luk thung songs
I happened upon a 373-page thesis on the principles of Buddhism as found in Thai folk songs — and specifically, Phleng Luk Thung. The Abstract — although in awkward English — seemed to me to promise at least some parts would prove to be an interesting read:
The main aim of this thesis is to collect and study critically the substance of Phleng Luk Thung involked in Buddhist Dharma since the glorious time of its in 2507 B.E. At that time, folk songs or country music have been titled as “Phleng Luk Thung” Moreover, it is to study the source of Thai tradition, custom, valuation, virtue, moral, the way of life and faiths of rural or pastoral people as found in Thai folk songs – Phleng Luk Thung.
Luk Thung songs, Thai cultural heritage, have always reflected social status of any age, recorded historical scenes or events for later generations in order to acknowledge and inherit the good things. Although the substances of Phleng Luk Thung are various of love and departure and accusation of love but some of the songs are ended in the course of “The circle of action” man acts a good thing gets a good thing ; man acts a bad thing, gets a bad thing.
If a subline religion is without an agreement and a well-behavior, people will be difficult to approach an art. It the art is not concerned with the religion, it will be degenerate, inelegant and indelicate. Therefore, all art and religion have a similar principle concerning emotion and mental conception in which they have mutual relationship.
The substances of the research are to study critically Phleng Luk Thung concerned directly and indirectly with Principle of Buddhism as found in the songs. It includes criticism, conclusion and proposal of the substances.
The research can be concluded as following: – Phleng Luk Thung is a precious literary works of the widely social status and the way of life of rural Thai people. The effect of general faith of Thai people for Buddhism has been found widely in Phleng Luk Thung. The belief in merit and evil makes the space between rich people and poor people spare or scares. Phleng Luk Thung have always reflected “The symbol of Thai people” – The belief in merit and evil, previous existence and future existence. Although the belief is not science but it is an excellent consolation for some poor people steeped in despair and Phleng LukThung have also reflected almost Thai social which is short of an organization involved equality and justice. This may be considered that Luk Thung songs are not only the refined entertainments but also the literary works for more lives, in which Thai tradition and culture in the past are included for descendants.
I thought perhaps specific songs might be cited and examined — and perhaps they were. However, upon downloading the full document, which was some 50-odd megabytes in size (and led me to wonder if it might be illustrated), I discovered that only the Abstract was in English — the body of the document was strictly Thai.
I know I shall never live long enough at this point in my life to be anywhere near sufficently Thai-literate and therefore able to read the work, so I will not attach the downloaded file. If you wish to struggle with it (and it was a rather slow download), you can find it here.
If it is some fairly traditional Luk Thung that you would care to hear, a selection of 15 songs await your listening simply by landing on the site radio.video.trad.
Without artists whose love of traditionalist music sees them making considerable sacrifice for it, the music would not likely endure. After all, an audience simply consumes; it is the composer and performer who contribute.
And so it is that I found the following article from the Bangkok Post that was published February 25/2010 rather inspiring, even though the performer in this instance is a puppet master.
More than two decades ago, a new kind of performing art form in the Northeast called ‘hoon krabok Isan’ was born by one local artist
By Pichaya Svasti
Hundreds of people are enjoying the fun and fast-paced Isan music – morlam and luk thung – and laughing out loud at Isan-style jokes. On the stage are finely dressed puppets. A hermit comes out first and introduces his student, Prince Trailoka, and his consort, Kanchana. The couple are about to leave for the prince’s homeland, Varanasi. Accompanied by their funny friends Nak and Noi, the couple will soon embark on an adventure and encounter giants and zombies.
“My Isan puppet troupe is one of a kind in the Northeast. There has never been anything like it before,” said Sangwal Phongphaew, head of the Phet Nong Rua puppet troupe in Khon Kaen.
Created by Sangwal in 1984, hoon krabok Isan, or northeastern puppet show, is a combination of the Northeast’s morlam and nang pramothai (northeastern shadow play). It was adapted from morlam moo (group morlam) in its singing, performing and speaking qualities. The only difference is that the players are puppets instead of humans.
The puppets vary from heroes, heroines, parents, the elderly and ghosts to giants, hermits and comedians. They are painted and fitted with beautiful costumes and accessories. Their jackfruit wooden heads and all other parts such as their legs are moveable.
These puppets are mastered the same way as Isan shadow play characters are. The sets are splashed with bright colours and look similar to those of likay, another traditional Thai style of dance, and morlam.
According to Sangwal, hoon krabok Isan is multi-dimensional and compatible with various forms of storytelling. Each story is told in an Isan dialect. Heroes and heroines speak the Central Region’s dialect while the other characters speak local dialects.
All performers in this troupe can play music and sing morlam and luk thung songs. As there are no scripts, they must improvise dialogue and songs. Jokes are an integral part of the performance except for the royal characters, according to Isan tradition.
Hoon krabok Isan is impressive in its lively music, jokes and thought-provoking words. Mainly played with khaen (pan pipes), fiddles, harps, drums and some other percussion instruments, the music is fast, fresh and fun.
“We use luk thung songs, not ancient or traditional Thai music, because youngsters have no ears for such music. Northeastern people love having fun, so we include morlam such as lam ploen, lam klon and lam sing as well as luk thung music in our shows,” Sangwal said. The use of traditional Isan music is also an attempt to preserve local folk art forms.
The Phet Nong Rua puppet troupe consists of 19 performers and seven musicians who mainly play fiddles and khaen and sometimes guitar and keyboard if requested.
The stories, poems and songs they perform are all composed by Sangwal and his younger brother Khamtan.
“The ideas and lyrics are based on local folk tales, such as trailoka, jampa see ton and see kumarn. However, we cannot perform Ramakien as we have no puppets for it,” he added.
The most popular folk tale for performing hoon krabok Isan is “Trailoka”, or Winyarn Rak Nang Phidib, because its plot is simple yet fun and involves a lot of jokes and morlam. The best known comic characters are Nak and Noi, the aides of Prince Trailoka.
Preceded by a ceremony for paying respect to teachers, each show usually starts early in the evening. The first few hours feature traditional music played with khaen and fiddles as well as morlam and luk thung songs played with guitars, keyboards and drums upon request. At about 10 or 11pm, a comedian puppet will appear on the stage to brief the audience about the story to be played. Then the show will start, perhaps lasting for a whole night.
Before the creation of hoon krabok Isan, Sangwal’s family performed nang pramothai, or northeastern shadow plays, for over half a century.
“I have been performing nang pramothai since my childhood. My late big brother, Suan, was the owner of a shadow play troupe,” Sangwal recalled.
According to him, nang pramothai dates to centuries ago and his family’s troupe with whom he grew up is more than 50 years old. In the past, the music was played with khaen and a Korat-style xylophone.
Isan shadow play characters are made of cattle leather. In the past, there was no tanned leather, so artists had to prepare the leather themselves by adding salt to animal skin, leaving it for several days, removing the hair, and then applying rubber from a tree to make it thin. Thereafter, the prepared leather would be carved into the forms of characters whose hands would be fixed with bamboo wood. It would be painted with naturally occurring substances, now replaced by plastic paints.
“This set of my nang pramothai characters is almost 200 years old. When the characters are speaking, their lips are moved to match the dubbing. Only their arms, not legs, are moveable. The use of shadows is the key. Music is mainly played with fiddles and khaen,” Sangwal said.
“It was always the same, so the viewers would go home at 10 or 11pm,” Sangwal noted.
While attempting to conserve nang pramothai, Sangwal came up with a new idea after joining his brother’s troupe to perform nang pramothai at Amporn Garden in 1984.
“I had the opportunity to watch a Central Region-style puppet show by Rawd Siri Nil Silp troupe. Their puppets were colourful while our nang pramothai characters could just show their shadows,” he said.
Inspired by that puppet troupe’s highly skilled and fun performance, Sangwal decided to create Isan-style puppets with the help of his nephew, Lamduan. His puppets have cotton bodies and
limbs. Their hand-carved jackfruit wooden heads are moveable due to a wooden core inside.
“Our Isan puppets have legs just like Joe Louis’s puppets, while the others have only a torso,” he added.
Inspired by the Central Region-style puppets, Sangwal invented hoon krabok Isan performances based on nang pramothai’s singing, performing and speaking styles.
“We can perform hoon krabok Isan at any time, day or night. Based on folklores, puppet shows last for several hours and are full of energetic musical rhythms,” he added.
In the first few years, Sangwal introduced hoon krabok Isan to his community and nearby areas. The sets were simple with the use of only a big cloth.
Though the viewers enjoyed the shows, this new kind of performing art was far from famous. Sangwal, accompanied by his wife and two little sons, travelled on a modified motorcycle to perform at temple fairs and other events in Khon Kaen and neighbouring provinces.
With only six puppets, he did everything from mastering and dubbing the puppets to narrating stories and singing. His wife played khaen and a local drum, while his sons played cymbals. They were paid small sums of money or with cooked meals, and spent nights at temples or on their motorcycle.
After two years, he made hoon krabok Isan known among some people, but had to stop performing for a few years due to money problems.
However, a lottery prize of 60,000 baht which he won in 1988 brought hoon krabok Isan back to life. Sangwal founded his own puppet troupe, beautified his puppets and sets, created more puppets and bought new equipment. He gathered his 28 relatives who had performed nang pramothai to work with him.
Since then, his puppet troupe has been performing in the Northeast and other parts of Thailand and has gained increasing popularity. In 1992, it was invited to perform at the Thailand Cultural Centre in Bangkok during a festival to mark HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s 36th birthday. Since then, the troupe has become famous.
Born in 1949 in Nong Rua district, Khon Kaen, Sangwal excels at performing Isan shadow plays, dubbing, singing and playing fiddle, khaen and other musical instruments even though he only finished Prathom 4. He is able to master and dub two puppets while singing simultaneously. He was named one of the Northeast’s best performing artists.
Socially, his puppet troupe, Phet Nong Rua, has not only benefited local art and culture but has also supported society ethically.
“While performing each show, we also teach morality. These days, children do not care much about elders, morals or sins. So, we add words of wisdom to the dialogue,” Sangwal said.
His puppet shows are very popular and have joined events at many schools and government offices. To educate the general public, Sangwal regularly teaches local children at Khamkaen Nakhon School and Nong Rua Community to perform hoon krabok Isan.
At the same time, Sangwal has been using his efforts to transfer the ancient art of nang pramothai to the new generation by teaching his interested grandchildren to perform it step by step.
“We should preserve all kinds of performing art passed on from our ancestors, whatever they are – morlam, shadow plays or puppet shows. I do it all with love,” Sangwal said in a firm voice.
The site VTech offers the following eclectic mix of two dozen audio performances by Thai artists, some of whom will be showcasing Luk Thung.
1. Seree Srisurat – paying respect to mother
2. Kom Muang Nakorn – 18 year old ladies
3. Rom Sritammarat – tomorrow we’ll meet at the crossroads
4. Ang Kanang – peasant lady
5. Daw Bandorn – the water buffalo leaves the farm
6. Onuma Singsiri – broken-hearted lady singer
7. Chaba Prai – do you have a boyfriend yet?
8. Daw Bandorn – i left my girlfriend to become a dj
9. Prun Promdan – snowy lady
10. Suang Santee – the powerful man
11. Onuma Singsiri – papaya salad merchant
12. Super Star – chili & salt
13. Supaluck Sirihong – i’m angry at you
14. Don Sornrabeab & Chuntana Kitiyapan – angry crocodile people
15. Super Star – i’m so tired
16. Surachai Sombatcharurn – before you loved me but now who do you love?
17. Ang Kanang – the village drum
18. Daw Bandorn – don’t be a flirt
19. Beauty Contest – windmill lover
20. Ray Rai Na Korat – show some thigh
21. Sayan Sanya – driving to find my lover
22. Wai Phot Petsuwan – rowing my boat to find a lover
23. Prun Promdan – In’s rocket
24. Metro Angel – Thai Classical
Thongchai (Bird) McIntyre is a very popular performer who has Luk Thung in his broad repertoire. You may find the article Soaring with Bird from 80s to Beyond entertaining and informative, particularly since there are links throughout to many YouTube videos of the songs mentioned. I will always love Fan Jah because of Jintara Poonlarp, all due to the pervasive broadcasting of the video when I was in Thailand for the second time back in 2004.
An exhibition devoted to luk thung music gets underway at Museum Siam — that was the case earlier this year, according to The Nation. It sounds like it would have been highly informative and entertaining! It certainly is good to see that this genre is getting such grand national recognition in Thailand.
The blog Monrak Pleng Thai (มนต์รักเพลงไทย) profiles a lot of older Luk Thung albums — it’s a great place to get some exposure to the music.
luk thung songs
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