|| The play and the following discussion is over. It
is 9 pm, it has been drizzling with rain for the last 2 hours and
this village square is an open air performance venue. But the audience
are still there, crowded together on the blue and white striped sheet,
some seated, some standing.
They are listening and watching Sengvang, the team leader in his brightly
decorated traditional dress, sing a melancholy song in Hmong language.
It is the first time that such an arts event has ever been held in
this village. The audience’s attention has been avidly fixed
on the performers since they set foot on the stage.
At the end of the song a short storm of applause. Now Sengvang asks
if anyone in the audience has a song they would like to share. Laughter
and excitement ripples through the crowd, then silence. Everyone looks
at everyone else. A woman clutching a friend’s arm in the heart
of the crowd shouts out that her friend has many great songs tucked
up her sleeve, and then dissolves into a fit of giggles. Her friend
gazes around at her fellow villagers wondering if she could trust
herself and them if she were to go ahead and sing. Calls of encouragement
from the visiting team on stage and familiar faces grinning in the
crowd persuade her that she has nothing to fear.
She takes the microphone calmly as if she has done this all her life
and sings a very old song, unaccompanied, her strong deep voice lilting
far up and down in the traditional Hmong style. In the audience, not
a sound, except for the childrens’ whispering as they catch
the meng mai or winged bugs fluttering around the neon strip lights,
some now serve as play things, some will make a tasty breakfast the
next morning. The song comes to an end and the singer does not smile,
but looks proud, as she leaves the stage under clapping and cheering.
Now Vumii, the female team leader takes the stage. She has just received
a note with a written song request, wrapped in two thousand kip note.
She asks another girl from the team to join her in a dance as she
sings a modern Hmong song. The two look very confident and beautiful
in their sequined hats and long colourful sashes, and one can see
how much they love to perform.
At 11 pm, the evening is anything but over. One or two of the team
are getting tired and suggest they should call it a night.'But we
have received this many requests', the team leaders protest and hold
up a fistful of notes. In this moment it becomes clear to everyone
that their show has become a big village event and they feel excited
and proud. The team shrug off their tiredness and the concert continues
until the early hours.