Top of the World Review: Thonghuad Faited – Diew Sor Isan: The North East Thai Violin of Thonghuad Faited
Words by John Clewley
Most compilations of north-eastern Thai music focus on the region’s most popular instrument, the khaen, a free-reed bamboo mouth organ, and sometimes the phin, a three-stringed lute. Both are key elements in ensembles playing molam music. Absent from many of them, however, is the stand-up fiddle known as the sor, which would have remained at the back of the band were it not for the virtuosity of one man: veteran sor master Thonghuad Faited. He is by no means the only sor player around but he is the one who first gained recognition as a soloist.
EM Records of Japan has released an outstanding compilation of Faited’s best work from the golden era of the 1970s, when he made some seminal vinyl 7-inch singles for Theppabutr Satirodchompu’s Theppanom label. Compiled by Maft Sai, Chris Menist and Koki Emura, the 15 tracks on the compilation cover a variety of mainly instrumental styles, from the lyrical opening solo ‘Diew Sor’ to frenetic duels with the khaen (‘Diew Sor – Diew Khaen’) and catchy dance styles like ‘Zeang Klong Kao’. Most of the tracks were recorded with the famous Petch Burapa band, which provides an infectious molam groove throughout; and the singer of the band, Supaap Daoduangden, features on one of the two vocal tracks, ‘Lam Plearn Isan Samakkee’, giving an idea of what a terrific show audiences would have enjoyed back in the golden days. As Chris Menist points out in the liner notes, Faited wouldn’t sound out of place in a bluegrass or Celtic band. His playing is first-class throughout.