Album Review | Top of the World | Sounds of Siam 2: Molam & Luk Thung from North-East Thailand 1970-1982
Words by John Clewley
The second Thai music compilation by the Thai-UK DJ duo of Maft Sai and Chris Menist, switches the focus from pleng luk thung (Thai country music) to the north-east or Isan region, which is dominated by Laotian culture and by molam, the folk and pop music of the area. Building from a centuries-old folk tradition, molam producers such as Theppabutr Satirodchompu and singers like Angkanang Kunchai took their music to the studios and with the musical support of groups like The Petch Phin Thong Band developed rhythmically funky pop tunes driven by khaen (bamboo mouth organ) and phin (lute) riffs, with brilliant melismatic singing. Kunchai delights on sublime tracks like ‘Kid Hod Cho’, while other molam singers like Chanpen Sirithep and Yenjit Porntawi also feature.
To counter the dominance of central Thai pleng luk thung, Isan musicians also developed luk thung Isan, essentially a luk thung soundtrack with molam style vocals. Luk thung Isan pioneer Saksiam Petchchompu skyrocketed to national fame with monster hits like the exceptional ‘Jeb Jing Jep Jai’. All in all, this compilation is even better than the first one and may well cause outbreaks of Isan-style dancing – all swaying hips and graceful waving arm movements.
Track to Try: ‘Kid Hod Cho’ by Angkanang Kunchai