When we were doing our research on Sinxay in Vientiane we were able to meet with Bounteum Sibounheuang, one of the most highly respected maw pawns in Vientiane. In fact he often oversees baci’s that include the president of Laos. In Lao culture maw pawns, as highly esteemed elders, most often former monks, play an essential role when they lead Baci ceremonies. These spiritual ceremonies are a time-honored tradition in Laos that commemorate special events, restoring harmony and balance to individuals and community. Bounteurm, regardless of his high status is still very friendly and one of the most knowledgeable people in Laos concerning Sinxay. We met at his house several times, which also houses a large room which he uses as a classroom to teach young monks for free (see the photo above). Besides running this school for the monks he is:
• Deputy Director of Administration, Vientiane Ongteu Buddhist College
• Library Director, Righteousness, Culture, Customs and Tradition Training Center
• Radio Host
One day when we visited him at his house it began to pour (We were in Laos in July so this is to be expected). I was eager to hear him read a little of Sang Sinxay since our friend and colleague, Saysamouth said he was often requested to chant at important festivals and had produced several professional recordings. He agreed to read several pages and you will see and hear that the rain was competing with the sound of his voice, but it was still a magical time for us to hear his melodic voice. Just think, this was how Sinxay when it was written down in the late 1600’s was primarily communicated. I wish desperately I could understand Lao, old Lao and Pali, but in my imagination the story of Sinxay is played out in my mind as I listen to Bounterm chant from Sang Sinxay. This post is a prelude to a series of six posts that will contain six segments of a three hour performance reading from Sang Sinxay he recorded in a studio just for us. This audio can not be heard anywhere else.