The Strong Tide Of Pride In Thai Songs And Singers
Very often I think about the word pride in connection with Thai people. This morning, as happens a lot for me, I played a few hours of Thai music, soaking up the words and themes in the songs – and the overwhelming message is one of pride and honesty. No, it's more than that – it is descriptive of the experiences they have in everyday life and those connections with the basic pride that so many Thai people (rich and poor) carry, unseen by outsiders. Nobody conveys that in song better than Saowaluck – often popularly known as "Amp".
At the present time I am writing about Saowaluck Lelaputra – someone whom I admire enormously and whom I believe is one of the few top female performers and recording artists in Thailand. She has recorded for quite a while with the GMM Studios and is a true master of her profession over a period spanning more than 20 years. She is a fairly private person. I have every disc and track she has recorded – and, not only is she a wonderful stage performer – so alive and vibrant – but she has a beautiful voice and seems to pick material to record and perform that expresses what most Thai people feel – and, very likely, what most people anywhere would feel. Maybe I'm a bit biased towards Saowaluck as I can listen to her all day and never tire of hearing her and seeing her beautiful smile. Possibly the song I love most is her reflective presentation เวทนา – Way-taa-nah – (Pity – or Have Compassion For).
Also, having recorded for GMM Studios for 10 years until recently, is Sunita (Beau) Leetikul. Her style is different to Saowaluck and she has cut back on her recording and concert activities due to her desire to concentrate on her new child and family. Nobody sings a love song as well as Beau with her voice as clear as a bell and being able to pour her whole soul into the theme of the song. I also have every one of Beau's discs and tracks and I never tire of listening to her sing. She is also a great jazz singer – notably evident on her disc "My Inspiration" (available on CD and VCD). For quite a while, Beau was regarded as a singer of mainly quieter love songs – all very beautifully performed – but she wanted more from her career in the way of expanding her style of music expression. Beau wanted to include more of a rock-style in her repertoire – and this was evident in her songs ฉันรู้ – Chun-roo (I Know) and อยู่คนเดียว – Yoo-Khon-Diow (Stay Alone). Both of these superb songs are from Beau's 2-disc set on VCD "Forever Love Hits". I have so many favourites recorded by Beau – but one stands out among all for me – ฉันจะจำเธอแบบนี้ – Chun jah-jum teur bab-nee (I Will Remember You Like This).
It's interesting to know that Beau was signed by GMM to try to draw back to GMM some of the enormous following enjoyed by Parn Thanaporn, who records for RS Studios.
Now Parn – oh, my goodness – what can I say? How can I pick a favourite out of those three superb female artists – but I love Parn so much. I also have every disc and track she has ever recorded and I play them regularly. Parn is wonderful in a concert setting. I would have to say that my very favourite disc of hers (CD and VCD) is นรกในใจ – Ná-rók nai-jai – (In One's Heart Hell). It was released by RS Studios on 10th November 2004. Other than "Bird" Thongchai McIntyre, Parn has probably released more discs than any other Thai recording artist. Her first major release was ปาน อัลบั้ม – Bpaan-an-bam (Birthmark Album, popularly known as "True Story"), released on 11th September, 2002 – and followed by พิเศษ – Pi-Sayt (Specially – or popularly known as "Exclusive"), released on 26th February 2003. I have so very many favourites of Parn – but two stand out for me: อีกด้านของนางมารร้าย – Eek-daan-khong-naang-maan-rai (Again Side Of Woman Bad) from the album "Narok nai-jai") – that shows a very biased opinion held by the Thai poochai who is totally devoid of consideration for the lady who loves him so much. My other close favourite would be สองกายหัวใจเดียว – Sorng-kaai hua-jai-diow (Two Bodies – One heart), from the "True Story" album. It shows the overprotectiveness by a poochai that can be seen as insensitive or controlling by the lady he loves – but it does end happily.
But where do I stop? Now I have Lanna Commins playing – her roots being in Chiang Mai. Her Mother, Soontaree Vechanont, born in Fang District, was already a very popular and well-established performer by the time her Daughter, Lanna, began her music career, singing mainly songs with a Northern flavour – distinctly beautiful and stylishly crafted. Soontaree came to Chiang Mai with her two children, from Australia, after the breakdown of her marriage and established a very popular restaurant on the west bank of Nam Mae Ping, north of The Superhighway in Chiang Mai. That place is a venue to enjoy music over a meal and for other artists to do a set occasionally – similar to a Folk Club venue and highly regarded by ex-pats and the tourist trade.
Parn, more than anyone, has expressed the feelings of repression experienced by females in the relationship field through so many of her songs. It is so very evident that she believes very strongly in the messages she is conveying in song – and I believe she does it so well and with great style. These artists are a very small representation of Thai singers (even in the female sector of the entertainment industry) but a very powerful force of change that is permeating Thai Society for the better.
I have not even touched on the male sector of the entertainment industry here – but, even in the choicees of material that I have seen and heard from them, it is obvious that there is an awakening happening in the way people see and feel toward one another in Thailand. Naturally, it will not be evident across the whole of Thai Society due to the large diversity of commitments and restrictions placed on those who do not or cannot access the material presented by these artists. Lifestyles and opportunities are determined by the social structure into which one is born and raised – yet, you can hear similar aspirations coming from the poorer regions of Thailand, expressing the same feelings that come from mainstream Thai music.
Thai Country Music – ลูกทุ่ง – Luk tung (literally, "Children of the field") consists of mostly หมอลำ – mor lam (North-Eastern music with Lao influence) that expresses all of the basic thoughts and aspirations held by those in any area of Thailand – the hopes and dreams that we all wish for, no matter where we come from. Yet there is at least one band from Buriram – I-Nam – who have made the leap to mainstream Thai music with their first hit รักคนมีเจ้าของ – Ruk-kon-mee-jao-kong (Love Person Who Has Owner), followed by another hit เด็กบ้านนอก – Dek-baan-nok (Country Boy). Perhaps they will reach the heights of Asanee and Wasan Chotikul, who toured the world under the sponsorship of The Singha Company. Music is a great uniting force and I notice the willingness of Thai males to attend concerts by artists such as Saowaluck, Beau and Parn with or without a female companion. The opposites of Yin and Yang are being united by the common bond of music – and I believe this is the recipe for creating a fully-functioning and united Thai Society, free from the fears of political or financial instability.
The Thai pride about which I write is not something that is "in your face" – rather it is an inward feeling that feeds the heart and soul and enables an inward drive to believe that anything is possible if you truly believe in it – or are courageous enough to reach out for that which you want. It is there in all Thais and all that is needed to elicit it to come forth is for all others to listen to the wonderful musical expressions presented by gifted Thai singers who inspire greatness and truly believe in the potential for change.