เพลงลูกทุ่ง or “Luk Thung” is a type of country music from Thailand that was always part of my visit to see my grandparents in Phayao, a town in the North of Thailand. You can hear it on the bus, at town fairs, get-togethers and the fresh market. Luk Thung is a popular style of music loved throughout Thailand; very much an analogous counterpart to American country music.
In the summer of 2012, I had daily lessons with a local carpenter named “Slah Long” in Phayao. He taught me traditional chisel-based techniques for wood carving and under his guidance, I carved the elephant pictured below. Slah Long had am impeccable taste for Luk Thung music. For me, the songs quickly became an integral part of the wood-carving experience. At the end of the summer, I copied the songs to my computer and burned many more CD copies for Slah Long (since he didn’t know to burn CD’s). Luk Thung lyrics are simple, honest and beautiful portrayals of everyday rural life ranging from work activities to themes of broken relationships, a beautiful women from the city etc. It is characterized by a light hearted tone and a strong vibrato-driven singing style.
The song featured in this piece is called นางฟ้ายังอาย (The song’s meaning translates to “A woman so beautiful, even the angels are embarrassed”) by สายัณห์ สัญญา (Sayan Sanya), a legendary Luk Thung singer who passed away last year. The original recording plays throughout the entire piece, but has specific parts looped and filtered. The lead melody, violins and vocals all come from the original recording. I combined the song with a type of music known as “Future Bass,” a genre of electronic music taking over the underground scene by storm. Anything beyond the vocals and violins (the drums, synths, production etc) is my own creation!
Electronic music is the sound of the today’s youth. I wanted to experiment with the combination of distinctly Thai melodies with the cutting edge underground sound of Future Bass. I draw from the spirit of hip hop and electronic music that frequently samples jazz, soul and funk recordings from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s…except I’m doing it with Thai Luk Thung music. In the grand scheme of things, I’m interested in finding ways to re-invigorate interest in traditional arts especially among Thai’s and Southeast Asians who are my age. This applies beyond just music and includes visual arts, handicrafts, dance, theater etc. Is there a way to combine old and new in a way that supports this idea? I wonder.
Shout out to Mark Fedronic, my partner in crime, for his creative advice throughout the conception of the piece (composed mainly during the recent blizzard in Connecticut), my homies at East Meets West: Goyama, Aeromatic, Shape Zed and DJ Kongo for getting me into the whole future prefix genre (Future Soul, Future RnB, Beats) and my mom and dad for making sure I always had a heart for my home music.
Stay tuned for more Future Luk Thung! This is the first of three pieces that I will be dropping in the next few weeks…