The music scene of Laos is hot with a capital ຮ right now.
Every week, a Lao artist is releasing a fresh music video.
Many of these music operations – such as Mao Mun and MMR – are noticeably small, and still rely on social media like TikTok and facebook, instead of company websites. However, what they lack in corporate size, they make up for in heart.
Some social media stars like BigYai Seehalad and Sophana have used their vlogging careers on YouTube to drive their music success. The tone of much of their work is that of everyday friends who just like making fire songs together. These artists even attach the lyrics and music files to their YouTube videos, which allows fans to make their own versions and join in on the fun (and/or the free promotion).
This social media marketing, mixed with Lao music’s very unique flavor, is working. The music videos popping out of Laos are hugely popular.
This Summer, Gx2’s song “ໃສ່ໃຈໄດ້ແຕ່ມອງ” (sai jai dai tae mawng – using your heart, you can only look) even shot up to #1 on Thailand’s iTunes, while also being one of YouTube’s 50 most popular videos in THE WORLD, reaching nearly 120 million views. That’s about 20 times the entire population of Laos. As expected, much of the song’s success was driven by TikTok lip-syncs and YouTube artist covers.
Another music video to smash the 100-million-view mark is the flirty “ຢາກເປັນລູກເຂີຍ” (yahk pen louk kheuy – I want to be a son-in-law) by Sophana featuring T’ Jame Uno and BigYai. The same posse (plus Gx2) has another marriage-simp-tastic video “ພໍ່ແມ່ອ້າຍຖາມຫາ” (paw mae ai tham ha – I’ll go ask your parents) that has snatched over 50 million views in less than two months. These songs have simple, catchy hooks that can help you practice your Lao listening skills too!
A major theme across Laos’s new songs is being a ຄົນທຳມະດາ (khon thammadah) – a regular degular person. Gx2’s smash hit has a simple, country-living video with lyrics that talk about traditional Lao foods like ແກງຫນໍ່ໄມ້ (kaeng naw mai). T’ Jame Uno laments that he only has a tractor and not an fancy whip in “ຜູ້ບ່າວລົດໄຖ” (phou bao lot thai) – a play on words for a groom that translates to “tractor boy.” Athlete-turned-artist K9P even has a song called “ຄົນທຳມະດາ” (khon thammadah), where he also laments that he doesn’t have the nicest ride.
The theme of living a simple, poor man’s life (and its romantic struggles) seems to be important to Laos’ listeners. These songs get significantly more YouTube views than much of the flashier, more polished, more Western-sounding songs coming from “big city” Vientiane. Peth’s song “Summer (feat. Alex Smoke, E.I.P., and J.O.E.)” could blend in seamlessly with the pop-reggaeton or pop-dancehall songs that Sean Kingston and Cardi B have made popular on American radio – but it just doesn’t have as many views.
The Lao Capital City’s artists are still popular (and very talented), but the small town Pakse and Savannakhet artists are ahead of the curve. Much of their popularity probably also comes from the Lao influence that you can hear in their rap, pop, EDM, and R&B songs. Lao listeners want to hear Laos, even in “modern” music.
Although male artists get the bulk of the current love, there are several female artists that are riding the new Lao Wave. Diidy.Dao.Poui.Nut is a girl group with a search-engine-unfriendly name, and they have a hit song with ອ້າຍອ້າຍ (ai ai – hey boy) that incorporates mor lam (ໝໍລຳ) Mukdavan Santiphone’s traditional singing and instrumentation. Another girl group HURT has a song called “ອ້າຍເອີຍ” feat. Meiji (ai euy – oh boy), which is a Lilith Fair anthem that features the old mor lam refrain ໂອລະນໍ້ (oh la naw). Just like the boys, the girls also yearn for love (and sing about motor vehicles).
A major thread that ties all these Lao artists together is youth. Generation Z and their TikTok power reflect the young, fresh sound of a young, changing country. Groundbreaking Lao Millennial artists like Tar A’Pacts, Aluna, Cells, Ola Blackeyes, JoJo Miracle, and the All-Time Lao Pop Queen Alexandra Bounxouei are still popular – but the New Kids definitely run the block (if the block is viewers).
Can you feel the heat coming out of the current Lao music scene? What do you think of it? Can you hear the traditional Lao influences? We’ve seen Laos’ music industry heat up then quickly cool down before, so hopefully this energy sticks around.
*** Fans of harder, grittier, Parental Advisory hip hop can hit up Nascifer and BAME. MMR Music even has a song with Zamio P and May Una called “Trapໝໍລຳ” (TrapMorLam) – and it is exactly what you think it is. I told you, they like to keep things Lao.
Listen to The New Lao Wave playlist below.