Filed under: Thailand
When trying to pick a song for the week of Halloween, I noticed that a whole lot of songs from Thailand had to word “Pee” in the title… Come to find out, “Pee” means “Ghost” in Thai. So, I decided to ask Peter Doolan from the awesome Monrakplengthai to do a guest post for this week. Besides being an endless fount of information of Thai music, Peter is pretty knowledgeable of neighboring Burma / Myanmar and Laos, too.
It’s merging of local folk influences and Western pop structures, Pleng Luk Thung, Thai “Country Music“, epitomized the musical lives of many rural Thais throughout the latter half of the Twentieth Century, and continues to be a major force in the popular music of Thailand today.
One singer, Suraphon Sombatcharoen of Suphanburi province, carried this genre into the mainstream and took the position of the (more or less) undisputed “King of Luk Thung”. In his time, he built up an entire collective of musicians, dancers, singers and songwriters; many of the biggest stars of subsequent generations got their start in his group. Suraphon was more than a bandleader, he was something of a father figure to those in his group, many of whom he “adopted” at a very young age, and who basically grew up on the road in his ensemble.
At the height of his fame, Suraphon was gunned down on stage during a show in Nakhon Pathom. The reason for his murder is unknown; some suspect a rival singer (of which there were many) or a jealous lover (of which, apparently, there were also many). After his death, his protégés jockeyed to fill the void, and initially Kangwanphrai Lukphet was the best bet (most likely because of the similarity between he and Suraphon’s voices).
The song presented here proved something of a rallying cry for Suraphon’s disciples; titled “Pleading with Father’s Ghost”, it bemoans the star singer’s violent and untimely death, and calls upon his spirit, asking the ghost to bless his new band and bestow upon it the same fame and talent which Suraphon’s possessed. It features a wonderfully ethereal electric organ-laced introduction, a fiddle-driven folk groove, and of course, Kangwanphrai’s plaintive, tremulous pleas.
Catalog number BKL-703 on Crown Records (แผ่นเสียง “ตรามงกุฎ”) of Thailand. No release date listed.
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