If you heard and enjoyed the first volume in the Sound of Siam series, I think it’s safe to say that you’ll be pleased with the new volume, The Sound of Siam, Volume Two. More lively vintage folk music — genres known in Thailand as Molam (or Mor Lam) and Luk Thung —from Thailand’s rural Northeast region, covering the period 1970-1982.
Once again, Bangkok-based compilers Chris Menist and Maft Sai have uncovered some real gems from morlam and luk thung recordings that were made during this fertile period of Thai music. Although the songs are sung in Thai, often in the Northeastern Isaan dialect, listeners not familiar with the language will still find the music invigorating and fun to listen to.
In the intros to some of these songs, the female vocalists incorporate an extended “warble” (an Isaan yodel, perhaps?) that allows them “to flex their improvisational muscles” according to the CD’s liner notes. Whatever this technique is called, it’s truly an amazing thing to hear. Pavarotti can’t compete with these ladies! Above all there is a playfulness and joy in this music that truly transcends any linguistic boundaries. In addition to the vocal tracks there are a handful of instrumentals on this collection, incredibly lively lam plearn numbers that will inspire some intense living room dancing. Really, I dare you to sit still while listening to this music!
Another unique factor in this type of music is the instruments that are used; creations such as the Sor (Saw), Khaen, and Phin. The two-stringed Sor has a sound not unlike that of a fiddle. In fact, on some of these tracks, I can close my eyes and imagine the fiddle player from Horslips, the great Irish folk-rock band, swaying onstage and fiddling to beat the band. A truly mesmerizing sound!
The CD comes with a very informative 24-page booklet that includes an essay about this style of music by Chris Menist, and also a synopsis of each song, explaining the lyrical content (if any) and information about the recording artists. Another great package from Soundway Records. I got my copy here in Bangkok at Zudrangma Records on Sukhumvit Soi 51.