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).

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