Including: traditional music, popular music, hip-hop, and related arts
As anthropologist, Dr. Gary Yia Lee, has said, the Hmong people "are not one single homogeneous group located in one single geographical area, but a multi-ethnic and multilingual community living with many people in many countries" (1996, pdf). It is likely that Hmong people originated in China where millions still live today. As early as the 17th-century, Hmong people began migrating to Southeast Asia, although it was not until the early 19th-century that large numbers settled there permanently. Another major migration occurred in the aftermath of the Secret War when many Hmong Lao, escaping persecution, resettled in the United States, France, Australia, and elsewhere. This website, an outgrowth of my research, focuses on Hmong Americans, including first-generation immigrants born in Laos who came to the U.S. after 1975 via refugee camps in Thailand as well as subsequent generations born and raised here.
For Hmong in the West, a general distinction can be made between music prior to the 1975 diaspora and music afterwards. Before 1975, most Hmong in Southeast Asia lived in small villages and towns high on the mountains. Music was a part of daily life and mainly consisted of musical traditions that had been passed down from previous generations. Folksongs like kwv txhiaj and traditional instruments like raj (a type of flute) were common. In Laos, the civil war and subsequent Secret War displaced many Hmong people and sent their lives into turmoil. Many Hmong people fought on the side of the United States and the Royal Lao Government and faced retribution when the communist Pathet Lao came to power in 1975. Over 100,000 Hmong people fled to Thailand where they were gathered in large refugee camps. This concentration of people gave rise to several new cultural expressions, including popular music in the Hmong language based on Thai, Lao, and Western popular music. When Hmong people resettled in Western countries, like the United States, popular music became even more prevalent and branched off into a variety of styles. Today Hmong people continue to practice traditional art forms, like playing the qeej at New Year festivals, as well as innovate new forms of music that combine elements of the past with the present. Hmong music is as diverse as the people who make it.
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