Thanks to Maft Sai and Chris Mentis of ZudRangMa Records, roots music has been back in vogue for quite a few years now. With their combined adamant effort in sourcing long lost Thai grassroots music, from early molam to arcane luk thung, we are able to enjoy what was thought-to-be-lost music on the label’s numerous compilations sold worldwide.
National Artist Kwanjit Sriprachan performs at the ‘Paradise Bangkok 5th Anniversary’ party.
Paradise Bangkok, the label’s regular club night, is usually attended by hipsters and adventurous music lovers and offers a cross-genre party of luk thung, molam, cumbia, dangdut, taarab, reggae and world music of all stripe.
For its fifth birthday bash last Friday, Paradise Bangkok staged one of the most memorable showcases of recent years, putting National Artist Kwanjit Sriprajan and molam legend Yenjit Porntawi on the same bill. With room to breathe, and actually enjoy the farmhouse decoration, the night took off without a hitch. Mae Kwanjit first took the stage with her full troupe for a traditional lae battle, in which male and female performers team up to outdo one another in a battle of wit, gender quarrels and wordplay.
It could have gone on for hours, but Mae Kwanjit and her troupe allowed us a delightful 15-minute taste of how to do it right.
Probably sussing out the crowd beforehand, Mae Kwanjit and her performers started out infusing English vocabulary to involve the somewhat international crowd. It worked like a charm. They played off their lack of English proficiency, by substituting self-deprecating humour and treading lightly on stereotypes of both foreigners and Thais. As per tradition, the lae prose was full of sexual innuendo and not-so-subtle naughtiness — spicy repartee which got the crowd going.
Mae Kwanjit also showed diversity and a willingness to move with this fast-paced world by featuring third genders in her act. Her troupe members were also not restricted by the usual traditional movements. Elegant, slightly frail, in control, Mae Kwanjit was definitely a joy to behold.
Once the improvised session was over, Mae Kwanjit moved onto her luk thung bit, combining the genre with the rap-like lae, a musical signature which has elevated her to revered status since the late 60s. Mae Kwanjit and her troupe played with The Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band, another creation of Maft Sai and Mentis.
The band features contemporary musicians such as Piyanart Jotikasthira from Apartment Khunpa, as well as kaen woodwind and guitar-like pin masters. The band, which has toured Asia and Europe with its brand of fusion molam, offered a refreshing difference by mixing the old with the new.
The Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band also assisted another legend, Yenjit Porntawi. Some might be familiar with her hits such as Kid Thueng Thung Lui Lai and Lum Plern Phu Yai Lee. Although Yenjit hasn’t really performed regularly for many years, she’s still got it. Her vocal prowess was as strong as ever and her rhythm was right on point. Nearing her 60s, Yenjit has kept in good shape, keeping the entire hall moving with her spunky delivery and raw artistry.
The “Paradise Bangkok 5th Anniversary” was a night to jot down in our memories. We can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next.
Molam artist Yenjit Porntawi.
About the author
- Writer: Onsiri Pravattiyagul
Position: Entertainment Editor