The Little Things Are The Most Important
There is no secret in the fact that I love Thailand passionately – and this was lobbed home to me very strongly on Saturday evening when I decided to run a DVD instead of the usual TV garbage that we get in Oz.
I have a massive collection of Thai music on VCD and DVD that I watch selectively on a daily basis – and Thai DVD movies, along with a large selection of other Thai concerts that I watch on some occasions. My favourite movies are the Ong Bak series – and, of course, all of Bird Thongchai's concerts – but this night I put on "Beautiful Boxer", a movie that I have had since 2005 in both the original Thai version and the one with English sub-titles by Eastern Eye.
Living in The West for most of the year tends to dampen down the feelings that matter to a person's inner being. The West makes us insensitive, cynical, sarcastic and basically just negative – but this movie never fails to ground me and to remind me what life is really all about.
If you love Thailand, it is not about the girls and bars – nor is it about Soapy Massage – or the food and drink – it is about the Thai people and their ability to rise above whatever problem confronts them. That takes courage and a belief in something that matters far more than the mundane treadmill that we all take for granted as our lot in life in The West.
I have no attraction to lady-boys – and in the same sentence I do not have any problems in accepting who they are and feeling for the many difficulties they face. When I see the story of Khun Toom Parinya I have nothing but admiration and empathy for this person passing along the road she had to walk to get where she knew she had to be. Enhancing this movie are the scenes from Northern Thailand and the haunting voice of Asanee Chotikul singing the words of the closing musical theme – Teur mah jahk nhai เธอ มาจากไหน (You Come From Somewhere) that runs through the movie.
This is one movie that I have to watch at least once each year – it is like a tonic that refreshes and vitalises me.
Increasingly, we see Farangs going to Thailand to learn the art of Muay-Thai – and then going back to Farangland and opening up a gym where they set themselves up as an exponent and instructor of the discipline. How can you know a subject unless you are aware of both sides of the discipline? It is not enough to know the moves and have the stamina – what is lacking is the spiritual understanding that underpins this and all martial-art disciplines. Like all the martial arts, it is a whole-of-body experience that must come from within the heart and soul. It is not about strength and brutality – it is about finesse in an art form.
One of my best work mates was a senior Black-Belt Master in Taekwondo – and I asked him one day how he appoached the brutal side of the encounter and reconciled that with the peaceful nature that he always emanated. His reply was "You cannot master the art if the heart and soul are not focussed as one to maintain a state of peace and goodwill in all that you do – especially away from the ring".
Many of us who visit Thailand on a regular basis but must still live in Farangland, do not see behind the facade that is presented to the tourist or random-visitor sector. Yes, as Stick often points out, life can be very difficult for some Thais – particularly from the Khorat Plateau region. I guess it comes back again to Abram Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs (if you do not have the basic needs met, then you cannot progress on to self actualisation or the expression of higher feelings and art). It is obviously a generalisation because many who come from that region do make valuable contributions in life.
I see many video clips produced by both Grammy and RS – and the thing that strikes me in so many of them is the emotion and dreams expressed in those clips. One in particular that I love to watch regularly – and have included it in my own repertoire of Thai songs that I perform – is an early clip by Saowaluck (Amp) Lelaputra called Mai ruk tae mai luem – ไม่รักแต่ไม่ลืม (No Love But Not Forget). It starts with a young woman placing her shopping in the boot of her car and, when she looks back over her shoulder, she sees the outline of a doorway a little behind her. She then turns and opens the door and steps through.
It is not clear if what she sees is something from her past or something she hoped would happen. She is in this big house and walks slowly up an elaborate staircase to one very large room, with covers over all furniture except a piano in the middle – and a circular wall of large windows with no curtains. She goes to the windows and touches one window frame while looking across the room then walks down a hallway and turns into what appears to be a bathroom with a large empty sunken bath – where she sits for a while. The next scene is where she enters what is obviously a children's nursery, as there are lots of mobiles hanging from the ceiling. She touches one and it falls to the floor.
Then she is standing down on the ground, smiling and looking around a vacant plot of land – hand-in-hand with her poochai and both planning where the house will be. They appear so happy. She is now riding behind her poochai on a bicycle down a small road – obviously very-much in love with him – her head resting on his left shoulder.
In the next scene, she is standing again behind her car, looking back through the open doorway – and her poochai is riding away down the road. The doorway suddenly disappears and it is as if all this has happened in the minute when she was about to close the lid of her car boot. With a smile on her face, she closes the lid of the car boot and turns to go and drive away.
Perhaps no Thai performer has had more exposure or discs produced than Thongchai (Bird) McIntyre – born of the union between a Scottish father and a Thai mother. Bird would have to be the most loved of all performers on the Thai music scene. His concerts are always an extravaganza of perfection, both visually and aurally and it is plain that everybody in a concert audience expresses the love they have for this man. What I love about Bird is the close bond he forges between the audience and himself. I think what endears him so much to people is that he shares so much of himself with them on stage and in song.
The concert that I love most of all is the Babb Babb Bird Concert of 2003 – "Together" – where a large part is an informal talk between Bird and the audience, explaining what he is and what he does and likes. He lies down on the stage in various casual positions, always facing the audience – and it is like he is having a private conversation with a very close friend. It is the little touches like this that cost nothing more than a little intimacy yet return so much in love and appreciation. My two very favourite Bird tracks are Lao soo gun fung – เล่าสู่กันฟัง (Tell To Each Other – Hear) and Koo tae – คู่แท้ (True Couple – or sometimes called Fated).
I think it is sad that so many visitors to The Kingdom do not take the time or effort to try to get to know what Thais hope to achieve in life – whether they are famous or merely poor workers who work long hours in a job they maybe do not particularly like. They all have their stories and, as always, it is the little things that count.
Concerts in Thailand are fun – I agree that Bird is a great performer. I saw him 10 or so years ago and the concert was great – and this from someone who is not much of a concert-goer