Asia Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU)
Asia-Pacific Database on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH)

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Performing Arts
Lao P.D.R.

Khab Sam Sao


A male-female repartee accompanied by a classical ensemble.

Reasons for selection

This piece has been chosen because it has, until recently, not been performed on a regular basis. It originated in the Royal Court at Luang Prabang, and the performing arts associated with the former palace are in need of resurrection.

Area where performed

Luang Prabang

Essential elements of the performing art


Detailed explanation

Stylistically Khab Sam Sao has little relation to the other Lao genres, but is a local counterpart to the court tradition in repartee form. Instrumental accompaniment is provided by various combinations of court instruments. Some are quite close to the formal sep noi or maholi, which consists of xylophone ( lanat ) khong vong, so douangh, so ouh, khouih, drums ( kong )and large and small cymbals ( sob, singh ). Many of these may be omitted. Other instruments, such as the dulcimer ( khim )may be added. The ensemble plays a composed melody in duple time, while male and female soloists ( mo khab )alternate, singing a more or less fixed melody, different from that of the ensemble. At the end of a couplet, a chorus of hand-clapping listeners completes the line with a single tone response. Because male and female voices differ in range, the ensemble shifts between two tonal levels. The scale is pentatonic in the form of 12356 with some passing use of 4. At the end of performance or major section, the ensemble finishes alone with a standard type of coda ( luk mot ).

Publication and textual documentation

not yet available

Audio documentation

not yet available

Visual documentation

not yet available

Institution/organisation involved in preservation and promotion

National School of Music and Dance

Data provider

Mr. Douangchampy Vouthisouk
National School of Music and Dance
Address: Vientiane, Lao P.D.R.