When Southeast Looks East: Thai Pop Music in the 1980’s

by viriya

On August 31st ,2007, I presented the papers “Oh Papa Oh Ma Ma, Don’t Blame Me Please”:The Dubbing of Thai(ness) in Chinese Pop Songs” at int’ seminar on “Discourse on Siam VS Thailand: Deconstruction for Reconstruction” Rangsit University, Bangkok.  My argument in the paper is that Thai scholars, particular in Thai Studies, always take for granted that pop music culture in Thailand was influenced by Western pop music, especially from America and England since the Cold war era in the 50s until now. But the most common people don’t think anything like that. The appearance of the mid of 80s scene was changing when Sino-Thai youth, lower middle class, not well-educated kids picked up their guitars and sang Chinese pop songs dubbed in Thai. They began imitating not only band like the Wynners, Hong Kong hit band in the late of 70s who has hit song “ Sha-la-la” but also music in soundtracks of Hong Kong Movies. And it soon evolved into a style of Thai pop music called “pleng string”. Also we can so called ” the revolution of pop music” in Thailand.  Among the groups that emerged from this period were Rainbow, The Forever, The Free Birds, Fruities, The Brandy, The Krereebun etc. Interestingly, in the first album of the Forever Por Fun(1984), its have cover versions of “Sha-la-la” and “I love you”( Japanese pop song)

This reflected in part of Sino-Thai’s burgeoning culture which constructed his “Thainess” linked to other Asian-Chinese identity. At the same time it reflected the question of “Thainess”, although the state tried to maintain and monopolize it. Under the process of making pop music and its cultural politic of Sino-Thai youth in that time. Since the 80s, there is not “unique Thainess” anymore.

Notes*  I would like to thank  our friends in Inter-Asia Popular Music Studies Group, Anthony Fung and Liew Kai Khiun, for giving me papers about “Chinese pop music & national identity in Hong Kong( and mainland China) and Singapore respectively.  ** Siam is the old name of Thailand before 1939  Please link to Rainbow’s vcd karaoke , ” Rak Chun Nan Pau Thor”

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