Wednesday, 4 September 2019


In this series documenting the MOLAM culture of the Esan people (Northeastern Thailand) and the international scam selling "an fake idea of it" to tourists. I describe how some people from Australia, Japan, France,Thailand and USA... manage their filthy business without any kind of respect and with very little clue about THE MOST IMPORTANT POPULAR MUSIC SCENE IN HISTORY!
Many album covers and photos from my personal archives as well as some fun videos illustrate and document each parts... None of the "self claimed specialists" of course ever showed any photos they took at molam concerts in Esan as they generally DON'T attend any!
Those scammers also never promoted live Esan music and never supported Esan musicians in any way! It's purely a business and there is no time for respect in such business. As you will notice, I don't have much respect for such people while I deeply respect Esan people and their amazing cultural Heritage!
ประเพณี ศิลปะ วัฒนธรรม มรดก อีสาน
Traditions, arts, cultures, Esan heritage!
This introduction feature for the first time a description of the molam scene. Nothing here is anywhere close to anything that spread in western medias during the last 10 years...

How could a simple tourist despoiled the musical culture of the victims of the Khmer Rouge genocide, started a business selling and performing this music... An inspiring business.

PART 3: R.A.T.S IN JAPAN "EM records"
A duo of Japanese tourists offer their very own revisionist point of view on Esan music.

How could a man with no clue about Thai culture and music and no links with Esan people at all created an international scam business... And pretends to be the specialist of Esan music!

From blogger to human zoo promoter... How could some random amateur musicians became a tourist attraction.

PART 6: CTRL C / TRANSLATE / CTRL V: "james leonard mitchell"
A pioneering description of a pioneering university teacher selling a pioneering book...

PART 7: WHAT THE FUNK? "edouard degay delpeuch"
A self claimed "ethnomusicologist" offer "mindblowing" descriptions of his friends scamming business... Partner in crimes or fooled idiot?

R.A.T.S: As there are many respectable westerners who documented music, I avoid any confusions and use the acronym for "Researchers on Asian Traditional Sound" to describe the self claimed specialists I mention here.
TOURISTA: As many surrealist terms such as "INSTRUMENTAL MOLAM" are used by scammers to describe the fake Esan music they produce, I suggest to call the distinctive "music" genre they sell TOURISTA. Tourista is the french word for "Traveler's diarrhea". As it basically smells like it, looks like it and sounds like it... As it's the kind of troubles tourists easily get in Thailand it's a perfect description and a good way to avoid confusion between molam and some simple minded crap for tourists!

Feel free to message me if you have any questions on the subject.

Monday, 2 September 2019

PART 7: WHAT THE FUNK? "edouard degay delpeuch"

Esan on parade

If peter doolan always failed to show up with any Thai friends at the few concerts I met him, he came with his "special" friend to the last show we attended together. That guy introduced himself as edouard degay delpeuch, ETHNOMUSICOLOGIST... Who never wrote anything about music at that time... And not much during the following 5 years.
That guy explained me that he was in Thailand to do some researches and for that purpose was spending some time with some "specialists" named maft sai and peter doolan... As you probably read the previous posts you are sure laughing already about that poor little french guy wasting his time...
I never heard of that "ethno musico..." anymore after that concert and totally forgot about him until he showed up right next to me at a concert and asked me some questions (he did not hide that he was spying my private life online and that he knew some of my involvements in the molam scene). I politely answered that I was busy but he kept asking questions on his own. I simply ignored him and he finally got the message and disappeared.
I never heard of that guy anymore for years and totally forgot about him. Well that was until I received an email from (a website that stocks scholar publications). In that email, I could see that edouard degay delpeuch wasen't pretending to be an ethnomusicologist but was also writing surrealist papers to try to prove it: “Masters of ceremony: a Wai Khru ritual from Phetchabun Province (Thailand)”.
Some Esan parade music bands like there are hundreds in Thailand.
If it's in fact after reading that paper that I found out that peter doolan was involved in "khun narin tourist trap", I was particularly surprised to see someone actually able to get payed to publish on “Provence university press” some documents (there is even a second one!) not only promoting a filthy tourist scam with no links with local culture but also clearly stating how useless his own publication was! “wai khru”, has already raised the interest of several studies”... (Many exemples here). Funny to see the product sold by doolan is here showed in it's natural environment... (well almost).
A young "muay Thai" during a wai khru
Central Thai puppeteers demonstrate a wai khru for tourists

If edouard degay delpeuch could have describe the wai khru performed by his friends from the tourista band “paradise Bangkok international molam band” (just kidding... maft sai have no clue about such thing) or one of the many wai khru performed in France (maybe some less than 50km away from his house!) by Southeast Asian artists and performers, he traveled all the way to Petchabun to describe something he saw only performed by amateur musicians of 1 unique group... Worst of all, some musicians used in human zoo organized as a tourist entertainment (while Thailand have a huge amount of amazing cultural events).

"Association du Ballet Classique Khmer"
One of many well detailed wai khru performed in France
(looks like some little girls could teach mister edouard...)

Strange that such a expert did not take the obvious chance he had to describe (like I do in this ongoing serie of documents) how could some filthy R.A.T.S built a retarded business scam on the amazing musical culture of Esan people and sell the most simple kind of amateur Esan music as something incredible (edouard degay delpeuch even says "MINDBLOWING")! He was really lucky to be in the middle of the building of a human zoo, he could have been the first scholar to describe such process in action! It's incredibly stupid that he did not even notice that... And really disgusting that he ends up actively involved  in promoting it using the French citizen's taxes and the reputation of French universities!
more parade bands... Already many more than
edouard degay delpeuch have ever seen!
Just before edouard degay delpeuch came back to France, he probably realised that he had done strictly nothing worth getting some governement's cash, his only option was to follow doolan and to randomly choose a subject... the khun narin electric phin band.
If I won't waist my time describing the usual romanced “copy/paste” exercise consisting of writing a 17 (half sized) pages of a text based on 19 pre-exisiting texts (15 of those being written by foreign researchers who also based their work on copy/pasting texts by fellow researchers who also based their work on copy/pasting (it goes on and on and on...)! If you can't consider the original source as accurate as you can't trace it, it's impossible to consider the work of edouard degay delpeuch as "serious enough to be published". (most studdies feature a large amount of non experienced descriptions, those usually lead to create "serious" documents you can't rely on).
I'll just correct some stupid affirmations and send you to read the paper I wrote on peter doolan wich describe pretty well the khun narin electric phin band scam.
The “tribute to master” ceremony, also known as “wai khru”: 
Definition of "ceremony" (from an online dictionary):
1 a formal religious or public occasion, typically one celebrating a particular event or anniversary. 2 the ritual observances and procedures performed at grand and formal occasions.

The wai khru is a ritual practice happening before every single performance of performing artists and many kind of activities related to the transmission of a knowledge by a teacher (school kids, boxers, painters... perform the wai kru in different ways). If bigger wai khru can happen during important events, the wai khru performed by amateur musicians is in NO WAY a "ceremony" on it's own. Vocabulary should not be such a major issue for a self claimed "ethnomusicologist" specialist of "world music" (what an ugly word!).
In the case of music and performing arts, the wai khru is a "ritual path" from the status of person to the status of "performer". During the wai khru, the musicians "pay respect to the teacher" and ask some powerful divinities for protection and strength, Those often include Ganesha and Lersi "hermit" (2 important figures associated with performing arts you see on the photos). The wai khru performed by musicians can be seen in many forms and sizes, it's part of many other rituals performed before concerts (those are not documented or illustrated by any foreign studdies I guess).
I'm talking here about very basic knowledge on the subject that anyone can access as the subject as been described many times.
"The observed situation is offered is a case, not as an example" (translated from french)... Sure it's an example, the only kind of (amateur) performance edouard degay delpeuch have been able to miserably document in Thailand! Edouard degay delpeuch could no compare what he saw to anything as he did not document else similar or different.
some random photos of
Mindblowing festivities and monk ordination.
obviously Edouard degay delpeuch is a filthy liar.
If it's "mindblowing", it's worth showing! 
you can compare HERE for an ethnomusicologist 
"mindblowing" version

"mindblowing festivities", "monk ordination". Edouard degay delpeuch talks here about "observed situation" he obviously forget to document! Hard to trust him on this without any photos! Only one very bad picture showing the top of the head of 10 people... "mindblowing festivities"... Seriously? It doesn't take much to impress that guy, weird as anyoby visiting Thailand can really live some "mindblowing" moments...
More " mindblowin festivities" (sorry to focus on Esan, honestly
there are some beautiful events all around the country)

The only document found during researches (a business card)

On this only document found in Thailand by edouard degay delpeuch, that expert describes a phin, one of the most iconic instrument from Esan, as a kind of "Lao luth".* If Petchabun is not technically in Esan** and if the musicians he describes are "of Lao origins". Those people, like the Esan people of Lao origins have Esan culture, listen to Esan music and eat Esan food, it's indeed vrery close to the Lao culture but anyone who been to both places long enough (and all the Lao and Esan people) will confirm that it's very different!
Various other kinds of Parade bands:
Central Thai / Sino-Thai / khmer-Esan

It's particularly interesting to see edouard degay delpeuch clearly remove every traces of Esan identity in his description of khun narin eletric phin bands while the documents used and listed at the end of his paper are often about Esan music! If the phin is clearly one of the most important symbol of Esan music (not Lao), the music performed by the khun narin eletric phin bands is most of the time excerpts from themes from Esan songs (not from Laos). I have no clue why the duo doolan/degay delpeuch both try to eradicate any traces of Esan culture from the product made out of the music of khun narin eletric phin while it sure looks like it and sounds like it and like nothing else! In this document promoting their business it's different... Though equally stupid.
*Quoted from doolan (about Waiphot Phetsuphan from central Thailand): "a full isan music combo... that means electric phin shredding, classic northeastern bass & liberal use of cowbell."
** Many communities in central or northern parts of Thailand call themselves Esan (never Lao as far as I could see). Some villages even have the inscription "Esan" written on walls at some places such as temples. 
hong and nak heads from 2 different phin.
Note that edouard degay delpeuch describes the phin on the picture he shows as having a "nak head" (นาค) ornament while it's fact a "hong head" (หงส์) swan in Thai.  If you can't blame that guys for the copy/pasted wrong information (well you should, he get payed a lot for that... You pay taxes? Now you know where it goes!), you can't blame me for showing that everything he says himself is often pure fantasy!
Ganesha on the left, Lersi on the right
and some molam wai khru in the middle
"But the 20th century* is marked by the emergence of recording and mechanical reproduction, directly competing with the master and the machine in the field of transmission". (translated from french).
This is supposed to be the central part of his paper, explaining the role of the teacher since "recorded music replaced them". 
It's totally surrealists that edouard degay delpeuch is talking here about amateur musicians performing part time in an informal band playing loops of borrowed themes from 4 or 5 famous songs (which they can of course practice to play themselves or with little help from friends) and literally apply that example to the whole Thai (Esan) professional music. 
Every single professional Esan (and Thai) musicians playing traditional music or orther forms such as luk thung and molam has been learning from a teacher and in most recent cases (last 40 years), been in a propper school to learn his job!
Studdents of the Mahawitalai Natasin Khon Kaen practice the role of teacher
by transmitting their knowledge to younger studdents

The Thai government promoted the development of "mahawitalai natasin" (school of dramatic arts) all around the country during the 70's. Such development of professional teaching takes a major part in the preservation and transmission of local and national musical culture and is also an important part of the development of the Esan identity (it applys to other parts of the country at a lower level).
The Mahawitalai Natasin Nakhon Rachassima Pong lang studdents ensemble

If a musician can't read a musical score, he CAN'T play in any molam troupe for exemple (all the professional Thai musical ensembles also need a teacher). It's not only stupid to make a general case of the lowest performing level of music from Esan (sold as "mindblowing psychedelic rock" to tourists) but it's also insulting for all the professional Esan musicians and their teachers (but obviously edouard degay delpeuch never met any of them!).

Many exemples in professional Esan music (luk thung and molam) clearly show the major importance of the relationship between the teacher and his apprentices. 
Some early 21st century tapes (on Topline Diamond records)
Noknoi Uraiphon solo
Noknoi Uraiphon and members of Siang Esan
Lookprey Uraiphon solo
Maitai Uraiphon solo
Maitai and lookprey Uraiphon on duo
Maitai and Lookprey who learned with Noknoi Uraiphon
are now both successful band leaders!

Obviously Esan teachers never stopped to do a very good job!
(Siang Esan kids on stage)

The luk thung beloved legend Noknoi Uraiphon still give her name to many of the singers who grew up practicing under her teaching in the Siang Esan (It used to be a very common practice in the lukthung scene). It's usual to see some of her very young family members getting their first practice of the stage during holidays (including babies!).
Banyen Rakkaen and her daughter / Angkhang Khunchai and her daughter

Many famous molam teach their knowlege to the younger generation, a practice that starts at home with their own kids! In Esan, the transmission of the cultural heritage is something serious.

Stop talking about teachers,  mindblowing music 
and other things you have no clue about
edouard degay delpeuch...

A young talented Esan kid
*There was no real diffusion of recorded music in Thai rural areas before the 60's. At this time, only some teachers, temples and some wealthy people owned a radio... It really starts to spread at homes in the 70's...That's a very little part of the 20th century left!
Can you imagine, waiting all day long at the house of the teacher or at the temple to ear 2 or 3 times in a day the song you are looking for? It doesn't make sense at all!
It's only during the 80's with the development of tape cassettes that it became possible to imagine people practicing on their own (some mid 80's tapes, usually by the composer Soraphet Pinyo, feature some instrumental versions to practice singing). I believe that edouard degay delpeuch read a common fact about young molam learning to sing by listening to tapes during the 80's and as he had no ideas about what he could write about for his "work" simply applied that fact to an amateur instrumental band.

Probably the biggest molam wai khru ever performed.
It features many of the most important living personalities of  the lam ruang to klon, lam klon and lam sing scenes (khru) as well as many young mo lam and no khaen.

"The wai khru is performed apart from the festivities, directly on the "sound system"* itself, generally subtracted from the general attention". (translated from french)
This little sentence is not innocent at all, it shows the evidence that edouard degay delpeuch is an expert, an important person who can access some special well kept practices while in fact nobody would even notice it or care (he insist using both "apart from "and "subtracted from"). The wai khru is nothing hidden, it's just performed before the performance. I attended many wai khru including some showed to the audience (for pedagogical purpose) or directly on the stage, as an introduction to the show or as part of the show itself. As the whole experience of edouard degay delpeuch on Thai music is limited to observing an amateur music band, his point of view is very limited! (hilarious to see edouard degay delpeuch describing one of the 2 small wai khru he ever attended as being "Spectacular"...).
*"sound system" stands obviously here as one more "reggae" reference and describes the loudspeakers and amp on a trolley. It have strictly of course no links with reggae, it's directly inspired by the  trolley used by the Chinese parade bands to carry their drums. 

An exemple of wai khru performed on stage at the beguining of a lam ruang to klon performance
(note that the right photo is the part hidden by 2 the panels on the top left)
I could keep going but it's far more than obvious that this guy is fooling people.
historical moment:
The leaders of 2 of the biggest molam troupes perform the wai khru together.

I also invite you to see the photos illustrating this paragraph, they show a few samples of the many variations of wai khru. As described, some of those wai khru happened during some particularly important events and all look pretty different.
"klong yao Esan": Another kind of parade band playing in a professional way.
about 20 trained musicians (same set up as for khun narin +
a long drums " klong yao" section  and about 100 perfectly synchronised dancers.

NOTE: In the document (I did not read) named: “The Mindblowing career of Khun Narin Sin Phin Prayuk : Thai musicians and World Music perspectives in front of new media revolution” edouard degay delpeuch sure gives a point of view very very far from mine and I really doubt he mention how could some amateur music was taken out of it's cultural context to become the product I described as a modern human zoo in a previous post. I like the recurring use of the white neo-colonilalist term “world music”*.
Since I met him about 5 years ago, the “ethonomusicologist” edouard degay delpeuch pretty much published nothing else I noticed but those 2 papers promoting the business of his friend.
If you are curious about the "teacher/apprentice" relationship in Thai music, the movie "monrak transistor" is a good introduction.

*NOTE: Additional documents on the "world music" racist concept.
Thesis project (published?) obviously focucing 
on the surrealist "Thai funk" sold by maft sai...

If edouard degay delpeuch obviously talk about things he have very little clue about, I will now talk and comment about a document I did not read as I doubt it ever been published... So sad, it would have been hilarious for sure!
I just demonstrated that edouard degay delpeuch have apparently no interest for what he talks about and how he can bring discredit on the amazing Esan cultural and musical heritage by using extreme superlatives to describe microscopic events (while it's very easy to show real amazing events).
An "expert"describing and promoting such little things as "mindblowing" or "spectacular" leaves no doubt on the idea that you could not find anything much interesting around.
I also detailed his intentional cultural spoliation and the promotion of his friend's human zoo using the reputation of french universities. I will now talk about his surrealist thesis subject:
"Thai funk: study of world music 
at the time of local questioning"
                                                       edouard degay delpeuch

In fact,  I will focus on what obviously inspired edouard degay delpeuch for his thesis subject as it seems like this joke will never get published.
As I mentioned before, edouard degay delpeuch based his researches on Thai music on 2 people I describe as FILTHY SCAMMERS. I just described the links with doolan and this thesis seems to focus on maft sai and his "thai funk" compilations.

"Thai funk" and other western dominant influences have been constantly sticked to Thai and especially Esan popular music since the beginning of the compilation business.
some clueless compilations for tourists
"Thai funk", "dancehall", "groove", "soul", "jazz"... If you read such descriptions, there is no possible doubt: Esan (and Thai) music is deeply influenced by black American music, even better, (if you remove the word "jazz") influenced by some particularly low quality black American music (personal point of  view)!
Of course, none of those people describing such obviously "huge influences" have any kind of clue about Thai music and of course did not live in Thailand during the time when such influences could have appeared (you can only be influenced by the music you are actually exposed to).
The self claimed expert on the subject: maft sai clearly stated: "I didn’t know anything about Thai music when I moved back to Bangkok".
If I did not live in Thailand during that period of time either, I collected lots of music and attended many concerts. As I have many friends deeply into music I could also share points of view with them.
I actually lived with some people who grew up there and who could spot some traces from some hit songs in some of the luk thung and molam I was listening to all day long. Quite often, things I never noticed myself : Some themes borrowed from songs that had some big success in Thailand, songs from India, China, Japan and sometimes of course Occident...
Globally, the main influence in Thai music is Thai music! Many songs "answer" previous success or copy some elements, Thai and Lao traditional and classical music are also often "sampled" in luk thung songs and modern lam... 
Indeed it can happen to find some stuff copied from western music but it's by far not what anyone with a clueon the subject would notice first (no like on "Khmer rock" where it's obvious).

From my experience, Thai people have no kind of interest for "black music" and basically are usually obsessed by white skin. TV, advertising, fashion and cinema clearly promote such concept and there is (as far as I know) only 1 man of African origins on Thai soap operas (I did not notice any forms of racism and only a ew African people in Thailand). The only famous "black man" is the Thai-American golf champion Tiger Woods. I saw very very few tapes of Michael Jackson and Bob Marley (something like 10 tapes out of a million) while they had a real "international" fame. I never heard any of those "Thai funk", "dancehall", "groove", "soul", "jazz" played anywhere during my 5 years in Thailand (I did not spend much time at westerners places).
Generosity and sincerity...
Music is an international language. 

Obviously, the people behind such compilations have their own musical culture and just put random words they know to describe the music they want to sell (They obviously never waste their time at Thai concerts or cultural events).
There is so much amazing music from Africa and from the descendants of the horrible human slavery, I have no interest for funk or reggae.
The most surrealist example comes from maft sai and is the main subject of the university thesis of mister edouard degay delpeuch: THAI FUNK!
If maft sai is seen by music tourists as THE molam specialist, he is also behind a unique concept: Thai funk and even better: LUK THUNG, THE ROOTS OF THAI FUNK, a serie of compilations by the man with no clue about thai music.
I heard a lot of things about music in Thailand but I never ever heard anything about "Thai funk". If I look at the shitty covers of those tourist compilations, I can read the word "Esan" on the "volume two" and on "luk thung! the roots of thai funk" most of the singers pictured are Esan luk thung, I own several albums from those singers so I know about their music a little: Thepphon Phetubon, Dao Bandon, Soraphet Pinyo, Saksayam Phetchompu and Sanai Omwong (who is not Esan but of Lao origins). On the small picture I have I can't read the labels from the 7'vinyl pictures but there is a for sure a majority of Esan music in those too!
Thepphon Phetubon, Dao Bandon, Soraphet Pinyo, Saksayam Phetchompu and Sanai Omwong

If I have strictly no interest for "funk" I must admit that I don't see the relationship between Thepphon Phetubon, Dao Bandon, Soraphet Pinyo... and funk. If luk thung (Esan) is one of the dominant form of popular music in Thailand and if it had really been the "roots of Thai funk" I am sure that I would have seen some tapes by some famous Esan singers with the word "funk" written on the covers, I would have heard some of the most influent singers, songwriters and composers of Esan music mention "funk" in interviews (including those on that "roots of thai funk" record cover), I would have seen Thai books and foreign books on Asian popular music mention such music scene that seems to have been important enough to produce 3 compilations for tourists... NOTHING.
Honestly, except from the legendary maft sai who "didn’t know anything about Thai music" I NEVER HEARD OF THAI FUNK! Hilarious to see that edouard degay delpeuch was going to write his thesis on something that doesn't exist! I really have no clue about what's in the mind of that man?

By the way, during the late 60's and 70's, some documents state that there was a pretty "anti-American" feeling in Esan (described is Esan literature and documented by foreign scholars). It's mentioned that the US army (based in Esan cites such as Udon Thani) spread alarming information about the fast development of rebellious communist groups in Esan (declassified US secret service will later prove it was in fact a tiny minority). At the same time, US troops were heavily bombing the extremely dangerous Laotian farmers to protect the world against their buffaloes and bamboo sticks...
Esan themed movie posters

If such paranoid US propaganda in Esan was a way to justify the development of US military bases in the region (the closest place to China they could access), the investments helped the creation of roads and airports (used at first by soldiers) and the money given by Americans to the Thai government clearly helped the modernization and opening up of Esan. Thai government that feared a communist development invested some of the American funds in the promotion of the Esan identity as part of the Thai identity. Such development can be seen in the growing of an Esan themed cinema as well as some major identitarian evolutions such as the creation of term luk thung Esan!
Some of the many Esan themed albums tittles:
"Esan our home" (early 70's) Angkhanang Khunchai
"local (cultures and traditions) from Esan (mid 80's) Duanphen Amnuayphon
"Esan heritage" (late 90's) Banyen Rakkaen
Unlike the Marshall plan in France that developed a strong interest for American music, The American Investments in Thailand incidentally ended up "supporting" the growing of Esan culture.

One out of hundreds of examples of adapted songs in France
johnny hallyday "Hey Joe"

If  taking for granted all the western references and the vocabulary strangely sticked to Thai and Esan music. Esan music would have many American songs covered (like it happened in Europe). Many forms like hard rock or hip hop performed by locals would be widely spread (like those are in Europe) and teenagers would listen to such music and not molam. In Thailand, such copies of foreign music mostly target the Sino-Thai community of Bangkok.
I personally made some experiences, when I heard of the death of some famous western superstars, I  asked some friends "did you see that David Bowie died?" everybody asked me "who?" I ended up showing some photos, still no answer, I finally showed the "Bowie bolt" portrait and 1 friend said he saw that on a t-shirt. When Lou Reed died, same story... I can't stand it anymore! (ok, that one was easy). Last but not least, when Gorge Michael died... Remember that I affirmed in the first post that molam was the biggest cultural gay community in the world... Nobody I asked had a clue about him. It's not a lack of culture, Esan people have their own culture and they are more than happy about it.
An hilarious parody of superman
during a likey performance

Most of the time if you read what EM records and maft sai say they always mention reggae as their main musical reference (roots, dancehall, sound system...). The influences attributed by such people does not relate to Esan music but to their own minimal knowledge. I personally consider reggae as one of the poorest form of music while many people consider it as something pretty boring... Some love it.
a famous french joke even says "Do you know what a rasta says when he stops smoking pot? What's that stupid music".
Joey Boy (quoted by j.mitchell)
If this Thai singer is obviously dreaming about international fame,
he express a common Thai point of view on American culture.

Another concept constantly spread by clueless specialists is the idea of an highly Americanised Esan music. There is no doubt that such concept comes from the "Cambodian scam" I previously mentioned. If I actually don't understand how could such idea came to the mind of "specialist". I personally studied the subject pretty well... I mean the fact that Esan people always protected their music from any western cultural invasion... not the supposed Americanisation of Esan music. 
It's interesting to note the very important western influence on Esan music, when I mean WEST, I mean a few kilometers west, in Bangkok and central Thailand.
Pretty much all the exterior influences in Esan music have been first filtered by central Thailand.
A well known example is the southern Thai /Malay theatrical performance called likey (or dikey) which had been adapted in central Thailand before it arrived in Esan where it gave it's theatrical visual aspect to Esan story telling lam ruang to klon.
Michael... Lamsing!

Many westernised forms of Thai music exist, in Bangkok and central Thailand (they spread in Esan too but with almost no links with molam or luk thung esan). Some forms like brass bands spread since the early 20th century because of the interest of the royal Thai family for western culture. Many other "urban" forms of occidentalised music (mostly targeting the Sino-Thai community of Bangkok) developed during the last century: Luk krung, literally "half child" clearly describe a form mixing occidental and Thai music, string (from guitar strings), shadow music (from the band the shadows), phleng phua chiwit (a kind of rebellious "rock" in old bikers outfit)... If some westerners sometimes find and insist on some western influences in Esan music, such influences pretty often come from those Thai westernised forms more that actual western music.
It's interesting to note that none of those specialists who describe such influences almost ever mention influences of places like India or China which are obviously the biggest influences in a part of the world that used to be described as "Indochina" (check all the Indian and Chinese influences in your own culture, it's already amazing 10000km away so imagine next door). "Specialists" also never mention any Islamic influences while it's particularly important in central Thai culture (which then spread in Esan).
Thai luk thung experts usually describe the main western influences behind luk thung as from the 30's: Cuban superstar Xavier Cugat (cha cha cha...) and the Parisian (French Caibbean) biguine. Such influences evolved and became the structure of the orchestras you can see during the main molam and luk thung concerts: 12 musicians featuring 2 or 3 percussionists (western and electronic drums, congas...), a large brass section (2 saxophones, trumpet, trombone...) 1 or 2 sets of synthesisers, 1 bass and 2 guitars (often tuned as phin). Sometimes some Esan instruments such as khaen, saw fiddle or pong lang are added. Such ensembles vary from one band to another (and can slightly vary from one concert to another). I could be wrong but I think such ensemble never been described by any westernershile it's the dominant form in Esan popular music for about 40 years.
Unlike the clueless information you can read everywhere, people like maft sai or peter doolan never helped Esan music to be played in Europe or USA. Many of the most famous Esan singers happen to sing all around the world and it was already the case 20 years ago!
 "lom pat thung. lom pat thung!" (The big wind is coming)
Mai Waenthip's song covered during a fair promoting
Thai tourism in Oslo (Norway,2018)
It really feels like a village in Esan!
Laos, Cambodia, Korea, Japan and also France, Sweden, Netherlands or USA. Such concerts happen during cultural events or are organised by migrants. If there is some Lao and Esan people where you live, there are some luk thung and molam concerts!
Pai Phongsathorn singing "Khon baan diow khan"
not in Yasothon but in Amsterdam! (Netherlands 2011)

During the late 70's Esan music faced competition against some "modern cultures" spread by movies and television. Esan historians describe molam troupes "tricking" the young audience attending temple fairs (where they could watch movies or dance at mobile disco or either attend molam) by playing some foreign music as an introduction to their shows to grab the attention of the younger audience expecting something "trendy". Such practice (probably started with the fake cover of "Marina" by Benjamin) was still common in the early 21th century (though it lost it's original intentions). I could observe it a few times: The dancers enter the stage and some international success (such as lambada) is performed in an instrumental well modified version.
For the same purpose of "grabbing teenagers attention" some lam recorded during the early 80's feature an intro "stolen" from western international hits  which then switch for some heavy lam as soon as the lyrics starts. It's often noticed by westerners though it remains a very minor fact (less than 0.1% of the lam recorded during the 80's): Kraftwerk (das model, Germany), Boney M (rasputin, Euro-Caribbean), Kaoma (lambada, Brasil, France), Izhar Cohen & The Alpha Beta (A-Ba-Ni-Bi*, Israel). It's pretty hard to call such "borrowed elements" and American influence and if The Shadows (Apache, England) also been "sampled" (over 25 years after it came out) it have to be seen as an influence from the Thai "shadow music" more than from a direct influence from England.
Some "stolen" exotic intros 

*A-Ba-Ni-Bi is an unusual example of a "western" song that had been covered by many Thai singers (in various Thai languages versions). The most famous Esan version is by Noknoi Uraiphon (Siang Esan).(ok, Israel is not really "western" but for most Thai people the west is seen as a global thing "prathet farang": western countries).
While Esan faced foreign cultural "concurrence", the Esan music scene always answered in fun or tricky ways to keep the teenagers concerned about their culture. The best example is "rock" on the covers of the "rock Esan" albums, you always see the word "rock" (sometimes many times). There is an effort to make the covers looks like something "not usual" but once you listen to that "rock", It's not only not rock but also "very Esan". Only the name and an idea of how it should look is used while the music is sure of a new kind and sure made to target younger audience but not at all what could have been expected (it even often cover some verypopular luk thung and molam hits).
(Toy Mouakdaeng) Rock Esan

This example is of major interest, it shows how Esan music plays with cultural Invasion. The video was recorded at the hard rock cafe in Bangkok and you can see how they took some serious care about each details. It's pretty amusing .
Hard rock cafe
a "hard rock" band is getting ready to play
An Esan Marylin enters and interrupt the musicians
"hey hey, can you play molam please"
the musicians show their faces... They are Esan.
"sorry Phi*, we are a rock band, we play rock, you know, rock"
*the term Phi (used to call older persons in a polite way)
seems to be used to show that asking for something
out of fashion like molam might come from someone old
the band plays a little to show what "rock is"
but Marylin insist  and ask
"I would like lam toei deuh kha deuh*"
*deuh and kha are the same polite words, deuh is Esa
and Kha is Thai. Used 3 times shows that she really politely insist.
and then it goes!

Not much to add as it's quite obvious: Western modern music genres are named and portrayed. It's full of inside jokes making fun of western musical cliches and self mockery. Other "rock" songs are not usually fun like this one but usually very Esan oriented.

The oldest exemple of western cover by an Esan singer I know is particularly interesting. In 1960, "Marina" (Rocco Granat) is a huge international success covered in many countries. In Thailand,
Benjamin gives his very own version...

"Marina, Marina, Marina..." Benjamin  

Just like the Toy Mouakdaeng exemple, Benjamin makes fun of the foreign cultural invasion. If it starts like a cover to grab the young people's attention, the effort is stopped by the audience "NO, NO, WE DON'T WANT THAT" and replaced by something way more Thai introduced by laughs...

During all my time in Thailand, I've almost never been exposed to western music (maybe 1mn per week while walking in the street). My molam friends never listened to non Esan music in front of me and I only saw 2 western songs covered during molam concerts. If I have been asked about my favourite singers and talked a lot about music, it was only about molam and Esan music.
I once been asked by the neighbor of a friend when I was in his village "why I was listening to molam and not linkin park". Likin Park and Justin Bieber is pretty much all I could often (visually) notice as having some interest from some young Thai. As this video shows, Linkin Park is the only foreign band performing Esan music!

I think I said it all on the subject, Ok, Dao Bandon wears a cowboy hat and said "America" in 1 song, Ok, hongthong Dao'Udon says "hot dog' and "jeans" in a song and Yenjit porntawi have an album named "I love you" Ok some singers pose on the covers of some 80's tapes wearing western sports brands (but they do it as a copy of Japanese fashion). All those examples don't make Esan music as Americanised as some people would like you to believe.
To consider that some cultural forms have some influence on another culture, you must see an interest  about such forms. It's clearly not the case here.
People like "maft sai" never tried to have a pertinent point about anything, he just noticed that journalists would take any crap he would say as facts and that they have better things to do than wasting 2 minutes checking for information.
 Yenjit porntawi 
This was the last post on what I consider "the biggest cultural scam", as you could notice I am not particullarly friendly with the people mentioned and deeply in love with Esan culture and music. I still don't understand how such disrepectful buiness could have spread that well. I won't mention smaller scammers and tricky people involved in that business at a lower level. If you ask, NO, nobody in Esan sits on the roof of a bus to watch a silly Dj and basically nobody in the molam scene seems to care about any foreign point of view on the way they should live their wonderful culture (and that of course include mine!). 
I belive that a different point of view was more than necessary, now it exist. It won't stop neo-colonialism, it won't stop any filthy business on the culture of "so called" poor people but it exist.

-All the photos signed "Saobao Esan" are all taken by myself. Those only show regular events in their most usual forms. Nothing unique or exceptional, nothing tricky. What you see here happen very often.
-All the tapes and other formats cover pictures signed "Saobao Esan" are from my personal collection.
-Everything you read here is part of my personal researches and not some copy/pasted unverified information. If you want to quote anything from my work, you should contact me first. 
-The documents I quote are not information and can't be seen as "work", those are fraudulent propaganda I compare to facts. Such propaganda not only discredit Esan culture but it also fools YOU. The people paying those frauds are either victims or "partners in crime", Their reaction (or absence of reaction) following my publications will show their positions.
All the people mentioned in this serie of documents are welcome to express their point of view here (I can add more document showing they are clueless liars upon request).

Sunday, 1 September 2019

PART 6: CTRL C / TRANSLATE / CTRL V: "james leonard mitchell"

Have you seen mister
james leonard mitchell?
"Luk Thung:
The Culture and Politics of Thailand's  Most Popular Music"
In that expensive book (twice the price of any books in thai by the same publisher Silkworm Books) made mostly from pre-existing documents distributed for free (the parts never published as "pdf" used to be on Mitchell's website and can still be found by copy/pasting excerpts from the book in google) and already payed by universities (fraudulently promoted on the back cover as "fully updated" while mitchell just added a few things to blow up the pages amount). Mitchell offers contents mostly from translated and re-written documents from existing interviews and books such as "luk thung Esan" in what he himself calls "a pioneering book"*. If james leonard mitchell thinks that "luk thung Esan" book is an essential document for westerners, why not supporting a translation to be distributed? If some of you actually find the subject interesting, I can manage a translation deal! (It should not cost more than 200 or 300$ for the rights and translation).

*NOTE: Such self claimed "pioneering book", Finally published in Thailand (as Mitchell explained that no western publishers were interested) is only available in English... So strange as such dazzling book (it glows in the dark by itself!) could for sure give Thai people a new illuminating point of view on their own musical culture (+/-100$ for a translation). Well, I'm of course joking here but you can imagine that if that book haven't been translated in Thai (by the Thai publisher) while it's main potential target should obviously be THAI PEOPLE... It probably mean that "CTRL C / TRANSLATE / CTRL V" is in NO WAY a "pioneering" point of view but an easy way to fool some people who have a very limited clue on the subject... Such trick would of course not work with Thai people...
The work of james leonard mitchell is generally made out of pre-existing interviews which he "performs" again using the pre-existing documents as "personal knowledge". It's interesting to note that in such interviews mitchell proudly details how he can "trick" some people he pretends not usually talkative  with nosy foreigners...

In "Luk Thung: The Culture and Politics of Thailand's Most Popular Music", Mitchell describes how he obtained some time with Soraphet Pinyo by promising to help him to write and translate some songs in English (to be later performed by a foreign singer), mitchell even add: "Soraphet expected to gain from our relationship"... While mitchell asked Soraphet Pinyo to give lots of time to answer questions he already answered and to provide documents to fill the pages of a "paper" he would get payed for and later a book he would sell! I doubt anyone would feel weird to "give back" as Soraphet never offered himself as "volunteer".

Well, the deal was simple, you spend a few hours translating and you get a few days of Soraphet's* time... Can't complain much!
*Soraphet Pinyo is a famous Esan songwriter (he is behind some major evolution in early hybrid forms of lukthung/molam in the mid 80's) and had some real fame as a luk thung singer (during the late 70's and 80's).
 3 of the most important albums composed by Soraphet Pinyo
(and some links to enjoy those)
If when the songs were translated mitchell decided to use those as part of his book (getting payed for the help given... BRILLIANT), it's interesting to note that he could not find 5mn of his precious time to send a little email to his fellow foreign teachers from Khon Kaen or to post on any foreigners forums (like there are quite  few in Thailand) just to say: "my friend wrote some Esan songs in English, he have a recording studio, I would like to know if anyone would be interested to be part in a fun project during his spare time". It would sure have made Soraphet very happy and would not have cost anything to mitchell... That's just the way I see things... If you knew how nice Esan people can be, maybe you'd think the same.
Maybe I spent too much time with Esan people and got intoxicated by concepts like generosity, sincerity or other things money can't buy...
Soraphet Pinyo tapes: solo and duo with Nongnut Duancheewan

In "Luk Thung: The Culture and Politics of Thailand's Most Popular Music" mitchell spends most of his time giving details of the fact he have no interest about what he talks about and that everything he describes comes from previous publications and not from anything experienced he also shows how he's deeply (not) inside the music scene he describes:

-First of all the tittle mention "Thailand's Most Popular Music". I already described and insisted on the fact I consider molam to be the most impressive popular music scene in the world. In terms of bands size, amount of concerts performed, amount of hours of concerts performed, size of audiences... Only someone who never attended any molam and luk thung concerts could pretend such silly thing!
Khon Kaen molam troupe Prathom Baanteungsin:
Fasai and Poo singing pleng luk thung
Rest in peace my dear Poo.

- Appart for the introduction*, at no moments in his books james leonard mitchell mention ever have attended any kind of concert or cultural event in Thailand. Mitchell lives in Khon Kaen, one of the world's most important province in music history (sure the province with the most people getting a salary form performing in concerts). I attended many concerts of all kinds in Khon Kaen (of couse including luk thung) as well as many cultural events (such cultural events where university teachers or lecturers pretending to be specialists in local culture should attend). I have never ever met james leonard mitchell!
Luk thung superstar Ying Lee sure 
knows how to set a stage on fire!

*In the introduction, mitchell describes a "minor concert" he attended in a temple, the usual ethno-musico tourist superlatives are used to describe small things. It really looks like that 2011 evening was the first (last?) time mitchell attended a concert in his life. As an "expert" mitchell comments the choice of the singer with a childish "we approved of his taste in music".
Funny that he describes the main singer Mangpor Chonticha as "in her late 20's" (the 22 years old singer would have appreciated!) It's the 8th line of the book and unverified information are already popping around!
Mangpor Chonticha is described as "among the most exiting and experienced performers"... "experienced" like 22 years old singer can be and "exiting"... like a first concert without mum and dad! James leonard mitchell (obviously very impressed) describes a concert that happened "on a huge stage" and is "performed by highly professional...". If I never saw Mangpor Chonticha singing (I honestly never even noticed her). I really doubt such free concert happened on such a huge stage... No proofs of what mitchell talks about anyway as there is strictly no photos of such incredible event even if mitchell described himself as "about to take a photo".
The most recent video of  Mangpor in concert that popped on youtube (August 31st 2019) shows that james leonard mitchell can be VERY EASILY IMPRESSED by Thailand's "most exiting and experienced performers"!

-The sulfurous luk thung teenager Lamyai Haithongkham
-Audience at a concert
-Somrak Khamsing, first olympic gold medal in Thai history, a symbol of Esan identity.
(here performing luk thung)
Lots of "culture" and "politics" here but no "mitchell" around!

- None of the badly printed amateur photos of concerts in his book are ever credited to him but to an  English man named Peter Garrity (not even someone Thai, weird to only know 1 guy with a camera in the whole luk thung scene). Any foreigner who would have any interest for luk thung concerts (like a university researcher payed to work on the subject) would, with no doubt, take photos at concerts (and actually attend concerts) as luk thung shows are particularly "visual", even if luk thung remains a very small kind of concerts compared to molam.

- Like peter doolan, mitchell over use "name spreading" in his book, of course leading to nowhere, just to stand as a specialist.
(knowledge is like jam, the less you have, the more you spread!).

A random photo of an unknown support act singer...
It's not that hard to show what luk thung actually looks like on a stage...

- The photos published in the book don't give any ideas of what luk thung is or looks like while it would be worth the effort as luk thung concerts sure don't look like western concerts...
The cover photo is particularly bland (it could be any kind of shows) and the inside photos just show "Asian people with a microphone" or close up photos of dancers. Hard to get any idea of what's going on.
"luk thung" literally translates as: "children of the fields" 
young luk thung school kids, just before a show.

- The additional documents pictured in the book such as album covers or magazine pages belongs to Soraphet Phinyo who is interviewed in the book (I can't remember seeing those credited to Soraphet) and some tape covers are credited to peter doolan (monrak pleng Thai, khun narin electric phin band human zoo) who finally sees his knowledge about... scanning documents recognized! I though people doing researches about music always end up with tons of documents and music albums... Obviously not james leonard mitchell!

- At no moment mitchell mentions any Thai people he knows attending any luk thung concerts even better the chapter that describes the relationshp between fans and luk thung singers focus on (obviously) the only person who actually attend luk thung concert that mitchell knows:
An English man in his 50's (Peter Garrity) who mostly attends seated free luk thung shows (organized by TV channels or during cultural events).
As Peter Garrity* is the only foreigner I know who regularly attends luk thung concerts** and as he don't speak Thai he is obviously not a very good exemple of luk thung fans who could be roughly portrayed as: 20 to 40 years old Thai women, standing during concerts and activelly particippating (dancing, visually cheering...). Obviously mitchell never met such people...

*As far as I know P.Garrity is totally honest and really into luk thung, he often attends concerts with his wife. I think he would himself confirm that he have very little interest for any other kinds of Thai musical performances though.

**I didn't attend luk thung concerts too often as I consider those way to small compared to molam (still I saw many but nothing compared to P.Garrity).
GMM Grammy / Fan TV concert, Bangkok 2014
Khaothip Tidadin welcommed by her fan club
Takantan Cholada reciving flowers and gifts from her fans
Fan club Pai Phongsathorn and their led signs

- In this video promoting his book (the youtube page don't mentions james leonard mitchell but the little profile photo looks obviously like him and every videos promote his "knowledge"), mitchell strangely shows he have no clue about luk thung as the background music is actually a 50's molam recording (it's as related as if you put the rolling stones to describe hip hop). A picture in this clip even show Ratree Sriwilai performing mola while the other photos mostly show people holding microphones or with trophies that nobody watching could have a clue about.

james leonard mitchell "ethnomusicologist"
self promotion video...

The description says:
"In this pioneering book, ethnomusicologist James Mitchell traces the history of luk thung"... Looks like mitchell forget to mention the books and others studies used to write most of his "pioneering" book...
"This book also includes links to many of these songs online so that readers can hear for themselves" TOTALLY USELESS! Unless you like to type lines like "" for hours and go back and forth!
I can tell that his PDF "professional" documents never featured any links (way easier to use on a pdf...) or even Thai alphabets which could both help to understand what mitchell talks about as well as helping readers to access knowledge (he use similar tricks as doolan I mentioned before to stand as the only person having the knowledge! While in fact his clue is limited to translations).  A link to a shop to buy luk thung online would have been helpful too I guess (weird to be a specialist of some music you don't want people to access or listen)...

12 years old Dr James Mitchell school project
(if those 2 videos disappear by accident, I can help, I saved copies)

On this other clip modestly named "Musical Traditions of Thailand-Dr James Mitchell"
The UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR describes Thai music like a 12 years old lazy student would do, offering a condensed version of wikipedia style approximate descriptions. Many major forms of Thai music are simply ignored here.
As usual, only white people are credited for their "work"!
Peter Garrity is thanked for his photos while in fact most of those come from wikipedia (seriously!) or other Thai sources (showing that mitchell never saw by himself any of the things he talks about!). Of course, there are no samples of the music "described" and strictly no links in the description to access such knowledge mitchell pretends to have.

No mention of the superb hybrid luk thung/molam* track used in the clip: "sansanee ni cham" by Nongnut Duangcheewan... Written By Soraphet Pinyo (who also performed his own version).Yes, I actually listen to the music I talk about and I also include a link "so that readers can hear for themselves" as mitchell would say...
Even if the description is short, it contains quite a few wrong information and show that mitchell did not even took the time to check his copy/pasted text (on the same image 2 phonetic versions of the word "molam/morlam" are used).
Esan luk thung young generation during the 
first edition of "LUK THUNG SQUARE" (2018)
(the video links show various aspects of the new generation)
* For those who are interested, such modern form of lam is named lam doen Kalasin prayuk: To be as clear as possible, lam doen is the genre and in that case it's performed in the style of the Kalasin province. The term prayuk "applied" describes here an hybrid form of lam (mixed with luk thung), lam doen Kalasin prayuk has been quite popular during the late 80's at the beginning of the development of hybrid forms of lam but by far not as popular as the version from the dominant molam province: lam doen Khon Kaen prayuk. Such forms are still often performed during concerts and quite popular among molam fans. See? It's not difficult to explain things you know about! It contain examples, a selection of music to listen (a traditional version, the mentioned version, a more popular variant and a version by the songwritter himself). If  mitchell pretends to be the author of a "pioneering book", I affirm and show that he is a tricky liar who have strictly no interest for the music he makes money from!
(the links are for various concerts in Europe and USA)

No need to get any deeper I guess... Just like with the little "quiz" I invited maft sai to answer, james leonard mitchell is welcome if he want to prove me wrong...
An extremely generous
luk thung fan just
before a concert.

-All the photos signed "Saobao Esan" are all taken by myself. Those only show regular events in their most usual forms. Nothing unique or exceptional, nothing tricky. What you see here happen very often.
-All the tapes and other formats cover pictures signed "Saobao Esan" are from my personal collection.
-Everything you read here is part of my personal researches and not some copy/pasted unverified information. If you want to quote anything from my work, you should contact me first. 
-The documents I quote are not information and can't be seen as "work", those are fraudulent propaganda I compare to facts. Such propaganda not only discredit Esan culture but it also fools YOU. The people paying those frauds are either victims or "partners in crime", Their reaction (or absence of reaction) following my publications will show their positions.
All the people mentioned in this serie of documents are welcome to express their point of view here (I can add more document showing they are clueless liars upon request).