One of the most interesting individual I met at the International Lao New Year is Jonny Olsen. When we were planning the New Year celebration, and looking for performers, someone had suggested him. At first I was thinking why an American performer in a Lao Festival? The other organizers said he was amazing and he sings in Lao, plays the Khaen (I believe he won first place in a competition in Laos), and he does Mor Leum. Before meeting him, I was very skeptical. I was thinking, “Here we go again, some foreigner, trying to act like he is Lao”. Within the first couple of minutes of meeting him, I was embarrassed and a little ashamed because he speaks Lao fluently! He made me look bad and I’m a Laotian! His language acquisition skills are amazing. To hear him speak and sing in Lao is fascinating because you just can’t believe that the words are coming from this white guy who speaks better Lao than some Laos people!
I believe he is in Laos making his next album right now. He travels a great deal playing music. Check him at on his myspace site by typing in Jonny Olsen. Here’s a clip of him singing.