mor lam thailand music
mor lam thailand music
RECREATION IN THAILAND The music of Thailand reflects its geographic position at the intersection of China, India, Indonesia and Cambodia, and reflects trade routes that have historically included Persia, Africa, Greece and Rome. Thai musical instruments are varied and reflect ancient influence from far afield – including the klong thap and khim (Persian origin), the jakhe (Indian origin), the klong jin (Chinese origin), and the klong kaek (Indonesian origin).
Though Thailand was never colonized by Western powers, pop music and other forms of European and American music have become extremely influential. The two most popular styles of traditional Thai music are luk thung and mor lam; the latter in particular has close affinities with the Music of Laos.
Music of Thailand
Thai people, perhaps along with Filippinos, are among the best musicians in Asia. No matter what your taste in music, you will find something you like.
Traditional Thai music is played on an array of nearly 50 kinds of musical instruments including strings, flutes, drums and gongs. It is most often a part of festivals, marriage ceremonies, funerals and other special Thai occasions. One good place to experience it is at the National Theater on Ratchadamnoen Road in Bangkok (Tel: 02-224-1342). You can also find it at cultural shows.
Mor Lam is the music of the large Laotian speaking community of Issan. The powerful rhythms and emotional vocals are replete with a cry and crackle of the voice. While the music is played with western instruments, traditional instruments have not been forgotten and are a part of most bands (for example the khaen, a flute type instrument).
Dancers, dressed in anything from traditional Thai clothing to racey go-go type gear, are also a feature of most shows. Chalermphol Malaikham and Jintara Poonlarp are key figures in this genre.
The Khmer speaking community of Thailand is much smaller than the Laotian speaking community, so their music, called kantrum, is not as well known. A singer named “Darkie”, who recently passed away, is probably the best-known person is this genre.
Thai folk music, or Mor Lum, has as Issan variety and a Central Thai variety. Some well know signers are Reungrot Phetthongchai, Satthit Thongjan and Chalermpon Malakham. The Central version of Mor Lum is similar to its Issan cousin, but there is more often a featured singer. Mor Lum is frequently heard on the radio too.
Thai country music is called Pleng Luuk Thung. It is kind of a combination of Mor Lum and American country music and is popular in Central Thailand. It is very common to hear this kind of music on Thai radio. Pompuang Duanjan, who died in 1992, was the first big start of this genre, which has survived her death and is more popular than ever.
There is a variety of music that Thais call “String.” It is the bubblegum music of Thai teenagers. If you catch any Thai TV at all, you will see a teenie bopper concert with “String” music. Figures here (most come and go pretty quickly) include Tata Young and Asanee & Wasan.
There is also a genre called Songs for Life (pleng phua cheewit). These bands are kind of folk or country rock with political overtones. Bands include Carabao, Caravan and singer Pongsit Kamphee.
- Also refer to Wikipeida’s entry for Mor lam.
Thai Music – Mor Lam
From: Know Phuket
In our last article, we discussed the main genres of Thai music. In this and subsequent articles we will try to make Thai music a little more accessible to foreigners by looking at some of the most famous Thai artists. You might not actually like the music but at least we hope to give you some insight about it.
You can usually find examples of these artists’ work on YouTube. We will include a few links to give you a taste of what these performers do. You will have to forgive us if some of these links grow out of date; YouTube videos do have a habit of occasionally disappearing.
We will start with Mor Lam. To recap what we said in our previous article, Mor Lam is folk music from Isaan and has a strong Laos influence. It is fast paced, funky music with a lively beat. The lyrics are about the hardships of Thai rural life.
When you are searching for these artists’ songs on YouTube, remember that many of them also perform Luke Toong music so you may notice some of their songs are in a different style.
Jintara Poonlarp (born 1971)
She is such a big star in Thailand that she is simply known as Jintara, sometimes just Jin. She is primarily known as a Mor Lam singer although she has also done plenty of Luke Toong work. Like many Thai singing stars, she began her career performing at singing contests. Her distinctive edgy voice and wonderful range and phrasing brought her to the attention of record producers. She has since released over 40 albums and she is the undoubted current queen of Mor Lam.
With a vocal range that very few singers can imitate, classic Thai beauty looks and a genuine natural charm, she is a natural performer. She has a modern image that gives the classic Mor Lam genre a contemporary update with a little pop influence. She tends to wear contemporary clothes and her backing dancers also often dress in trendy outfits.
Here are a couple of her Mor Lam classics:
Her range and popularity are such that she has also performed a few mainstream pop numbers such as this collaboration with the famous Thai pop star Bird.
YouTube – Bird & Jintara – Ma Tum Mai (Why Come?)
Banyen Rakgaen (born 1950)
Banyen is highly regarded for her graceful Thai dancing as well as her fabulous voice.
She came to prominence in the 1980s and was the first Mor Lam star to bring the genre to a wider audience beyond its Isaan heartland. She integrated her graceful Thai dancing and traditional Thai costumes with electric instruments and also introduced some more modern dance themes.
She still performs today. Of course she is no longer a spring chicken but she maintains her natural grace and still has a fabulous voice.
Looknok is not the biggest star of Mor Lam but she did sing what is surely the biggest ever Mor Lam hit — ‘Khun Lumyai’ was massively popular across Thailand.
The song is featured in the 2002 movie ‘Mon Pleng Luke Toong FM’. The movie is a charming story about a singing contest with 1-million-baht prize money that attracts all manner of aspiring singers. The movie stars many well known Thai singing stars and if you can get hold of a copy, it is a great introduction to Mor Lam and Luke Toong music.
Looknok plays a girl who works in a market stall. The other market women mock her innocence and sweetness. They call her Khun Lumyai. The Lumyai is a small sweet round fruit (longon) and the insinuation is that Looknok is sweet and innocent. It is a bit like calling someone Miss Cherry.
In the song, Looknok expresses her outrage about her nickname. Looknok performs the song with a fabulous mix of angst, irony and fun. The bouncy beat and energetic singing are still guaranteed to get a positive reaction across Thailand. Just hearing the opening few bars of this song is enough to get most Thai women up on their feet and dancing.
The song even features a Thai rap — “what if I dyed my hair, had a crocodile skin bag, wore jeans, like an American, what would they call me then?”.
YouTube – Khun Lumyai (Miss Longon)
Here are a couple of other well known Mor Lum stars you might like to check out on YouTube.
YouTube – Saow Yaso (Arrogant Girl)
We hope this little selection of songs give you a feel for Mor Lam.
- As well, Wikipeida has a good entry on Music of Thailand.
- This is quite a good overview of Classical Music in Thailand and Thai Pop Music.
- Yet another helpful overview is Thai Music Artists Guide: Music of Thailand – History.
- One further good description is Roots Music from Thailand.
A sample track of traditionalist Mor Lam Ratri Srivilai is crrently available here — hold your cursor over the Play icon speaker and it will quickly load and start playing. You can also do the same to hear a track from Mor Lam Sunthorn here.
I will finish this post with the following excerpt taken from a good synopsis titled Thai music style:
There is a large minority of Laotians in Isan, the Northeastern region of Thailand, and they are known for mor lam music. Mor lam has long had an affinity with luk thung, and many of the genre’s biggest stars, like Chalermphol Malaikham and Jintara Poonlarp, are heavily influenced by luk thung. Mor lam is a distinctively Laotian genre, and can be characterized by rapid-fire, rhythmic vocals and a funk feel to the percussion. Mor lam is played by a mor khaen, who plays the khaen, and a lead singer also called a mor lam.
There are about fifteen regional variations of mor lam, and there are modern versions as well. Mor lam sing is the best-known of these, nad has become popular all over Isan, as well as in Laos. Some conservative Laotians have criticized this as the commercialization of traditional cultures.
Thai Lao Mor Lam music performance
Traditional Northeastern Thai morlam music in a Bangkok restaurant