No discussion about music is complete without some samples, and Edouard generously provides a mixtape of the many sounds and melodies that Thai music contains.
Tell us a little bit about the different bands and songs you selected and where do they come from?
1. “Ya Doen Show,” by Baanchop Chaiphra. Let’s start with Asia and regional influences. “Ya Doen Show” is a luk thung song written by the great DJ, songwriter and producer Surin Paksiri for the singer Baanchop Chaiphra. This song derives from a traditional Japanese song originally called “Soran Bushi.” It is said to be sung by fishermen in Hokkaido. In the Surin Paksiri’s version the original lyrics “Yaren Soran Soran,” literally “Oh! Soran, Soran,” become “Ya Doen Show, Doen Show” which means something like “don't walk with such an ostensible manner.” Written in 1968, it makes fun of the Western trend of wearing short skirts.
2. “Siang Khruan Chak Kaoli,” by Somsi Muangsonkhiea. Like “Rak Thae Chak Num Thai” by Benjamin, this song conveys the influence of Korean music, especially Arirang music. Despite a smooth accordion’s drone accompaniment and her very high tune voice, Somsi sings the “grumbling sound from Korea.”
3. “Mai Rak Mai Ngo,” by Sumit Satchathep. “No Love, No Reconciliation” is a song with a clear Hindi Filmi influence. Sumit Satchathep is from the Sikh community of Bangkok. He became famous in the luk thung music industry for his interpretation of Hindi soundtracks in the Thai language.
4. “Lian Bep Dara,” by Phloen Phromdaen. I probably missed plenty of famous names, many significative styles of music, but don't worry: Phloen, the King of Phleng Phut is here to rescue me. “Phleng phut” can be translated as “talking song,” it’s a music genre somehow close to theater in which the singer mixes singing parts and spoken parts. In this fascinating song, the singer gives us a wide overview of what Thai music of the fifties and sixties decades was like. Phloen acts as a young singer looking for some opportunity in the music industry. But producers are not so easily convinced, the novice has to sing in the manner of famous singers of the era: Somyot Thasanphan, Benjamin and Khamron Sambunanon. Then he has to act as a movie actor, then he has to mimick the central music style choir, the northeastern molam, and the southern manora. Finally, unpersuasive, Phloen goes on with Western music...
5. “Pai Tam Duang,” by The Impossibles. The Impossibles is one of the most famous string bands of the late sixties and seventies. The band won the Thailand String Combo Contest, composed music in the film industry and even went to record an album in Sweden. The song name “Pai Tam Duang” literally means “Following My Fate.”
6. “Dancing,” by Lam Morrison and The V.I.P. If it has to be one single guitar hero in Thailand, it would probably be Lam Morrison. Lam played during the Vietnam War in US army nightclubs all over the country. In the song, Lam plays with his band The V.I.P. Together they cover the song “Dancing On The Edge Of Danger” written and originally sung by the Swedish pop rock guitarist Mikael Rickfors.
7. “Khuen Khuen Long Long,” by Sroeng Santi. “Khuen Khuen Long Long” is a wonder found and reissued by Chris Menist and Maft Sai on Finders Keepers. Sroeng Santi is a unique figure in the luk thung scene, deliberately borrowing Western rock and pop music features and introducing them to luk thung, the most popular music of the era! In this song, Sroeng Santi covers “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath. As the liner notes of Finders Keepers song states: “The track is taken far beyond being a mere cover of “Iron Man,” as Sroeng offers a strange meditation on the waxing and waning of the moon and the sun, before comparing it to the Thai economy with costs of foodstuffs only going up and never coming down!” (cf. Thai Dai: The Heavier Side of the Luk Thunk Underground, Finders Keepers).
8. “Soeng Isan,” by Caravan. After the popular uprising of October 1973 which led the country to a short democratic period, a new musical genre came into being under the name of “Phleng Phua Chiwit.” The “Phleng Phua Chiwit” or “Song For Life” appeared as guitar folk music with very political and social concerns, inspired by past controversial figure of luk thung such as Khamron Sambunanon and the Western Protest Song of the 60's. Caravan was the first emblematic band of Phleng Phua Chiwit. When militaries took back the power with bloody coup of 1976, many of the protesters condamned as communists escaped in the North-East jungle. The encounter of these leftist phleng phua chiwit figures with local Isan musicians gave birth to amazing fusions such as this “Soeng Isan.” This responsorial song, played with the North-East three strings lute (phin), was first published on the “America Antarai” album, “American Danger.”
9. “Lam Plearn Kiew Hak,” by Angkanang Kunchai with Ubon-Pattana Band. Reissued in 2014 under the collaboration of Zudrangma Records, Em Records and Soi 48, this album is a historical piece. Recorded between 1972 and 1974 as a movie soundtrack and produced by the great Surin Paksiri, the album was the first to bring the orchestration of Bangkok big ensembles to molam music. For the album, Surin Paksiri needed a very strong and unique woman voice. Molam theatrical bands touring during that time like the Rangsiman band offers such molam singers as Chawiwan Damnoen or Banyen Rakkaen, but Surin finally chose Angkanang Khunchai, a 16 years old girl of the Province of Amnat Charoen with a truly unique vibrato already touring with the Ubon Pattana Band. However, this song conveys a more traditional instrumentation. It give us an idea of how a molam troup sounded like during that era. The song is a specific lam style called "lam plearn" related to love.
10. “Ho Sam La Waiphot Klong Yao,” by Waiphot Phetsuppan. Waiphot Phetsuppan is major singer in Thailand who crossed half a century teaching very important luk thung figures such as Phumphuang Duangchan and trying his hand in many genres of music. But Waiphot is famous for one genre above all called the “Phleng Lae.” “Phleng Lae” is a genre characterized by religious topics but sung by laymen. In this “Three Ho Waiphot LongDrum” song starting with a yoddle-like calling, Waiphot decribes the parade of the longdrum marching band which accompanied the young man to the temple when he is about to be ordained as a monk.