‘Leftfield Luk Thang, Jazz & Molam in Thailand 1964 – 1975’

Soundway Records 2010

CD/ Vinyl (with bonus track)/ Download

Track List –

1. Chaweewan Dumnern – Lam Tung Wai (3:43)

2. Chaweewan Dumnern – Lam Toey Chaweewan (3:54)

3. Onuma Singsiri – Mae Kha Som Tam (2:39)

4. Thapporn Petchubon, Noknoi Uraiporn, Thongthai Tin Isan – Isan Klab Tin (2:29)

5. Ream Daranoi – Fai Yen (4:36)

6. Panom Nopporn – Sao Ban Pok Pab (3:20)

7. Plearn Promdan – Wan Maha Sanook (2:52)

8. The Petch Phin Thong Band – Soul Lam Plearn (3:02)

9. Waipod Phetsuphan –Ding Ding Dong (2:33)

10. Saknatee Srichiangmai – Nom Samai Mai (4:05)

11. Yenjit Porntawi – Lam Plearn Toh Lom Nhao (4:09)

12. Chaweewan Dumnern – Sao Lam Plearn (4:11)

13. Dao Bandon – Mae Jom Ka Lon (3:08)

14. Sanae Petchaboon – Pen Jung Dai (2:30)

15. Thong Huad & Kunp’an – Diew Sor Diew Caan (3:31)

16. Sodsri Rungsang – Uay Porn Tahan Chaydan (5:02)

17. Kawaw Siang Thong – Kai Tom Yum (3:36)

18. The Viking Combo Band – Pleng Yuk Owakard (3:08)

19. Dao Bandon – Tang Ngarn Si Nong (3:53)

Vinyl Bonus Track: Soi Saeng Daeng – Hi Five

Who’d have thought that the previously empty, unfathomable, hole in my musical knowledge would only be filled by the polygenesis seductive tones of Thailand!

Like a latter day music anthropologist, Chris Menist heads east under the Soundway records banner to excavate the countries, previously, un-discovered treasures.

There’s definitely no sign of ‘ten-a-penny’ fragments of pottery or dog bones here; rather a survey of unadulterated funky alluring tunes, pulled out of obscurity and packaged for your convenience.

This thoroughly well executed compilation wouldn’t go amiss on the Finders Keepers label – who are incidentally thanked in the credits – such is the strangely esoteric nature, and cultish, sound of ‘Siam’.

The etymology of the title is taken from one of the country’s foremost labels – formally named Siangsiam Record – and features an efficacious spread of styles.

Menist’s exhaustive research notes will explain everything you ever needed to know, but for the purpose of the review, I’ll touch on some of the basics.

Thailand’s main musical genres can be haphazardly and over-simplified by filing under Luk Thang (‘song of the countryside’), Luk Krung (‘song of the city’) and the North Eastern region, and Laos bordering Molam (‘doctor’ or ‘expert of dance’).

Each has its own distinct heritage and compositional traits, yet they also interlock and produce hybrids, or branch off into experimental deviations.

Pleasantly disconcerting at times, you can be transported anywhere, as the country’s roots are gradually influenced by outside forces – though this works both ways. South East Asia, just like their neighbours, interpreted funk, jazz and soul, creating a sometimes oddly appealing unique miss-mash that also features elements of ballroom, namely the cha-cha-cha (Plearn Promdan’s ‘Wan Macha Sapook’), Ethiopian jazz (Thapporn Petchubon, Noknoi Uraiporn & Thongthai Tin Isan’s ‘Isan Klab Tin’) and Bollywood (Ream Daranoi’s ‘Fai Yen’).

Progressing from the classical predominance of drums, gongs and xylophone, to plugging in and going electric; the instrumental moods sway from oboe piercing ceremonious exuberance to Stax blasting backbeat, resplendent with indigenous wild Thai instruments, the phin (small stringed lute), khaen (resembling the portable pipes of an organ and fashioned from bamboo) and the sor (a bowed violin).

It is the vocals though that pinpoint your location: a mix of often higher-pitched crooning, or rapid-fire staccato narrated, garrulous chuckled laudation that holds well to stereotype.

Lyrically the songs reflect the countryside’s gradual migration into the cities – in most cases Bangkok. Musings and cooing moralistic teachings, or pining soliloquy descriptions of home make up the lions share, with a constant nagging reminder to not forget one’s roots, language, culture or cuisine – culinary themes are prominent.

Mirroring similar themes to their western counterparts, Thailand just like America, had its own religious pathway mapped for potential singing stars to hone their skills on. Monks Panom Napporn and Dao Bandon are not quiet in the same mould as Solomon Burke or Al Green; rather their proto-pious and humbly restrained singing is more low-key and less exalted; choosing to use their holy beginnings to lure love interests with sticky rice and pickled fish (Napporn’s ‘Sao Ban Pok Pab), or seek sympathy from a lover by moaning about a cold (Bandon’s ‘Tang Ngarn Si Nong’).

Yes there’s a lot of heart-warming innocence that is apart from the odd wooing encouragement to leave your lover (Chaweewan Dumnern’s ‘Lam Toy Chaweewan’) and the salacious doyen to the Italian soft-core Caveman romp, ‘When Women Played Ding-Dong’ (Waipod Phetsuphan’s ‘Ding Ding Dong’).

‘The Sound Of Siam’ successfully acts as a window into a culture and musical heritage rarely heard – another well-timed evaluation by the Soundway team, equal to any of their previous successful exposures of African music.

One Response to “Sound Of Siam”

  1. […] Following up their strange exploration of old Siam from 2010 – reviewed by the Monolith Cocktail here – they’ve now announced plans for a second volume of equally bemusing Thai backbeat and […]

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