The singing newsman
Kamphu Phuriphuvadol's passion for music has turned into a bonus for schools and temples
How Kamphu Phuriphuvadol finds the time to do all the things he does is mind-boggling, so it's even more impressive that he has now achieved one of his dreams - his debut song album.
News anchor Kamphu Phuriphuvadol performs a duet with radio co-host Ratchanee Sriburin at a recording studio in Nonthaburi. They formed a duo to attract public attention and raise money for charity. TAWATCHAI KEMGUMNERD
That it has led to an even busier schedule along with other new projects in the works makes it difficult to understand what drives the well-known television host and anchorman.
Kamphu, 42, is a regular co-host of the popular Khao Khon Khon Khao evening news programme and of Jab Ngern Chon Thong which deals with economic issues on Channel 9.
Soon he will host a new programme Khamphee Setthi (Millionaires' Bible) which will promote career opportunities and provide tips on how to succeed in business.
With colleague Ratchanee Sriburin he also co-hosts a radio show featuring luk thung songs as well as news commentaries on Luk Thung Maha Nakorn FM 95.
Kamphu and Ratchanee perform in a recent mini concert in Roi Et. They were helping to raise funds for the construction of a computer centre and a public library in the province.
But he still finds time to enjoy a musical diversion from his work routine.
"I intend to continue to work as a newsman, but being a singer is what I love doing. With singing, I can make others happy and also contribute to society," Kamphu says.
This diversion is not all that unexpected as he has had a burning passion for music since he was a child.
"My father was a mor lam artist and I absorbed his artistry. I have been singing luk thung songs since I was a child. I regularly went to see my father's performances."
Mor lam is the traditional folk music of the Northeast and in Laos. It features singing accompanied primarily by a mouth instrument called a kaen.
Kamphu formed a duo with his radio co-host Ratchanee and two albums featuring mor lam and luk thung songs have been released so far.
Their albums have been so well received that some of the songs have stayed in the top-five chart of Luk Thung Maha Nakorn FM 95 for months.
It has also produced a surprising twist that has delighted Kamphu and Ratchanee.
The duo entertain crowds at a concert in the Northeast. Over the past two years, the Kamphu- Ratchanee fan club caravan has travelled to many areas to entertain people and raise money.
One day, a principal of a school in Loei's Wang Saphung district, where Mr Kamphu once studied, telephoned to ask him to help raise funds to build a library and a computer centre and to develop the school.
As a popular television host with a big of following, Kamphu became a big help in building the facilities and seeking donations.
As he bent to the task, he sought donations from many agencies and banks to support the charitable project.
After collecting the donations, he and members of his fan club travelled to the school to hand over the money. While spending a night at the school, they performed a number of activities including singing to entertain students and local people.
Afterwards, many agreed that he should have his own songs to entertain people wherever he holds similar charities.
From that point on, letters requesting help poured in from schools or temples around the country, resulting in many projects to build school libraries, public libraries, computer centres and to repair temple buildings.
To handle it all, Kamphu set up a team to screen the requests. The team goes out to check on the requests and gathers information before the goodwill caravan heads off.
One of the main things he does when he reaches the schools is to ask the directors to hold activities to raise money and set aside part of the funds as scholarships for needy students.
Kamphu holds up the fruits of his and Ratchanee’s labours: their first duet albums featuring mor lam and luk thung songs. TAWATCHAI KEMGUMNERD
Over the past two years, the Kamphu-Ratchanee fan club caravan has travelled to quite a few areas where they have entertained people with songs.
Kamphu receives help from a composer who has agreed to write the duo's songs for his albums.
"The composer had to spend some time listening to the radio show co-hosted by myself and Ratchanee to pinpoint our unique characters and selling points," Kamphu said.
On their off days or on public holidays, Kamphu and Ratchanee head off with the caravan to take part in charitable activities in rural provinces.
But in Bangkok, they spend time after work staging mini concerts at various functions while their CDs are available at convenience stores for 99 baht. All the proceeds go to charity.
Born into a poor farming family of five kids in Phu Kradung district of Loei, the young Kamphu received little education as his father wanted him to help work on the farm.
Kamphu in a likeh costume and Ratchanee sign autographs after their concert.
"My father kept telling me to quit school and slug it out as a farmer. But I was strong-willed and wouldn't give in," he said.
He never gave up his desire to learn and always pushed himself to the limit to further his education.
He decided to move to Ang Thong where he was ordained as a novice at a temple so he could receive free education.
He managed to put himself through university and obtained a bachelor's degree. He also studied Buddhist teachings in Pali and graduated with a certificate in Pali studies at the advanced seventh level.
He began his news career as a proofreader at Wattachak newspaper before he was given assignments to cover economic news. He was also encouraged by the newspaper editor to make use of his dhamma knowledge by writing a column on easy dhamma teachings.
Kamphu said his singing caravan tour gives him a chance to interact with his fans who come to share their views or make known their complaints on various issues, apart from taking photos with him and asking for his autograph.
The tours also give him a snapshot of life in the rural areas and what is going on in society.
Kamphu checks with studio technicians after his duet with Ratchanee. TAWATCHAI KEMGUMNERD
Kamphu and Ratchanee say their fan base initially comprised factory workers, taxi drivers, farmers and the grass roots.
Now, the duo's singing also appeals to office workers, teenagers, teachers, academics and owners of private companies.
"We have to take care of our appearance and costumes after such a good response. We are not full-time artists, but we still have to look presentable," he said.
Kamphu says singing luk thung songs helps him to unwind after a hard day's work. It also provides for an entertaining diversion that gives him the chance to engage in charity work.
He said some staff at Mcot Plc, the operator of Modernine TV, are still completely unaware that he is a recording artist.
However, he has the support of executives of the organisation as it helps to promote Mcot's corporate image.