A singing people : choir singing among the Karen people in Northern Thailand and Burma

University essay from Kungl. Musikhögskolan/Institutionen för musik, pedagogik och samhälle


This Minor Field Study was carried out in Thailand and Burma during June, July and August 2011. The aims of this study were to investigate the role and function of choir singing among the Karen people, an ethnic minority group mainly living in Northern Thailand and Burma. Choir singing in four-part harmony (i.e. soprano, alto, tenor and bass) is primarily done by Christian Karens.The research material consists of 123 questionnaires, 25 semi-structured interviews and numerous unstructured observations, participant and non-participant. The informants have in this ethnography been asked about their background in choir singing and why they consider or do not consider it meaningful to be a part of a choir.The questionnaires were handed out by students at three Theological Seminaries: one in Rangoon, Burma, one in Chiang Mai, Thailand and one in Mae La Refugee Camp, Thailand. The interviews were predominantly made with choir leaders and teachers active within The Karen Baptist Convention in Thailand and Burma where most of the observations were made.The results clearly show that the vast majority of informants find choir singing very meaningful for both individual and collective reasons. Religious and identity strengthening aspects of choir singing are evident in the results together with musical, social, educational and language strengthening factors.

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