I spent some six months in Thailand thirty years ago, and Carabao‘s Made In Thailand could be heard in every town on and off the beaten track that I travelled through or stayed in. About all I could say was “chăn pôot tai mâi bpen” which I am lead to believe means, “sorry, I can’t speak Thai”…
A few days ago during my regular wanderings around the interweb, I came across this blog which had this album.
I still can’t read Thai, so I’m indebted for the limited ‘blurb’: The pong lang (Thai: โปงลาง) is a log xylophone from the Isan region of northeast Thailand .. which .. has 12 wooden bars that, with a strong rope, are tied together in a row at each end. The instrument can be played solo or in an ensemble. The pong lang is used for all kinds of occasions, especially for festivals and ceremonies.
Gamelan aficionados will be reminded of the gambang (wooden ‘xylophone’) and should be similarly entranced by the music. In fact I often have it on a lengthy loop.
It is that connection which lead me to dig into my archives to bring you some interesting sounds from around the region. There are some surprising similarities … and differences.
The sources can be found in the ‘properties’ of each track – probably. The last track is from a folder I was sent with seven tracks labelled Kalimantan 1-7. I’m given to understand that someone called Alexander Haryanto is responsible. It’s very primeval music: drones + minimalist scales with occasional suling (bamboo flute) and what I suspect is the Borneo ‘guitar’ called a sape. Add in voices calling across the forest space and it’s all strangely hypnotic, in parts funky, and ethereal in others.
Tracks (at variable bitrates)
01. Carabao – Made in Thailand
02. Ponglaang – Isan Melodies (N.E. Thailand)
03. Nouthong Phimvilayphone – Nam Phat Khay (Laos)*
—- Nouthong Phimvilayphone: bamboo mouth organ (khene)
04. Nguyen Vinh Bao & Trân Van Khê – Luu Thuy Doan / Binh Ban Van / Kim (Vietnam)*
—- Nguyên Vinh Bao: zither (dân tranh)
—- Trân Van Khê: lute (dân ty bâ)
05. Maung Maung & Maung That Win – Aung Mingale Yodéya (Burma)*
—- Maung Maung: flute (palwé)
—- Maung That Win: harp (saung gauk)
06. Orchestre Pinpeat et Chroeurs – Reamker (Cambodia)
07. Musiciens du Village de Dajeuhkolot Près de Bandung – ‘Traditional‘ (Indonesia)
08. Teu Lalag Ogok Sabaggalet etc – Urai Panoga Kagerat (Indonesia)
09. Kalinga – Rice Winnowing Song (Philippines)
10. Haba Haba Group – Sitogol #1 (Sumatra)
11. Waipod Phetsuphan – Ding Ding Dong (Thailand)
12. Alexander Haryanto – Kalimantan 2 (Indonesia)
—- * These tracks need some correcting.
A nod should be offered to music-ethnologists; often French, to record traditional music they ventured deep into remote regions before they became palm oil plantations or open-cast mines. The music was then made available on easily scratched records or cassettes which sold in limited numbers.
It is thanks to bloggers on the interweb that the music is now available for all who are curious and know where to seek. For this compilation I salute in particular Kriteria de Descarga , Henk in Bandung (Mad Rotter), crate digger extraordinaire, and Orang Lucky for his exceptional music archives (which are surprisingly complementary to mine).
Track 10 is dedicated to my wife who has just returned from her hometown, Medan.