The nomadic musician and DIY ethnographer Laurent Jeanneau founded his recording archive and composition project Kink Gong in 1999. He first left his native France in 1991 to travel alone from Kenya to Nigeria. Since then, over many trips to Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, China, and Thailand), Jeanneau has documented the local music traditions of ethnic minorities whose cultures are threatened by modernisation.
Since 1992, Jeanneau has conducted the bulk of his research in Zomia, a term used to refer to the terrain of highlands stretching from Southeast Asia to as far west as Northeast India. This land has historically been out of the reach of governing bodies and therefore is still home to a vast number of minority micro-cultures and roughly 100,000 marginal people. It has been referred to as an “international Appalachia”. Jeanneau collects and compiles unedited recordings of this region’s multifarious musical heritages into an ever-growing sound and video archive. He hesitates to decontextualise the music and thereby subject it to academic examination or critique; a September 2015 portrait in The Wire quotes Jeanneau’s explanation that “the recordings are made to be felt, not analysed as primitive music but recognised as a great source of emotion”. Excerpts of his findings, which focus mostly on ceremonial, spiritually-oriented vocal and percussion music, are published on the Seattle label Sublime Frequencies as well as on his own Kink Gong imprint.
In addition, Jeanneau uses the recordings as starting points for his own electroacoustic experiments then broadened by other field recordings. In these sound compositions, which are mostly put out on the London label Discrepant, the traditions and avant-gardes of a diverse range of places merge into reflected, contemporary statements.