Thai Country Living | Songlines
Monday, March 22, 2021

Thai Country Living

By John Clewley

Watch Dan and Ben Tubby's magical short film about Isan instrument-maker and farmer Suman 'Chang Bour' Tapkham

38 Scaled

Released in 2020, Thai Country Living is a film about the life of khaen maker and farmer Suman 'Chang Bour' Tapkham in Thailand’s north-east region or Isan. The khaen is an ancient free-reed bamboo mouth organ played by ethnic Laotians in Isan and across the Mekong River in Laos. It’s the iconic instrument of traditional molam music, often used to accompany singers.

The film opens with Suman gazing over his rice fields in what appears to be a timeless rural idyll, about which he simply says, “I love this path. It’s complete.” The beautifully photographed film shows how he goes about the complicated process of making a 16-pipe mouth organ and he patiently teaches his son in the hope that he will take over the family business.

Suman’s efforts put him at the heart of village life, as molam and the khaen feature in celebrations, rituals, birthdays and night-time drinking sessions. The warmth, humanity and gentle humour of the community shines through the film – at one evening session, everyone gets a go at playing the khaen and gets ribbed at the same time. And when a khaen master (or mo khaen in Laotian) gets his turn, the hubbub and banter quieten as everyone listens to the magical sound of the bamboo pipes. A delightful slice of Isan life.

For more info visit here. Watch the full film below:

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