PopMatters home | short takes home | archivesPopMatters Music Short Takes
Various Artists, Rough Guide to the Music of Thailand (World Music Network)
When Rough Guide is good, they are very, very good as this delightful collection of music from Thailand proves. Although Thailand may be one of the most popular exotic destinations for foreign tourists, the music is not within easy grasp from the Western frame of reference. This comp remedies those difficulties with a remarkable 72-minute overview of Thailand's contemporary music. Rather being limited to what can be found around Bangkok, compilers selects music from regions where most tourists don't venture and concentrated on the lukthung, the central region's country music, and the morlam, from Isaan in the Northeast. From the first notes to the end, this is a trippy groove. The easy high-life electric guitar sound, the bouncing pulsed beat, and snappy groove of Man Motorgai ("The Motorbike Man") singing "Hae Nang Maew" while lyric accents caterwaul sounding like dogs and cats about to tangle. Followed by Namoiy Thammalangka's easy high voice, carried over Asian fiddles, this is a collection that will transport the willing listener. There are 19 selections of unique modern Asian sounds, including a selection of ultra-pop. The China Dolls salsa-tinge their crazy and sweet "Oh Oh Oh", a tune so clever and creative pop fans anywhere in the world will look on this as a pick-me-up. Thai pop (recognizable for the high-life guitar sound) gets another good jolt from Anand Jaidee singing over a cheesy '60s style organ. There's even a track played by elephants! The Thai Elephant Orchestra, from the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre near Lampang were taught to play specially designed instruments, and then to improvise and play music. They do!! And this track is exactly how the elephants performed it. Take a boombox and this disc with you the next time you dine in a Thai restaurant and watch the response! I'll be surprised if some stranger doesn't spring for your dinner.