Filed under: Thailand
The guest post for this week is by Angela Sawyer. If I weren’t spending all my money on the records you see here, I’d be buying up all kinds of great stuff from her Weirdo Records site. Angela is also the person behind the truly bizarre Cantonese Opera blog – Fish Stalls in the Pearl River Delta. When I asked a few folks if they wanted to write for my site, Angela had hers to me lickety split.
Although the post-it which came with this record identifies it as String Band music, Suriya Fapathum was in fact a rather obscure Luk Thung singer. Even if you’re quite familiar with the Thai language (which I’m not), information about this record is extremely scant.
Luk Thung arose after the end of WWII, blending together folk songs, classical music and folk dances, and echoing the emotional concerns of rural Thais. Luk Thung is often compared to the country music of the USA, and Suphanburi is the genre’s Nashville. Early stars include king and queen Suraphon Sombatjalern and Pongsri Woranuch. It’s usually molasses slow, and the focus is meant to be on the singer as he or she stretches vowel sounds like taffy.
As the Vietnam war sped up the urbanization and modernization of Thailand, hordes of people began to move to cities, especially Bangkok. This process both fostered and hampered Luk Thung: creating access to up to date music equipment and distribution, creating a populace with some money who missed the countryside, but also eroding the very community life the songs reflected. During the 60s and 70s the style blended over and over again with Mo Lam and Thai pop. Influences started popping up from the rest of Southeast Asia, as well as American pop like Gene Autry and Hank Williams, and even such far flung stuff as Xavier Cugat. By the 1980s Luk Thung sported an entire techno-ish subgenre meant specifically for danceclubs, and by 2000 ‘real’ 50s Luk Thung began enjoying a wave of retro hep.
Although there are some slow funk burners on this lp, I chose these two songs for their unusual use of sound effects. In one, the singer imitates a monkey, and in the other the sound of gunshots is heard. I’m especially fond of the ‘ptchoo ptchoo’ mouth sounds the singer makes, presumably to beef up the gunfire. Such gunfire would have been heard by folks in rural Thailand due to the increased involvement in the Vietnam War and growing US military presence that military dictator Thanom Kittikachorn allowed in his campaign against communist guerillas during the 1960s. The corruption of this government eventually resulted in a growing peasant’s movement, and then the October 14, 1973 student democracy uprising.
Much thanks to Peter Doolan of Monrak Pleng Thai for tranlisteration help. All helpful ideas were his, and all mistakes mine.
Catalog number T 148 on ห้างแผ่นเสียง ทองกำ จัดจำหน่าย (Haang Phaen Siiang Thaawng Gam Jat Jam Naay – which means something like ‘Grab the Golden Sound and Arrange to Distribute it’) of Thailand. No release date listed.