Thursday, 28 April 2016


Yenjit Porntawi เย็นจิตร พรเทวี
Last week has been really great for the elder generations of luk thung fans living in Bangkok, lots of stars in (free) concerts: Phongsi Woranut, Waiphot Phetsuphan, Phloen Phromdaen, Khwanchit Siprachan, molam fans were quite lucky too with P.Chalatnoi and Banyen Rakkaen. Who said all those great singers are forgotten?
Today it's time to get the tape player back on duty and rewind us back in time with a legend from the 80's. One of those great talents able to perform brilliantly in both luk thung and molam: miss Yenjit Porntawi. Awarded last year for 35 years of an ongoing great career, Yenjit was also singing live on TV a few months ago with her friend Phimpha Pornsiri to promote their new records. (They both come from the province of Chaiyaphum and they spent some years as label mates when they where both signed on the exellent Topline Music).
I browsed my large collection of Yenjit Porntawi tapes and choosed one of her first luk thung recordings from the early 80's. If I really like different periods and styles Yenjit adopted during her career, I have a special crush for RAK CHAN YA THAM SU BU. The very distinctinve voice of Yenjit goes perfectly with those 10 luxurious luk thung songs that we ear today (the only complain possible is to ask for more). All the components of the best luk thung songs of this era are here, condenced in 28mn of pure pleasure: Lots of musicians playing a wide range of instruments, a warm tropical feeling subtlety tainted by various influences, lots of creativity in the composition and the gorgeous voice of Yenjit who takes us into different moods... Well, it's probably better not to talk to much about it... THIS TAPE IS JUST GORGEOUS  and I don't have anything else to say! 

YENJIT PORNTAWI เย็นจิตร พรเทวี
RAK CHAN YA THAM SU BU รักฉันอย่าทำซื่อบื้อ
01. รักฉันอย่าทำซื่อบื้อ
02. ท่าน ส.. ช่วยที
03. พี่ม้าซาดิสซ์
04. หนาวแล้วอ้าย
05. โสดจริงหรือเปล่า
06. อย่าแตะอย่าต้อง
07. พาร์ทเนอร์เบอร์ 0.
08. ยุคอวกาศ
09. วาสนาลูกจ้าง
10. คำสั่งคุณแม่


Tuesday, 26 April 2016

(Esan clubs review)

After The last 3 posts about Esan concerts, you probably feel like dancing. If the molam concerts are probably not the best place for tourists (it can get out of control sometimes), there are many clubs in Bangkok where you can enjoy live molam and luk thung.
I made a little selection of pure Esan clubs I like but there are many more all around (just as nice as those in the list). There is no better places to party in Bangkok if you like molam!
Basically those clubs all have the same style: wooden furnitures and "vintage ballroom" atmosphere, a propper stage with live music, singers and dancers. Some helpfull staff who will make sure you have everything you need (they refill your glass for you). It sounds like PARTY!
In most clubs, people dance next to their table till closing time.
All those clubs have air con and are non smoking areas (they have seats outside for smokers). Keep some change for tips when you go to the toilets (funny things can happen).
What to eat?
Every clubs have an extensive menu of Thai and Esan food (tom yum soup, fried rice, grilled fish or chicken... to share with friends). The menu usually comes with pictures. You can order food if you want (sometimes, if there is a special concert, you will have to order a minimum amount of food).
What to drink?
Just do like almost everybody and ask for 1 bottle of thai whisky (in Esan clubs the popular brand is "blend"). The whisky is served with ice, coke and soda water (around 800b for 1 bottle and mixes). If you prefer, you can order beer (in 65cl bottles, served with ice). As the entrance is free, you are supposed to order alcohol. (orders are made at your table and you pay at the end).
When should you go?
The best is to arrive after 11pm (it's very quiet before in most cases). Off course, on friday and saturday night there will be a better atmosphere. Check out for buddhist holidays as clubs are closed the night before (as alcohol is prohibited those days).
Why going?
It's the real deal, not something made for tourists, all those clubs have great shows, live music (molam sing, luk thung...) and a good fun. The costumers are almost all Esan people, they don't usually expect to see foreigners coming to enjoy the music so you can expect a warm welcome. If you are just 1 or 2, there is a big chance you get invited to join a table for a drink (even if your new friends don't speak a word of english). Esan clubs are a lot cheaper than any other kind of clubs you can find in Bangkok! (TIPS are always appreciated by the service staff as well as the singers, dancers and musicians).
How to get there?
There is the adresses and names in Thai alphabet in the links (easier for taxi drivers). There is no public transports around. Just browse the FB page of every clubs (they always include a map).
How to get back?
You better have an app to book a taxi and a card with your hotel adress so you will avoid the bad surprises that can happen sometimes to tourists in the middle of the night (actually I never had any problems).


ESAN THEUR THEUNG อีสานเถิดเทิง
Medium sized club
Closing time: 2am
Located near Sanam Luang and Democracy monument 
(ask for "pata pinklao" it's 15 meters away)
This club is the  less crowded of the list as it close earlier. They have a dancefloor right in front of the stage wich is really enjoyable.
ESAN LAM PHLOEN อีสานลำเพลิน
Located in the Chatuchak week-end market area.
Medium sized club
Closing time: 4am
A great place, they have some concerts quite often.
THAMNAN KHON ESAN ตำนานตนอีสาน  
Located in the Thonburi area.
Large sized club
Closing time: 4am
The largest club of the list, big stage (lots of concerts there). 
They have a mezzanine for those who want.
ESAN LAM SING อีสานลำซิ่ง
Located near Sukumvit soi 71
Small sized club
Closing time: 4am
This club can be really crowded on weekends, don't arrive too late!
If you have any questions, feel free to email me. 

Sunday, 24 April 2016

(live molam sing)

Today I planned to post an early 2000's molam sing concert tape but the tape broke at the same time as the tape player...
Anyway, let's end up this serie of posts with some recent live recordings.
Nowadays, molam sing is the leading form of modern molam (the most popular singers perform in Bangkok and in some provinces outside of Esan and even sometimes in Laos). The bands play "regular concerts" as well as shows during temple fairs or cultural and religious festivities. The bands are also often hired for private shows on various occasions such as weddings or companies staff parties. 2 main forms of shows can be seen performing molam sing (various smaller set ups too): Huge bands of up to 350 members in structures similar to traditional european circus or southern Chinese operas (familly ran troupes that performs sometimes since 3 generations). The other form is closer to the originel lam sing set up: a group of musicians, some dancers, some supporting singers (usually younger or lesser known) and a pair of main singers singing solo or on duo and inter acting together and with the audience (there is usually also a comedian messing around from time to time).
Today, the live music selected is from all kinds of bands (if the performances can be very different, the music remains the same with some style variations). As decribed in the previous post the set up can be minimalist (mostly for bands touring locally). The biggest stars of the lam sing scene usually performs with a dozen of musicians (on the back of the stage): 1 drummer and 1 or 2 percussionists, 1 or 2 keyboards, a brass section (trumpet, sax, trombone) 2 guitarists (often tuned as phin) a bass and sometimes a khaen. On the front of the stage, up to 20 dancers: usually young women shortly dressed.
Molam sing concerts did not only change the beat of molam into something fast, modern and often furious but nowadays also incorporate other forms of popular Esan songs (pop, luk thung, rock Esan...) played with lots of ennergy. Singers promote their new songs on stage but also cover many songs. The frontiers betwin the genres are quite blur and the main focus is the pefrormance, the energy of the shows and the fun.
One sure thing is that all the songs performed have one main thing in common, their Esan identity.
As this post is about the actual scene, I did not want to present any offical recording actually for sale. I made a little selection of songs that are curently popular as well as some more "classic" forms of fast molam, mostly recorded live by friends in Esan within the last 2 years, in the middle of hot nights of frenetic dancing.
After this little stop in the 21th century to talk about the actual molam scene (as it remain usually unknown out of south east Asia). Soon we'll get back to some dusty old tapes and something very different...
(various live recordings)


Wednesday, 20 April 2016


We continue our review of the evolution modern molam concerts with an amazing recording!
If I have quite a few lam sing live tapes, today I choosed to present the audio part from a VCD as this recording is really interesting. Those who will Thailand will sure rush to try to find a place to buy it and it's not going to be easy as I found it in a shop selling discounted CDs from old stocks (most hypermarkets in Bangkok sell similar VCDs at discounted price and you can find them in small shops located in big markets). Most parts of this show has been released as part of a 5 VCDs set (in total  I payed 100b for the whole set. what a steal!). I was quite lucky to be abble to collect the whole set from 2 different shops.
We'll spend the night dancing with "MAN SUTKHIT" (extreme fun) as this VDC set is called (a perfect definition of lam sing!). It's a live captation of a molam sing contest, probably from the mid or late 80's. Quite a few lam sing recordings of small bands have been done during such contests and it's quite usual to find tapes with a picture of a lam sing duo and their trophies.
The concert takes place in a temple deep in Esan in the province of Udon Thani. For this show, a few thousand people, some officials and the jury sitting at tables a few meters right in front of the stage, some cars parked in the middle of the audience and a small stage. The set up is as minimalist as possible: 4 dancers at a time and 2 different groups of musicans during this part of the night: drums, bass, khaen and electric phin. The microphone comes from the top of the stage, just like at boxing shows... Get ready for the fight!
Minimalist but WOW! Everything is more than great here and the phin players are experts at playing their wild instruments, the first one is literally possessed by his stratocaster shaped phin while the other one is applied at playing his double necked instrument. 3 different singers (not the winners) during this part of the concert performs some early lam sing: fast songs, impros and speaches. It's raw, intence and hypnotic, the inter actions between the singers are often quite explicit. You can easily understand while listening to this recording why some of the older performers of more traditional forms of molam where not very supportive of this new trend as at this time it's been a real generational clash.
Molam sing came out around the mid 80's (though the beginning year, the place of origins and the names of the first practitioners are still contested). It's a period of modernisation in Esan and traditional forms of molam in rural areas enter in competition with modern forms of entertainment such as TV shows, pop music, mobile discotheques and free outdoor cinema during temple fairs. As an answer from some molam bands a  faster tempo is used and some wild sexual content is added in dances and the speaches (though this content existed before at a lower level). Lam sing is the contraction of "molam racing" (a reference to fast and wild motor cycle competitions and a sign of trendiness).

MAN SUTKHIT (มันส์ สุดขีด) vol.3
01: Live performance

The cover features 2 different shows on 2 VCDs
(this one is the top part)
If I find a website selling this VCD set, I will post a link

If the emergence of lam sing was widely debated by the molam traditionalists it obviously played a major role in the transmission of the molam culture among the younger generations (especially those living in big cities). Nowadays, Lam sing is the dominant genre in Esan, even if all kinds of modern music from all around the world are available. Many bands of different capacities performs every nights in big cities and small villages and it's not unusual to see a a few hundreds of young Esan people living in Bangkok travelling all the way for concerts in Esan villages at week-ends. Of course there has been some evolution in over 30 years of lam sing performances, the next post ending this small introduction of the modern Esan concerts will be the occasion to take a closer look at the actual scene.

Sunday, 17 April 2016


It's the end of the Songkran holidays, in every Esan provinces there have been some molam sing concerts every nights. Today's tape takes us back in time in the 80's. If now lam sing is all the rage, at the time of the recording of this tape it's still lam phloen that brings people to dance. Even some "local bands" can play in front of thousands on week-ends or during holidays. This post is the first of a serie of 3 posts on the evolution of modern molam concerts, it will be followed by some early lam sing and some exerpts from recent performances.
molam singers on stage
We'll spend the night with RAKHANGTHONG. They are one of those rather small sized bands that tours mostly in surrounding provinces. This tape was the only occasion I ever had to ear of them. In this 80's live recording the RAKHANGTHONG band alternate lam phloen and lam klon, a form of storytelling. In this case "SRI KHOT PHET THA BONG", the story is about Sri Khot and his diamond cudgel weapon... A well known folk tale among the Lao and Esan people.

The lam klon parts comes with keyboards (since the mid 80's the traditional khaen have tend to slowly disappear at modern concerts. On stage it's either often used on pre recorded play back or replaced by keyboards (the khaen is sometimes present on stage as an cultural symbol).
If the lam klon parts (or other lam forms of storytelling) still play a role in modern molam concerts they are also the occasion for the musicians, singers and dancers to get a few minutes of rest before it gets wild again with the dancing parts. Usually in the middle of the night an alternation of 3 or 4 fast songs and about 10 mn of lam klon, (or similar kinds of lam or funny comedians). Note that during week-ends and holidays the bands play usually around 8 to 10 hours depending on the circumstances.
The lam phloen here are not surprising (you heard some here already in previous posts), some good lam by some great singers and a small basic set up to back them: guitar, bass, drums. The surprise comes from the keyboard player who can get really wild from time to time. In my opinion that's what makes this tape really great (some kind of cold 80's synth pop feeling sometimes).
dance, dance, dance!
As often with those live recordings it's a bit rough and there is no post production involved or anything fancy added (no mic stand to add some audience reactions as most occidental live recordings would use). As usual there is no informations about the year or the place of the concert. 
I prefered to keep it in it's original state and I did not remove the little gaps that happens a few times. It shows that there have been some editing on the recording to alternate equally lam phloen and lam klon (and that the comedy parts have been removed).
01 live performance
Live recordings are very popular among molam fans, probably due to the originel nature of the oral transmition of molam but also for the energy of those concerts (It's a lot harder to find live recordings of luk thung Esan on tapes, I actually don't have any). Nowadays, a major part of the diffusion of molam sing is done through live audio or video CDs and also distributed for free online. Live recording by some of the hard core fans is widely supported by the bands as a way to promote the quality of their live performances. While traveling with friends to go concerts in Esan we only listen to live recordings.

Friday, 15 April 2016


As today it's record store day I spent some time to put up a little list of shops you should visit if you plan to visit Thailand. If you ever bough some re-editions or compilations of Esan music you will soon notice that those cd or vinyls you bough in your home country where just 10 times more expensive than the real deal and that unlike what you can read online or in magazines it's not at all forgotten or hard to find music. Many Esan people are proud of their cultural heritage and if you can find those records you can also ear molam and luk thung Esan everywhere in the streets of Bangkok.
gun shaped phin
If you like Esan music (well, Thai in general) enough to think you could buy 40 of those records during your life, it's actually worth shopping here in Bangkok as the price of those 40 records in your home country would cover the plane tickets fare and about a week in a standard hotel outside of the touristic areas... as well as the 40 records. Think about it!
The selection of records stores provided here is not secret, some of those happen to pop on internet sometimes but usually without much informations about how to get there. The list provided is an easy 1/2 day trip. You have strictly no chance to get lost. It basicly focus on interesting places among a selection of around a dozen of shops. I do not usually buy anything at those shops but I scored 8 tapes and CDs while walking around to prepare this post so you better bring a large bag with you!


-Take the MRT (underground train) and stop at the last station hua lamphong. get out of the station "EXIT 1".
-It's then a bit tricky, if you have a map of  Bangkok, you can do it  by walk, if not the easiest way is to ask a tuk tuk to drive you to Yaowarat. once you reached thanon Yaowarat (thanon means road), walk a few minutes on the right side.
-Basically, when you will see the dragon from the photo, you are arrived! (10mn by walk from the MRT). The records shopping trip starts right in the street in front of the dragon's head "Thanon Phadungdao".
-Thanon Phadungdao have a bunch of records shops, you'll mostly see chinese music (popular music from all periods on cd as well as some traditional and chinese budhist records, some chinese opera too on tapes and cds). It can be worth to have a look around but the the main interest here is on the left side. the shop on the photo have some vintage luk thung esan as well as a bunch of molam (100/120b each). The owner actually can speak some english wich can be helpfull.
-Once you reach the end of the street, cross it and keep going on the left side. You are now in Thanon Charoen Krung, it's actually the first modernised street in Thailand and the historic record stores street in Bangkok. After a few minutes you will see a small chinese records shop. Sadly it's not as great as it was 1 year ago and all that's left is a selection of chinese cd's and some video cd's (some present some dragons and lion dances with some explosive music as you can find in my older blog).
-BREAK STOP 1: right next to this store is my favourite traditional chinese pastry shop, it's delicious and also one of the cheapest I know (around 7b for a little cake).
-Keep walking and if you want you can get a bit out of the way by turning right at Thanon Suea Pa only 1 record store there (about 10mn of walk) You can skip this one but if you really have time when you'll reach the end of the street and arrive at Thanon Luang, it's on the right. This shop mostly sell second hand 33' records of all kind and some tapes in a lame state (wrong tapes, broken...). It have a different atmosphere and can be crowded a bit sometimes. they have some drinks so you can relax a bit there.


-Get back to Charoen Krung and keep walking. Within a few minutes you will find about 5 records stores, the first one at the corner is great, a nice selection of lukthung esan as well as some very good molam, all on cds. this shop also have a few 33' records of both luk thung and molam (cds are at marked price 80/120b each) I have no clue abot the price of vinyls.
 - A few meters after you'll see this amazing looking shop full of vintage 7' and a wall of tapes (the tapes are not for sale). Most of the records are actually luk krung but there'a a bunch of luk tung and a few luk thung esan from the 70's. don't get too exited if you're looking for vinyls as the next shop is more interesting.
-In this shop you will find lot's of vintage records: molam on 7' (starting at 100b) and 33' (around 500b for some 80's lam phloen).  This shop also have a few tapes and some cds. The owner is a helpfull and seems to speak english quite well. Most of the Esan 7' of course don't come with picture sleeves and there's a lot of things. The easiest way is to tell him what you want (lam phloen or lam toei or luk thung Esan for exemple) and he'll give you some records you can ask to listen to some (1 or 2) so he can see what you like and give you some more (just trust him, don't waist his time or you would not get anything interesting I guess).
-At this point, if you still have some cash and some energy keep walking on the same way for about 5mn if you keep your eyes open you will see some traces of dead record shops. once you reach thanon Burapha turn left and enter in The Old Siam. It's one of the oldest shopping malls in this part of Bangkok.


-BREAK STOP 2. Strangely this place don't get much attention in the tourists guides. Downstairs you'll find a condenced version of most of the snacks and sweets from thailand it's really worth a little tour as you can see some made in front of you and  well you will need to walk around anyway if you want to find the CD shop. Little shop with all kinds of thai cds, it's worth 5mn browsing.
-The main attraction  is upstairs with the Mae Mai Pleng Thai shop, it's THE specialist of high quality vintage luk thing re-edition cd's. the packagings are great and often use the original cover designs. Visit their online store prior to your visit to get an idea of what you'll see there. It's a bit more expensive than other CDs (around 150b) but they do a great work. They only have a bunch of Esan music but I guess most of you would also want to buy other vintage luk thung CDs.
-From what I heard last week the small shop that was selling tapes and cds on the last floor recently closed but I did not check. Well it's still a good idea to get around and to enter the food court.
-BREAK STOP 3, if in the food court you will find some shops selling all kinds of thai dishes (tickets sold at the entrance, 40/60b a dish), the main attraction remains the old school karaoke where some local retired people comes to sing some vintage luk krung songs. As you'll be around you should not miss it.
That's It, you are DONE! Well, almost. As you are just 2mn away from the main Indian place in Bangkok: "Pahuarat", you can walk around, there are a bunch of shops selling some Indian music (mostly some Bollywood of all kinds and some religious music). You can take away some good quality Indian pastries in the shops located in the small streets in front or at the back of the India emporium shopping mall. If you are vegetarian, there are lots of nice places to eat around too.
As you will notice, I skipped a bunch of shops on the way and only focuced on what's worth in this area (you sure can visit the other shops but it will take you more time). You can now get in a taxi (+/- 60b I guess) and get back to the MRT station or go to visit one of the major touristic temples such as Wat Arun as they are pretty close).
Of course, be nice with the shop owners and speak slow, carry a list of singer names (or genres) you would like to buy (on paper). The best is to have this list in thai and phonetic so the shop owner will take the time to find what you could like and sugest you some related things (copy paste some names from here and MRPT blog).
Do NOT proudly show up with pictures of those thai records compilations available in your country on your smart phone as reference, some record shop owner consider those as fake or bootlegs and you would not get much help from them.
There are many other places to buy music in BKK but the places I mention here are easy to reach in an 1/2 day records hunting trip, there are a few things to see around too and some nice things to eat. So if you are not on your own your friends won't get too bored...
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions and don't forget to send me some photos of the records you found.

Monday, 11 April 2016


Happy new year! After the occidental and Chinese new year celebrated in Thailand, this week we'll celebrate Songkran, the thai new year. A few million people from Bangkok will join the biggest road traffic jam of the year to get back to their native province for some familly gatherings, prayers at the temple and fun water fights.
We're going to Roi Et, the native province of Phimchai Phetphalanchai to celebrate with some great Songkran themed lam phloen. We've heard of miss Phimchai already and this cassette is a good opportunity to ear some more today. 
LAM PHLOEN ADIT RAK WAN SONGKRAN is an earlier recording of Phimchai Phetphalanchai featuring some organ, saxophone, some really nice saw fiddle and the bold flow of miss Phimchai. Surprisingly the track list provides the titles of 10 songs while there is in fact 12 here. As those 2 "ghost" tracks are those with pleasant saw intros we sure won't complain!
I have quite a few other tapes featuring Phimchai Phetphalanchai, including some great surprises, so we'll ear about her again later for sure.
พิมพ์ใจ เพชรพลาญชัย
01 ลำเพลิน อดีตรักวันสงกรานต์
02 ลำเพลิน ฟ้าร้องน้องคิดถึง
03 ลำเพลิน ฮักหนุ่มบ้านไกล
04 ลำเพลิน ขอรักน้องคืน
05 ลำเพลิน สาวนารำพัน
06 --------------------------
07 ลำเพลิน ศาลาพักใจ
08 ลำเพลิน รักเขาหรือใจ
09 ลำเพลิน จดหมายฉบับสุดท้าย
10 ลำเพลิน เป็นเพียงความฝัน
11 ลำเพลิน เบื่อการรอคอย
12 --------------------------