musician Victoria Vorreiter for over a decade, Tribal Music Asia is the home of the Resonance Project, a dynamic multi-media archive that aspires to record and preserve the traditional musical heritage of the indigenous peoples living in the mountains of Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, and China, who have depended for millennia on “the mother tongue method” to transmit their ancestral knowledge, history, and beliefs. Numbering over 130 groups and subgroups, most of these communities continue to live close to the earth, to practice animism, and to maintain a vital oral tradition. Culturally and sonically, this is one of the most extraordinary places on the planet.

Xob Lwm Vaj and Friends
Performing the Qeej at the New Year Festival
at Ban Tan, Phongsali Province, Laos
December 2005.
Copyright: Victoria Vorreiter

By interweaving a variety of visual, aural, and tactile components, the Resonance Project spotlights these highlanders’…

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Digital Library of Northern Thai Manuscripts

Southeast Asia Library Group (SEALG)

The University of Pennsylvania and National Library of Laos have launched the Digital Library of Northern Thai Manuscripts as a resource for the study of traditional literature from this region. At present, the digital library contains images of over 4,200 manuscripts which can be searched and viewed online or freely downloaded, and to which more manuscripts will be added subsequently.

The database contains four collections: digitised microfilms from the Preservation of Northern Thai Manuscripts Project (with permission of Chiang Mai University Library), digitised microfilms and also handwritten copies of manuscripts made in the early 1970s during research conducted by Harald Hundius, and directly-digitised manuscripts made during the current digital library project.

A gallery with images from temples which were involved in the project, as well as a collection of written and online resources for further study complement the database.

All digitisation was funded by the German Federal Foreign Office, and…

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Shan Manuscripts in the UK

Southeast Asia Library Group (SEALG)

An interesting article with the title “An Introduction to the World of Shan Manuscripts” by our member Jotika Khur-Yearn has appeared on the blog of the SOAS Subject Librarians. It gives a short overview of the Shan manuscript tradition and collections of Shan manuscripts in the UK. Jotika is currently working on an exhibition of Shan manuscripts which will be on display at the Wolfson Gallery of the SOAS Library in London in November and December 2014. More details about the upcoming exhibition will follow on this blog nearer the time.

Detail of a cover of a Shan folding book (pap tup) held at the British Library (Or.12040) Detail of a cover of a Shan folding book (pap tup) held at the British Library (Or.12040)

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Illustrated manuscript of Thai poetry

An amazing illustrated manuscript of Thai poetry can be viewed online on the World Digital Library website.
This Thai folding book (samut khoi), which is being kept at the Bavarian State Library in Munich (Bayrische Staatsbibliothek), dates from the second half of the 19th century. It contains poems by an unknown author. The poems tell of the loss of a beloved woman. Not only is each poem a work of art in itself, many of them are also accompanied by illustrations of outstanding quality showing mythological figures and motifs from Thai literary works, including the Ramayana.

To view a fully digitised copy of the manuscript, please view the WDL website.

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Nora dance performance at German Oriental Studies Conference in Münster

On occasion of the 32. German Oriental Studies Conference Kanit Sripaoraya, a Thai researcher and dancer, performed part of a traditional Nora dance.

Nora is a traditional dance of South Thailand (also known as “Chatri”), whose origins lie in the legend of Manohra and Sudhana. There are many different local versions of this legend. The choreography of the Nora dance varies from region to region, but is generally composed of 12 positions and 17 movements. Nora dance performances usually last several days and include rituals of paying respect to the Nora teachers and the invitation of ancestors.

Nora performance at a workshop at Walailak University, Nakhon Si Thammarat (courtesy of Kanit Sripaoraya)

Nora performance at a workshop at Walailak University, Nakhon Si Thammarat (courtesy of Kanit Sripaoraya)

To ensure that the Manora dance is preserved as a national heritage, Thai authorities on cultural matters are speeding up the registration of the performance to be listed by United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

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