April 12, 2019
Each member has the basis of music and each member has different characteristics. Bass player and drummer are grown in the city, they are from Krung. For that reason we are in an environment where we can feel and absorb the elements of jazz, rock, reggae and so on, naturally. On the contrary, phin player Kammao grew up close to Molam and Isan songs. He is one of the few phin players in Thailand who uses traditional melody lines and playing methods. His background makes him do that. He was originally born and raised in a family who produced pins. His father is also a phin player, a phin teacher, and producer of pins. From his early childhood ages, he played the phin, and he grew up with it. In the early childhood, his father would play phin to sleep. And after becoming an adult he took over the phin tradition and became a phin player. And he continued to produce pins. Phin is involved in everything in his life.
There are methods of making traditional phin in the family. First we start by planting a tree. Pin production of carving the wood will finally begin after the tree dies and collapses over the course of 10 years. All his craft works. Borrowing the hands of his children and family. He will also create a pick manually from a buffalo horn. His wife is responsible for polishing the corner of the horn with a file. Regarding the acoustic pin, they used to use use the brake of the bicycle as a string from long ago. Therefore strings are harder than other instruments and will break if you use a regular pick. So, you can only use the corners of sturdy buffalo for a pick. For other electric pins, Kammao uses the telephone cable line. It seems that all string selections are also selected by his own preference. Kammao was born and raised in a family who is in with a phin.
He is not performing just because he likes phin. He looks at phin more religiously. When you talk to him he would always talk about phin or the God of phin. It’s the story of the God of phin Phuraing who appears in the old myth of Thai Buddhism from 2000 years ago. It’s a story which long time ago, he comes to the village where people are suffering from lack of food and he heals the people by playing phin..
He regularly checks the strings of the phin which he plays, makes sure that they are not too loose or too hard and too tense. He makes that a guide to live by for his self-reflection on a daily basis. For example, suppose that the string in the middle is loose or overstretched. This is the “center”, which would mean greed, so reflects that to himself and think if he is out of balance these days and was a little greedy. He also prays to Phuraing even when he’s about to miss a flight. He prays so that he can get on that plane without being late. Everything he does in life involves Phuraing..
One of the string instruments which is originated in Isan, Thai. There are frets on the neck and there runs few metal strings on it. It’s a traditional instrument.
Next is about Sawai. Sawai is the oldest and will be 77 this year. He was not a khene player from long ago, he worked in a different occupation. He probably started playing khene after he turned 30. He is over 70 now so he has been playing it for more than 40 years. The first time he playing the khene was as a back band of Molam in Molam Soontharapirom Band. It is the first Molam band in Bangkok which was born right after the end of second world war.
It seems that he was performing as the back of artists of various labels. For example, a Lam Plern like traditional music style, Sunthon Chairungrueang. We met at Paradise Bangkok soon after. He is the oldest but he is always open and his eagerness to learn is overwhelming. He would try to learn new information by listening to songs he has never heard before. He knows that there are enormous kinds of music in this world. He is always asking questions. For example, when we try to play a song in the band he would practice his part all the time and he brings up ideas about the song, like how about this and this? Anyways, he is a hard worker and he can love what he does. Originally, for him, music was like part time thing and he worked at the Dutch embassy in Bangkok until retirement. After the retirement, he works actively as an artist in music.
A bamboo made wind instrument. Sound source is a metal reed, and is a kind of Shou (a Japanese traditional wind instrument) which resonates by a cylinder such as bamboos and reeds. Tubes are arranged in two rows, six rows and twelve tubes are standard. The size can vary from about 50 centimeters long, and the big one to about 2 meters long.
*Molam Soontharapirom Band:
An original Molam ban organized in 1956.
Born 1938. A male singer from Maha Sarakham Province. Created the original form of new Molam style which you can dance, “Lam Shin”, and established it.
Since every member has their own ideas and methods of playing, there is no particular standpoint of who is the leader or not. Each member is learning and supporting the band. We make something with all of the members. We do a jam session to try and see what happens. There is no one person who can do everything alone.
We have recorded all our practices and rehearsals, and repeatedly listened to it. We kept on practicing and trying the sounds after the member gathered. Also, we regularly discuss about the sound which we performed at the live performance, which and what we didn’t like, which part had a good feedback, and we keep evolving. This is how the songs of Paradise Bangkok is made. The main melody consists of elements of phin and khene of the traditional Molam, but a new sound is born when the groove, the beet, and the rhythm comes from me, Chris or Pump and other people and it gets mixed very nicely.
On the bottom, we share the same spirit with the pioneers who developed music by experiment after experiment. We didn’t want to be like the Molam band which already existed, and we didn’t want to make music which was bound to the atmosphere in the 70s. What we want to do is to step on the line of the good and old, and mix it up with the “present”. It’s a new culture which we keep the cultural meaning and also makes sense to the contemporary world.
The frozen traditional culture seems to have no connection with the modern society, in other words, with the younger generation. I think that if we can successfully reconstruct the melody line and rhythm, we can appeal to those in completely new field. Our music can be the first gate for those who do not listen to Molam regularly, and spread it. Molam has the power to draw out human interest and addiction.
Our Molam band could be the opportunity to find the Molam culture and history. What other bands are there? What kind of scenes are there? How is the sound and rhythm different for each province and village? I am would be pleased if it becomes the entrance to the journey of searching for music.
We have released two albums in the past. The first piece is “21st Century Molam”, the second piece is “Planet Lam”. The content consists of sounds (instrumental) played with instruments. Although we don’t have any intention, but since there is no fixed vocal, instruments naturally created sounds that were born as a result of freely repeated trials. If there was a singer, of course the singer will be the main and the sound of the phin will be played so that it doesn’t bother the singer’s voice. In a sense, things which could not be done with the existence of the singer became possible. We repeated jam sessions in various shows. In addition, Kammao’s main melody line made it possible to emphasizes more traditional sounds. For these reasons we made our first project instrumental. “21st Century Molam” is an album which we opened the way we see the 21st century Molam from our angle to the world. Therefore, I have no intention to indicate what “molam” should be. Molam is something which idea or understanding differs depending on each person. Our understanding was being output in a form. It’s a sound which the understanding of the each six of us who gathered, blended. It would have been a different sound if one of us lacked, or it was a different person.
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