Jonny Olsen – Entertaining Until It Wasn’t.

by cubiclejot on September 14, 2009

Jonny Olsen is a white American who traveled to Laos.  He trained under a Khaen (Lao bamboo instrument) Master and – against all odds – eventually became the 2005 Khaen Champion.  Sounds like a typical Hollywood story, right?  Foreigner with no experience, trains with an old master and beats all the locals in their own arena.   Don’t you just hate – I mean – love those movies? 

I recently got a chance to watch Jonny perform live at the Lao Heritage Foundation talent show in Des Moines, Washington .  As expected, Jonny’s Khaen performance was amazing but the novelty of hearing a white guy singing in Laotian wore off quickly when he started speaking his native English with a Laotian accent.  We get it, you want to be Lao Jonny but why put on the accent?  Furthermore when I heard him sing songs like “White Men Loves Black Skin Lady” containing lyrics such as “You know vanilla wants a taste of that chocolate,” I felt offended and knew there was a darker significance to the Jonny Olsen performance.  Seriously man, pay attention to how you are portraying the people and culture you claim to love.  I’m not even going to start breaking down the music videos (attached). 


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Bruhs September 11, 2009 at 5:23 pm

The sheer amount of douchebaggery, cultural co-optation and flat-out creepiness in these vids makes me cringe. This Jonny character makes me feel all icky inside, and the cure would be a swift punch to those frat boy shades.

rice September 20, 2009 at 6:26 am

he is a good entertainer. i dont see anything wrong with what he is doing. why would you say he is creepy?

Koydeelai September 24, 2009 at 3:57 am

I actually liked this guy, but now after reading this I am am not sure. Those lyrics are pretty messed up.

Anonymus February 16, 2010 at 3:44 pm

You guys are totally misinterpreting Jonny’s music. Farang Muk Sao Dum is a song which the lyrics reflect real life. Anyone who has been to Thailand or Laos should know and understand this song. Vanilla does want a taste of the chocolate! Haha can’t you see the humor in that? If not, then you shouldn’t listen to it. His songs were written by Lao people and the lyrics are humorous to them. Some Lao people especially the younger generation outside of Laos and Thailand misinterpret because they don’t know their own culture. Also you think too much and try to twist things to make it seem more worse than it is. Why should you try to hate or make someone look bad? Jealous??

Fan of Jonny February 16, 2010 at 3:50 pm

I have seen Jonny perform many times and that accent you are referring to is not fake. He has spent many years in Thailand and Laos and has developed an accent! Jonny portrays the Lao culture in a positive way. He always promotes the music wherever he goes. Now a lot more people know of Laos because of his music videos on the internet. Even newspapers like L.A. Weekly and VICE wrote about him. Before he put up videos and wrote information about the khaen, nobody even bothered to do that. Not even Lao people. To me, you seem like a young Lao kid who is jealous of the Farang coming to sing your music and doing it better than you! Haha!

LiveLaod is a Racist! February 16, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Normally anyone who listens to something and doesn’t like it just stops listening to it and moves on to something else that he/she might like. People who take the time to bash or make someone look bad like you are doing here are either jealous or racist. I think you are probably both. That is your darker significance buddy! Jonny tries his best to show his love for Lao people and the Lao culture.

Sao Dum Muk Farang February 17, 2010 at 2:39 am

I love Falang. I very poor before but Falang help me. Falang helps Lao and Lao people. I Sao Dum black skin. Johnnys song very funny! I like.

Farang in Thailand February 17, 2010 at 2:41 am

I bought all of Jonny’s albums and I love his music. Vanilla wants a taste of the chocolate means that the Farang wants to know more about the Dark Skinned girl. You have to understand this song from the Farang’s point of view. I being another Farang in Thailand totally understand this song. You obviously don’t understand it.

cubiclejot February 25, 2010 at 9:33 am

Wow, even going as far as labeling as a racist. Although I don’t appreciate the name-calling I welcome the comments. Like we say here at, “Lets learn, love & live LAOd!” so part of living LAOd is voicing your opinion without sugar coating what you really want to say. I do not expect everyone to agree with all that I say here, in fact I hope to hear different opinions. I think only through dialogue can we expect to learn from one another. However what I discovered from these recent comments is that they were posted from the same people posing under different aliases. One person even going as far as posing as a Farang (White Man) living in Thailand in one post and then within another post posing as a Lao Women with broken English. How messed up is that? This is where I draw the line and need to call some folks out. Remember I run so this means that I am the blogger as well as the administrator. I have access to analytics that reveal IP Addresses, so even though you create a different alias, your posts will have the same IP Address…. oops, you’ve been caught red handed “buddy”! So for the person posing as the following (Anonymous, Fan of Jonny, LiveLaod is a Racist, Sao Dum Muk Farang, Farang in Thailand), if you want to comment, post one comment expressing what you feel and move on, don’t try to sway the opinions of others by posting multiple comments under different aliases.

khamsone November 9, 2011 at 7:32 am

All of you, including Blogger, if you are Lao, you know that a direct English translation of Lao words and phrases can end up to be strange even offensive interpretation in English or any other language other than Lao or Thai. “White Men Loves Black Skin Lady” – is not the actual meaning, the song refers to the dark and beautiful skin tones of Lao women which Lao men have been singing about for ages and if you literally translated many of our classic Lao songs – many people would surely be offended by the literal transaltion. Yes the dude is white, but he is talented, means well, is entertaining, having fun and most of the people in Laos seem to enjoy him – what’s the harm in that…? and being Lao myself – I get the lyrics, they’re cheesy and old-people humor, but certainly not harmful. Never met the dude, but the first time I saw the videos, I seriously cracked up! but I also apppreciated his fondness of our music and culture. BTW – on the accent thing…I used to travel growing up, if I was in Montreal for a few months, I’d come back to AZ with a French accent or worse, with Canadian slang and ended every sentence with ‘ey?’, when I came back from London, I had a British accent, although brief, it happens and it was funny – and when I speak English to the elders in my family, I unintentionally speak in broken English! No harm intended and I don’t think this Jonny Olsen means any harm either. I think what’s much worse than Jonny trying to be Lao is when our Lao youth (and other Asian youth) in the U.S. think they are or are trying to be black. Yikes. What’s up with that?

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