February 17, 2011, 10:11 am
Filed under: Announcements, Thailand

I’m happy to announce Haji Maji’s first official release:
LUK THUNG, Classic & Obscure 78s from the Thai Countryside

UPDATE: This appears to be out of print. There may still be some shops that have copies left or you can try good old Ebay.

I’ve collaborated with Peter Doolan, of the great Thai cassette blog monrakplengthai, on an album of 14 early Luk Thung 78s from Thailand, published by the Grammy Award-winning label Dust-to-Digital on their vinyl imprint Parlortone.

That’s right, VINYL!

No turntable? Don’t worry, it’s available for download on iTunes and Amazon.

It was compiled by me from my collection. Peter researched and wrote the notes while living in Bangkok last year.

The album explores similar ground as Sublime Frequencies’ “Thai Pop Spectacular”, “Thai Beat A Go-Go” from Subliminal Sounds and Soundways’ “Sound of Siam”, but with a focus on the earlier, down-home roots style instead of the rock and pop influenced material found on these other reissues. The garage band/proto-Thai rock stuff is cool, but here at Haji Maji our interest tends toward the raw, rural and traditional sounds.

Here’s a sample track from the album:

Ruedu Haeng Khwam Rak (Season of Love) by Phloen Phromdaen

Included in the album is a 6 page, full-color insert with detailed notes and images of the various record labels.

From the notes:

“Luk Thung is known to many as Thailand’s “Country Music”; it’s a vibrant and syncretic genre of pop song which aims to give voice to a disenfranchised rural population… farmers and migrant workers, as well as gamblers, drug addicts, outlaws and other marginal figures…the strain of Luk Thung captured on this album is one marked by a conscious move away from Western influence and an embrace of traditional musics…”

Special thanks to Jon Ward, Michael Graves, Debbie Berne, Rob Millis and the Dust-to-Digital crew.


Instrumental Molam (THAILAND)
December 19, 2009, 5:00 pm
Filed under: Thailand

Here’s the last post of the year, you might want to throw this one one at your New Year’s Eve party…see you in 2010!

In the 1960s, Molam began to modernize, adding drums and other instruments, perhaps in an effort to compete with the wildly popular luk thung performers. Here’s a fantastic instrumental 45 rpm record with some nice khaen playing and a prominent phin, a small 3 string lute.

> Daao Jarat Saeng Side 1

December 13, 2009, 11:45 am
Filed under: Thailand

Here’s another old style khaen piece, but this time with the molams (singers) Bunpheng Phaiphiwchai and Wichian. There are many different regional types of lam (songs) in northeast Thailand (Isan) and Laos, some based on traditional, poetry, Jataka stories (Buddha birth stories from India) and courtship songs. Courtship songs often include racy repartee between male and female singers.

Here’s another great 45 rpm 7 inch record.

> Kai Koo Ber SI66 Side 1

Instrumental Khaen (THAILAND)
December 6, 2009, 8:13 pm
Filed under: Thailand

Now, for one of my favorite musical subjects…the khaen!

The northeast region of Thailand is called Isan and is made up of a majority of Lao speaking people. The music and instruments are distinct from the rest of Thailand, the main instrument being the free-reed mouth organ called khaen (pronounced “can”, it’s often spelled khene, khen, or any number of variations.) It consists of a series of bamboo pipes in two rows fitted into a wooden holder. The player breathes in and out of the wooden wind chest, fingering holes on either side. Each pipe has it’s own free reed, similar to a harmonica.

The player sets up hypnotic pentatonic grooves, usually to back up a singer. It’s interesting to note that the musical pitches are very close to Western scales, as opposed to the rest of Thai music where the scale is divided more or less evenly into seven notes.

The khaen is also the dominant instrument in Lao music. Here’s a Lao khaen player from 1902:

There are two songs on each side of this 45rpm record from the 1960s…here are both the songs from side one; Kan Lao Kra Thomai and Kan Lum Pleun played by Thongkham Thaikla (thanks again to Peter Doolan for artist translation.)

> Pin Khaen HS 348 side 1

A Selection of Luk Thung 78 labels (THAILAND)
December 2, 2009, 2:59 pm
Filed under: Thailand

More great Southeast Asian graphics…

Luk Thung (THAILAND)
December 1, 2009, 4:26 pm
Filed under: Thailand

In the 1950s, rural Thais from the northeast (Isan) and elsewhere began moving to the big cities to look for work. It’s the same old story found all across the world – the rural music was transformed in urban ghettos and a new popular music was born. The huge success of some of the big stars of the 50s such as Waiphot Phetsuhan, Phloen Phromdaen and Suraphon Sombatchoroen inspired many rural people to dream of escaping poverty by becoming luk thung stars. Independent record labels proliferated and continued releasing luk thung 78s into the 1960’s. By the 1980’s, luk thung was the unrivaled pop music of  Thailand and only recently has a modernized type of molam begun to catch up. We’ll look at some early molam soon.

Here’s the famous Phloen Phromdaen singing the song Lam Kaen:

>Nok iang ATP 309 

Thanks to Peter at Monrakplengthai for translation and copious information. Plenty more luk thung on his site!

November 22, 2009, 5:47 pm
Filed under: Thailand

The various musics of Thailand were widely recorded during the 78 era, but there are many excellent recordings from the 60s released on 45 rpm 7 inch records as well. Often these 45s contain great traditional music and include some styles that were not recorded widely, if at all, on 78.

Such is the case with this 7 inch record on the Rabbit label. One side is some rather uninteresting pop music in the ramwong style. But the side we’re listening to here is muay thai, that is, music played during Thai kickboxing matches. Muay thai is a popular fighting sport that exists in different versions all across Southeast Asia and is hundreds of years old. The music is used to accompany the fighting. It begins slowly while the boxers pay their respects to their teachers and then increases in intensity as the fight escalates. I suppose there were many sports that used ritualistic musical accompaniment in the past, but this is one of the last, as far as I know.

The main instrument is the pi, the Thai “oboe”, which is related to many shawm-like instruments across Asia. The percussion instruments consist of , a pair of drums called klong kaak, the tiny finger cymbals called ching, and the gong called kong mong.

The 45s hold about twice as much music per side as a 78, so this is a nice long track. I wonder if it was recorded during an actual match?

>Rabbit 508a