Pranee Thanasri: Chown Tur Ten Rum (Ask You For a Dance)
Kana TNT: Kod Hang Kam (The Circle of Karma)
From Thai Funk: ZudRangMaa Vol. 1 (Zudrangma, 2010)

Sangthong Seesai: Kam Kao (Old Karma)
Soonthorn Sujaridchan / Krongthong Tussanaphan: OudTaLud Bump (Hustle Bump)
From Thai Funk: ZudRangMaa Vol. 2 (Zudrangma, 2010)

Kangwanprai Lukpetch: Chan Yak Kah Mia
Praiwan Lukpetch: Mai Eam Ruk
From Luk Thung! The Roots Of Thai Funk (Zudranama, 2010)

Ethnocentrist as I am, I’m always fascinated by how soul, funk and other American music styles influenced players across Asia. I’m actually working on a mix-CD as we speak, tentatively entitled Pass the Sriracha: Soul, Funk and Psych from the Asian Diaspora and man, had I come upon this trio of Thai funk comps earlier, I’d probably be tempted to hold back until I could study the genre a bit more.

I had written earlier about one of the best known Thai bands to get with the funky funk: the Impossibles. However, their best album was recorded for Phillips – most of the labels that housed the groups on these three comps were likely far less international and instead, representative of local recording industries that sprouted across Asia in the 1960s and ’70s.

I can only guess here but my sense is that the amount of American GIs traveling through the SEA region in the 1960s and ’70s helped to introduce a lot of Western pop styles to Thai musicians and what came of that contact can be incredibly surprising and entertaining. “Thai funk” is kind of a misnomer since a lot of the music on here seems as much influenced by garage rock or other pop styles as anything obviously from the R&B/funk world. In picking out a few selections, I wanted to balance between songs clearly nodding to American hits (covers or interpolations) and those that seem to be a more organic mesh between Western pop and Thai aesthetics.

That said though, the two songs I instantly gravitated towards on the first volume are “covers” of sorts. The first, “Chown Tur Tem Rum (Ask You For a Dance)” is obviously a take-off on “Funky Town” while equally cool, albeit also some what strange, is how “Kod Hang Kam (The Circle of Karma)” boosts from Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.”

From Vol. 2, I took an instant liking to “Kam Kao (Old Karma)” which certainly sounds like a bit of the Beatles’ “Daytripper” as run through Memphis on its way out to Thailand. The tinny vocals just add a while other layers of sonic distinction. But on the funky funk tip? It’s all about “OudTaLud Bump (Hurtle Bump)” and its moog-ed out splendor.

Much as I did like the funk and disco-influenced material on the first two discs, it’s the third CD that left the greatest impression on me. Luk Thang! examines Thai music from the more rural areas. It seems they were as influenced by American R&B and rock too but it doesn’t seem as pop-driven. Instead, you find some of the most interesting material on all the albums. “Mai Eam Ruk” totally reminds me of a Colombian cumbia tune; if not for the language and the distinct bell, if you told me this was from El Banco Magdalena, I would have believed you! Meanwhile, “Chan Yak Kah Mia” sounds like a killer, home studio recorded single from some Midwest jazz band (who were also listening to some Mulatu). It’s one of the styles that sounds like nowhere/everywhere at once. Great, great stuff. Seriously, if you can only cop one of these, grab Luk Thang!.

All this and the packaging is incredible. Here’s a before/after photo of what the CDs come in vs. what they look like “unboxed”. Someone clearly put a lot of time and effort into making these special, even including a custom poster with each release! F— your MP3 albums.

BTW: these comps are limited to less than 1500 so if you want one, don’t hesitate to cop!



8 thoughts on “THREE THAI-MES DOPE”

  1. Awesome. As you rightly say, there is a lot of similarity to Mulatu and Ethiopian music on the last couple of tracks. I’ve noticed a similar resemblance between some Ethiopian tunes and Indonesian music. Surely it’s all coincidence rather than influence – I’m not expert on music theory but I get the feeling that both Ethiopia and some parts of SE Asia share particular chords and scales that are not part of Western musical tradition.

  2. This stuff is ill. Definitely feelin these vibes and am thankful for the work put in by Sole Sides and of course the compilers of these. Will be copped.
    Thanks O.

  3. mindblowing. like the first time i heard the ethiopiques series. quick, somebody send jim jarmusch a link to these comps… 😉

  4. That someone who put in the work compiling these is none other than BKK local DJ Maft Sai. There is a ton more Thai funk out there but rather hard to come by, let alone a listenable copy. Sublime Frequencies released a few Thai funk comps as well which are worth copping. For the record, Western music was around long before the GIs came over. Jazz had been quite popular since the 30s. Then rock & roll was introduced in the early 60s, mostly played in a surf rock style dubbed “wong shadow” (wong meaning “band” in Thai, shadow after the group The Shadows). Funk wasn’t far behind. Luk tung (“child of the field”) is essentially Thai country music, songs about farm life, etc. Not sure how influenced it was by American music, but its still quite popular. 95% of the time you get into a taxi in BKK, the driver will have a luk tung radio station on.  

  5. Thanks for sharing some knowledge on this. Much appreciated! I have to say, the luk thong stuff is definitely my favorite, by far. 

    Question: besides Maft, who are good folks to talk to about tracking some of this stuff down? The language barrier presents major challenges even though I’ve seen some local Thai sellers begin to float stuff out on eBay. 

  6. Hey, that Funky Town cover was great.

    It even made me think that the original must have been pretty hot and maybe I just got sick of it in high school?

    Nope, the Thai version is far superior. The best track I’ve heard in awhile.

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