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Laos is dominated by the Lao but includes minorities of Hmong, Mien, Kmhmu, among many others. The most distinctive Lao musical instrument is a bamboo mouth organ called a khene. The instrument was supposedly invented by a woman trying to imitate the calls of the garawek bird. The woman took the new instrument to her king, and he told her it was fair, but that he wanted more. She modified the instrument and he replied "Tia nee khaen dee" (this time it was better).
Lao folk music, known as Lam, is extemporaneous singing accompanied by the khene. The Lao classical orchestra can be divided into two categories, Sep Nyai (or Mahori) and Sep Noi. The Sep Nyai is ceremonial and formal music and includes: two sets of gongs (kong vong), a xylophone (lanat), an oboe (pei or salai), two large kettle drums and two sets of cymbals (xing).
Ensembles typically include two singers (mor lam, the same term referring to the genre of music) - one male and one female - a khene player (mor khaen), and other instruments including fiddles, flutes and bells. Music varies widely across Laos, with the lam saravane style being most popular, while the city of Luang Prabang is known for a slow form called khaplam wai. An extremely popular form developed in Thailand is called mor lam sing, and is faster and electrified.
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