In previous travels, I have always known a little, or a lot, about the musical histories of the countries I was visiting. I believe it is important to have some understanding of the social, cultural, and political histories of a country before one visits, and as a musician I have also always been interested in the artistic output.
Unfortunately, before coming to Thailand I knew little about it’s musical history. Add to that a depressingly derivative and inescapable pop/rock/hip hop scene and I had a real thirst for some quality Thai music. I knew it was there, but where . . .
Then I came across ZudRangMa Records and the collection The Sound of Siam: Leftfield Luk Thung, Jazz & Molam in Thailand. 1964 – 1975. ZudRangMa is a small, mostly vinyl collectors record shop in Thonglor. The store is run by Maft Sai and Chris Menist, Bangkok based DJs and cratediggers that also put together The Sound of Siam compilation. This is a great introduction to some incredibly soulful music, mostly coming from Isaan migrants to Bangkok. Along with love lost, many of these songs speak to the often difficult transition from life in farming communities in the northeast, to the struggle to find work here in the capital.
You can also check out the diverse mixes of Maft and Chris at their frequent “Paradise Bangkok” DJ sets around Bangkok, and growing excursions worldwide. They play old school Thai music alongside African, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern grooves, properly situating Thai music in a high point of 1960s/70s political and artistic cross-pollination and experimentalism.
I’m sure there are some good musicians making interesting rock music, and rappers with deep beats and something to say, but until I find them this soul from the past will more than do.