The Golden Triangle — the mountainous expanse where Thailand, Myanmar/Burma, and Laos converge — is home to over 130 different ethnic groups and subgroups. The region remains one of the most culturally diverse places on the planet, with each community representing differing worlds, each unique in their histories, languages, customs, arts, beliefs, and dress.
These are animistic societies, rooted in oral culture. With no written record, their beliefs are imprinted in the memories of those who continue to live them. Songs, ceremonies, and stories then become the chronicles and oracles of traditional ways of life. Yet the advance of globalization and the rush to modernity entice young people to forego the ways of their ancestors. Should one generation fail to pass on what it knows to the next, thousands of years of accumulated knowledge will die with little trace within a few decades.
I felt compelled to move to the area to witness these communities where music continues to play a primal role in guiding people in their lives, connecting them to their first ancestors and the spirits that animate their world. I’ve traveled throughout the region since 2005, documenting their traditional songs and ceremonies in an attempt to honor and preserve them before they vanish. To learn more about my project, visit my website Tribal Music Asia.