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Jonny Olsen is an American who loves to play the Lao khaen (a Lao mouth organ) and sing Lao music. He is the first American or "Farang" to ever make an album of Lao Folk music in Laos. His first album is entitled "Jonny Yak Pen Khon Lao" 2008 (sold under Indee Records in Laos), which literally means that Jonny wants to be like a Laotian. Jonny knows he can't actually really be Laotian but in his heart he has a deep respect for Lao people and culture.
He used to play in a band called L.A.O. which was an acronym for "Life's All Over."
Jonny also has other albums- "10 in 1" (2009), and "Morlum Hip Hop Lao America 2010." He teamed up with Mr. Yot Sengathit from Savannakhet, Laos for the Lum Hip Hop.
Jonny Olsen is the only known "Falang" (a white person that is not Thai or Laotian) who has won a khaen contest in Khon Khaen, Thailand 2005.
Jonny learned how to play khaen and sing Lao Folk Songs in Thailand and Laos. He is very proud to promote the Lao culture through playing music. Jonny used to work at a Thai restaurant, which is how he found out about Thai and Lao culture.
He started studying the khaen in Buriram, Thailand at his friend's village in 2003, then in 2005 he decided he wanted to sing Morlum Lao Folk music. Before he could sing, he couldn't even speak the language that well, but there was something about the music that he loved so much he just wanted to sing it! Through the music he learned more of the language and kind of picked it up along the way. He found a teacher in Khon Kaen, Thailand by the name of Mae Ratree Sivilai, who is a famous Morlum Folk singer in Isan/Esarn Thailand. She taught him how to sing Morlum, but not how to speak the language! Kind of strange you suppose.
Other people back at the Thai restaurant used to call Jonny "Fun pai gone" which means a daydreamer, but Jonny's dream came true! "Fun ti pen jing!" Jonny followed his dream to be a khaen player and a Morlum singer and now he is. He plans to keep studying about Lao Music, language, culture, and the people of Laos.
Jonny has appeared on Thai and Lao TV numerous times and has performed with Ponglang Sa-On at their Amazing Thailand Show in the Muang Thong Thani Arena, Thailand on September 1, 2007. He performed at the Boon That Luang Festival in Vientiane, Laos in 2008. He also has performed with Thai superstar Tai Oratai in Pakse, Laos 2010. U.S.Ambassador Ravic Huso also invited Jonny Olsen to perform the khaen and sing for the U.S.A. Lao 55th Diplomatic Relations in February 2010.
- They Call Him Mawlummawkhaenfalang Written by: ROSS SIMONINI November 19, 2008. L.A. Weekly.
- U.S. Ambassador Ravic Huso hosts American Musician Jonny Olsen for A Night of Lao Folk Music February 18. 2010. Embassy of the United States Vientiane, Laos.
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