06 November 2022

อีกไม่นาน นานแค่ไหน



Two Thai bands, Getsunova and Three Men Down, collaborated on the single อีกไม่นาน นานแค่ไหน (‘how long is ‘soon’?’), released this time last year. The title is a despairing reply to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s lyric “ขอเวลาอีกไม่นาน” (‘give us a little more time’) from his propaganda song Returning Happiness to the Thai Kingdom (คืนความสุขให้ประเทศไทย). Prayut’s song promised that his junta would not outstay its welcome; the bands’ response is: after all these years, how much longer will it be?

Like Paeng Surachet’s กล้ามาก เก่งมาก ขอบใจ (‘very brave, very good, thank you’), อีกไม่นาน นานแค่ไหน uses heartbreak as a political metaphor. Paeng’s song is about splitting up with an unfaithful partner, though it could also be read as a statement of the singer’s feelings about the monarchy. Similarly, อีกไม่นาน นานแค่ไหน describes the agony of waiting for a girlfriend to change her wayward behaviour, just as Thailand waits in vain for Prayut to improve the country:

“เธอขอเวลาปรับปรุงตัวเองข้อเสียทุกอย่าง
แค่ขอเวลาไม่นาน
เธอสัญญา เธอสัญญา จะทำตามอย่างว่ามา
ฉันก็รอ ฉันก็รอ อดทนอย่างไม่ท้อ
ยอมให้โอกาส ปล่อยเธอทำผิดซ้ำๆ
ให้ฉันต้องเจ็บและช้ำจนใจมันเริ่มหมดหวัง
เพราะผ่านมานานแสนนาน”

(‘she asked for time to improve herself
only asked for a short time
she promised she’d do as she said
I waited patiently without giving up
I let her make the same mistakes over and over
it hurts so much and my heart’s lost all hope
because a long time has passed’).

In the อีกไม่นาน นานแค่ไหน music video, three young children present their progressive ideas to improve Thai society, only to be dismissed by their conservative teachers. The three kids look remarkably like younger versions of anti-government protest leaders Panusaya Sithjirawattanakul, Parit Chirawak, and Arnon Nampa: could the video be an origin story for the protest movement? A schoolchild’s progressive policy ideas dismissed by an authoritarian teacher was also the central theme of Duangporn Pakavirojkul’s short film Demockrazy (ประชาทิปตาย).

20 October 2022

“ประเทศเรากำลังจะพัง...”


I Will Survive

Charges against five musicians were filed with Thai police on the same day, 27th September. Sonthiya Sawasdee, a former MP from the pro-military Palang Pracharath Party, accused four singers of violating the Computer Crime Act after videos of their concert were uploaded online. And the royalist King Protection Group filed a lèse-majesté charge against rapper P9D in relation to one of his songs.

Pramote Prathan (known as Oat), Pongkool Suebsung (Pop), Pongsak Rattanaphong (Aof), and Thanakrit Panitchwit (Wan) performed together at the I Will Survive (4 แยกปากหวาน ตอน) concert on 17th September at Royal Paragon Hall in Bangkok. Coincidentally, this was the same venue at which comedian Udom Taephanich held his Deaw 13 (เดี่ยว 13) show, which was also the subject of a recent police complaint.

Sonthiya accused the four singers of publishing inaccurate or misleading information online, which would be a violation of the Computer Crime Act. He cited lyrics such as “ประเทศเรากำลังจะพัง” (‘our country is about to collapse’), “แปดปี ไม่มีความหมาย” (‘eight pointless years’, describing Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s time in office), and “นาฬิกายังไม่คืน” (‘the watches have not been returned’, a reference to deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan’s claim that his luxury watches were merely borrowed from a friend).

On the same day, the King Protection Group filed a police complaint against P9D, alleging that his song Kuay Rai A (ควยไรอะ) violated the lèse-majesté law. The pressure group intentionally avoided naming the track, hoping to prevent the ‘Streisand effect’ whereby censorship paradoxically draws more attention to the forbidden material. This was unnecessary, though, as the rapper—mindful of the severity of lèse-majesté sentences—has since deleted it from all social media and online music sites.

17 October 2022

Ad Carabao


Yuenyong Opakul / Natthapat Suwanprateep

Yuenyong Opakul, better known as Ad Carabao, is facing a defamation charge after insulting the governor of Suphan Buri. Yuenyong, a veteran singer/songwriter and founder member of the iconic ‘songs for life’ band Carabao, is Thailand’s most famous rock star.

While playing a concert at a birthday party in the Song Phi Nong district of Suphan Buri on 12th October, Yuengyong criticised governor Natthapat Suwanprateep, who was in the audience as a guest at the party. Calling the governor “ai sat” (a strong insult), the singer complained that he had been denied permission to perform at the annual Don Chedi Royal Monument fair earlier this year.

The governor has since issued a video statement, saying that Suphan Buri had been subject to coronavirus restrictions at the time of the fair, which prevented large public performances. Yuengyong apologised via a written statement on Carabao’s Facebook page two days ago: “จึงขอกราบขออภัยท่านผู้ว่าฯ... ส่วนเรื่องคดีความผมพร้อมอ้าแขนรับความ” (‘I apologise to the governor... regarding a lawsuit, I am ready to face the charges’). Natthapat yesterday filed a criminal defamation charge against the singer, and police are currently investigating.

20 September 2022

16 ปีแล้วไอ้สัส


Rap Against Dictatorship

Rap Against Dictatorship released their new single 16 ปีแล้วไอ้สัส (‘it’s been 16 years, ai sat’) yesterday, on the sixteenth anniversary of the 2006 coup. The title echoes a lyric from another recent single, Long Live the People—“7-8 ปีแล้วนะไอ้สัตว์” (‘it’s been 7-8 years, ai hia’)—and the จะ4ปีแล้วนะไอ้สัตว์ (‘it’s been 4 years, ai hia’) concert. (Ai sat and ai hia are both strong Thai insults.)

In their most famous music video, My Country Has (ประเทศกูมี), Rap Against Dictatorship recreated an infamous photograph of the 6th October 1976 massacre. For the 16 ปีแล้วไอ้สัส video, they have recreated the moment when Nuamthong Praiwan crashed his taxi into a tank to protest against the coup. The song is dedicated to Nuamthong, as was the documentary Democracy after Death (ประชาธิปไตยหลังความตาย เรื่องเศร้าของลุงนวมทอง), and the video includes extracts from his suicide note, as does the short film Letter from the Silence (จดหมายจากความเงียบ).

The 16 ปีแล้วไอ้สัส music video also features archive footage of some of the major political events of the past sixteen years, including the Ratchaprasong massacre, the announcement of the 2014 coup, and a Harry Potter-themed monarchy-reform protest. Young Ohm’s single Bangkok Legacy (บางกอก เลกาซี่) also includes a reference to the Ratchaprasong massacre: “คงแยกไม่ออก ระหว่างทหารกับฆาตกร” (‘there is no distinction between soldiers and murderers’).

16 ปีแล้วไอ้สัส features guest vocals by Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan, whose single 12345 I Love You has become an anthem of the anti-government protest movement. Footage of the recent protests also appears in two previous Rap Against Dictatorship music videos, Ta Lu Fah (ทะลุฟ้า)—which references Chaiamorn in its lyrics—and Reform (ปฏิรูป).

03 September 2022

Nevermind


Nevermind

A lawsuit against grunge rock band Nirvana was dismissed by a Central District of California judge yesterday. Spencer Elden, who was photographed as a baby for the cover of the classic album Nevermind in 1991, had filed three legal actions against the band, seeking compensation for alleged sexual exploitation. Judge Fernando Olguin ruled that the ten-year statute of limitations had expired, and therefore “it would be futile to afford plaintiff a fourth opportunity to file an amended complaint.”

Although Elden was clearly unable to consent to the use of his image at the time, he has since publicly endorsed the album cover, somewhat negating the accusations in his lawsuit. Nevermind is one of the most acclaimed albums of the 1990s, and its lead single, Smells Like Teen Spirit, is one of the most iconic songs of the decade.

26 August 2022

“He went to an Imam Hatip school, that’s why he’s perverted...”


Lolipop

Gülşen, one of Turkey’s most popular singers, has been arrested after joking about the country’s religious school system. At a concert on 30th April, she teased a member of her band, saying: “İmam hatipte okumuş daha önce kendisi, sapıklığı oradan geliyor” (‘he went to an Imam Hatip school, that’s why he’s perverted’).

A video clip of the on-stage comment, filmed at the JJ Arena in Istanbul, was posted online by an audience-member. The singer has been charged with inciting hatred and division. She was detained in custody yesterday, after bail was denied. Ironically, she also appeared behind prison bars in the music video for her most recent single, Lolipop, released earlier this year.

22 August 2022

ไม่มีคนบนฟ้า


CD

The ไม่มีคนบนฟ้า EP was released on CD by t_047 last year. The title track, which was also released as a single, translates as ‘no one in the sky’, and in Thailand the sky is often used as a metaphor for the monarchy. The lyrics also criticise “people who claim to be deities which I find so lame”. But, perhaps to avoid accusations of lèse-majesté, the band added a disclaimer on their YouTube channel: “ไม่ได้มีเจตนาเพื่อโจมตีบุคคลใดบุคคลหนึ่ง แต่มีความตั้งใจตักเตือนบุคคลหลายกลุ่ม ที่ตั้งตนสูงส่งกว่าสามัญชนคนธรรมดา” (‘it was not intended to attack any individual, but with the intention of admonishing many groups who elevate themselves above ordinary people’).

The ไม่มีคนบนฟ้า music video features footage of riot police deploying water cannon against anti-government protesters. The EP also includes ความฝันยามรุ่งสาง (‘dreaming at dawn’), which was one of several singles released on the 45th anniversary of the 6th October 1976 massacre.

08 June 2022

No Love Deep Web


No Love Deep Web

No Love Deep Web has one of the most provocative covers of any album: an uncensored photograph of an aroused phallus. Specifically, the organ belongs to Zach Hill, the drummer from the band Death Grips, and the record was released in 2013. (The album was rereleased in 2020 with a plain slipcase.) Frontal nudity on record sleeves is very rare, and this is the first and only erection on an album cover.

Perhaps the closest equivalent is the explicit H.R. Giger painting Penis Landscape, which was issued as a poster with the Dead Kennedys’ LP Frankenchrist. After a fourteen-year-old girl bought that album in California, her mother made a police complaint, and the record label was charged with distributing harmful material to minors. (Coincidentally, another music-related obscenity case was also unwittingly instigated by a fourteen-year-old girl: the daughter of a Canadian police officer bought the Dayglo Abortions albums Here Today Guano Tomorrow and Feed Us a Fetus, and her father filed an obscenity charge.)

Home


Home

Canadian band Numenorean caused controversy in 2016 by using a post-mortem photograph of a two-year-old girl as the cover for their debut album Home. (On the CD version, the exploitative cover is inside a slipcase.) Kristen MacDonald was killed by her father in 1970, in a well-documented murder case, and the band explained their use of her image in the album’s liner notes: “Perhaps what we are really searching for is the innocence that we once had as a child. However, since we are incapable of ever getting that back, the only place we can perhaps find this comfort once more is in death.”

The first photograph of a dead body on a record cover was perhaps the Dead Kennedys’ single Holiday in Cambodia, released in 1980. The 12" single appropriated Neal Ulevich’s image of a public lynching after the 6th October 1976 massacre. Another notorious lynching appeared on the cover of the Public Enemy single Hazy Shade of Criminal in 1992: Lawrence Beitler’s 1930 photograph of the hangings of J. Thomas Shipp and Abraham S. Smith in Indiana. (This photo also inspired the writing of Strange Fruit, one of the most powerful protest songs in popular music history.)

There have also been two examples of severed heads on album covers. Pungent Stench’s 1991 album Been Caught Buttering used Joel-Peter Witkin’s photograph Le baiser (‘the kiss’)—a decapitated head sawn in half, appearing to kiss itself—as its cover image. Then, in 1993, Brujeria bought the reproduction rights to a photo of the head of a murder victim from the Mexican tabloid magazine ¡Alarma! (‘warning!’), for the cover of their album Matando Güeros (‘killing whiteys’).

UK goregrind band Carcass used montages of autopsy photographs as the covers for their albums Reek of Putrefaction in 1988 and Symphonies of Sickness a year later. Both albums were seized when police raided Earache Records in 1991, though no charges were filed. The raid was prompted by the earlier seizure of cover art for the Pain Killer album Guts of a Virgin. That image—an autopsy photo of a woman with her intestines exposed, in a tasteless pun on the album title—was destroyed by customs as potentially obscene, and the album was released with a modified cover. (The uncensored photo was used for the Japanese CD release.) Clearly, goregrind record sleeves are as gross as their titles, and Last Days of Humanity’s albums, such as Hymns of Indigestible Suppuration from 2000, are particularly nauseating examples.

05 May 2022

“The world’s smallest...”


Thumby

Earlier this year, TinyCircuits launched the Thumby, the smallest games console in the world, which has a ridiculously tiny ½" black-and-white OLED screen. (The product was crowd-funded, as was the tiny Projecteo slide projector in 2013.) Designed and manufactured in Ohio, the Thumby was inspired by the Nintendo Game Boy (model DMG-01) from 1989, though it’s a fraction of the size. The Game Boy Camera accessory was the world’s smallest digital camera in 1998, and NHJ’s Snap camera was advertised as such in 2004, though later microSD cameras such as JTT’s Chobi range (2011) and MellowCase’s model RX420 (2018) are even smaller. (Chinese copies of the Japanese Chobi cameras have model numbers Y2000 and Y3000; the MellowCase camera is also branded as MHDYT and NIYPS.) The smallest digital pico projector, Orimag’s model P6, was released in 2017.

The smallest digital cassette formats were both developed by Sony: the NT (audio) in 1992, and the MicroMV (video) in 2001. In digital audio, the smallest MP3 players are those produced by Samsung (model YP-T5 from 2004), Apple (the iPod Shuffle from 2005), and MobiBLU (model DAH-1500i from 2005), though they lack in-built speakers. The Russian Edic-mini’s premium Tiny range of digital audio recorders—notably the A31 (2009) and B22 (2012) models—are the smallest in the world. The UK tech company Zini produced a range of Zanco miniature cellphones, including the world’s smallest, the Tiny T1 (2018).

Miniaturisation was a key selling point for consumer technology long before the digital era, and there have also been similar trends in other fields, such as transport, though for very different reasons. There was a mid-century vogue for microcars and ‘bubble cars’, for example: the Messerschmitt KR200, BMW Isetta, and Austin Mini were popular following the 1956 Suez crisis, due to their fuel efficiency. The tiny Peel P50 was the smallest production car ever made, and at more than 100 miles per gallon, Peel claimed that it was almost cheaper than walking.

But technological miniaturisation isn’t primarily driven by economic factors. Instead, smaller gadgets are created because they’re more convenient, and because innovation makes them possible. Cameras, audio player/recorders, and other devices have been shrunk to pocket size thanks to the development of ever more complex transistors and integrated circuits, a trend that Gordon Moore noted in 1965. (‘Moore’s law’ states that processing power doubles every two years.)

Sony Ruvi

The most famous subminiature cameras, and those with the highest optical quality, were produced by Minox in Germany. Their first model, from 1936, had a stainless steel body. After World War II, Minox released the model A, with the same design as the original in a lighter aluminium body. This was followed by the slightly larger model B, with an in-built light meter. At the other end of the quality spectrum, in the UK, Corona’s Midget camera (1935) was given away with breakfast cereal. The world’s smallest camera, the Petal, was released in Japan in 1947. This minuscule camera, made from chrome-plated brass, is barely larger than a coin. The original circular model was followed by the Everax A (engraved with a floral motif) and the octagonal Sakura Petal. In the 1950s, Tougodo’s Hit range became a generic term for all Japanese subminiature cameras (known in Japan as mame kamera or ‘bean cameras’), though the Hit and its imitators were all inferior copies of more advanced cameras produced by Jilona (the 1937 Midget), Akita (the 1939 Mycro), and Toyo (the 1948 Tone).

The world’s smallest movie camera, the Bolsey 8, was released in 1956. With its stainless steel body, this is a beautiful machine, and it’s smaller than any subsequent movie camera or camcorder. Sony’s Ruvi (model CCD-CR1), from 1998, is the smallest camcorder in the world. It used Hi8 videotape, in a reusable cartridge that also contained the tape mechanism. The smallest movie projectors were manufactured by Kern of Switzerland in 1926—the Micro-Ciné and Presenta Pocket Ciné—both of which projected 9.5mm film cartridges using a bulb powered by an external battery pack.

The Sony M-909 microcassette unit (1991) is often said to be the world’s smallest tape player/recorder, though Dictaphone’s picocassette Exec (model 4250) from 1985 was even smaller. Unlike the M-909, the Exec also has a built-in speaker. The picocassette is the smallest cassette ever made, and in 1987 Bandai produced the smallest tape cartridge, played in a Leadworks miniature Wurlitzer jukebox replica (model 1015). Prior to audio cassettes and cartridges, in 1962 the Lincoln Memocord was advertised as the smallest reel-to-reel recorder.

Bolex 8 Petal

When it comes to handheld televisions, two manufacturers dominated the market: Sony and Casio. The Sony Watchman (model FD-210) was launched in 1982, with a black-and-white CRT screen, and Casio introduced the first LCD screen only a year later (model TV-10). In 1992, Casio’s CV-1 model was the smallest TV thus far, though it needed an external battery and an earpiece antenna. Seiko released its TV watch in 1982, a breakthrough in wearable technology with a tiny 1¼" screen, though it required a separate tuner unit and an earpiece antenna. (Model numbers—DXA-001 and DXA-002 in Japan; T001-5000 and T001-5019 elsewhere—varied according to which accessories were included.) Another TV watch, NHJ’s VTV-101 (and its European model, VTV-201) from 2004, also needed an earpiece antenna. The world’s smallest self-contained TV was released in China less than a decade ago, branded as both MyTech (model MT-101) and Leadstar (model LD-777).

The first transistor radio, Regency’s TR-1, was launched in the US in 1954, but Japanese radios quickly dominated the market after the release of Sony’s TR-63 in 1957 (and the model TH-666 from Hitachi in 1959, which was briefly the world’s smallest). The TR-63 sold millions of units, and miniature Japanese transistor radios were hugely popular in the 1960s, a trend initiated by Standard’s Micronic Ruby range in 1962. (Like the Bolsey 8, Ruby radios were packaged in silk-lined boxes to equate them with items of jewellery.) Various companies have staked their claim to ‘the smallest radio in the world’. In 1953, in the immediate pre-transistor era, the Emerson model 747 tube set was accurately advertised as the smallest radio. The same claim was made for two crystal sets—Midway’s Tinytone (1955) and Planatair’s model 76404 (circa 1960)—and Sinclair’s Micromatic transistor unit (1967), though all lacked in-built speakers. (The Micromatic design was copied by the Canadian firm Clairtone in 1968.) The Motz (2010) range of tiny wooden radios and MP3 players made in Korea by Pyramid are smaller than all of these, and they include speakers.

Minox A

The smallest record players were sold as toys. The Poynter toy company released its Mighty Tiny children’s record player in 1967, promoted as the world’s smallest. Then, in 1987, the same company beat its own record, with a miniature plastic replica Victrola gramophone. The Soundwagon, made in Japan by Tamco (based on a 1976 Sony design), was sold as a toy, though the packaging for its 2018 relaunch—Stokyo’s Record Runner, also made in Japan—states that it’s not suitable for children. (It also includes a disclaimer that the product may scratch records—these devices were nicknamed ‘vinyl killers’, with good reason.) The Record Runner was promoted as the world’s smallest record player, though it’s bigger than Poynter’s Victrola. The smallest records in the world were produced almost a century ago, in 1924, for Queen Mary’s doll’s house. These 1⅓" shellac discs were played on a unique 1:12 replica HMV gramophone.

02 March 2022

Homeland


Homeland

Rap Against Dictatorship released their latest music video, Homeland (บ้านเกิดเมืองนอน), yesterday. The song begins with a verse by Liberate P highlighting the generational divide between the nationalist establishment and the progressive youth movement. This is summarised by an algebra metaphor with a double meaning: “a negative X in a formula with a positive Y”.

Hockhacker (making a welcome return to the group, after taking time out to start a family) refers to a “village chief executive”, using ‘village’ as a microcosm. The song is even more confrontational than Rap Against Dictatorship’s previous single, Reform (ปฏิรูป), including insults such as “psychopath”.

There is also a line about the 6th October 1976 massacre, with Thailand described as “this land where they swing chairs on faces”. This is Rap Against Dictatorship’s fourth reference to the massacre, after their videos for Burning Sky (ไฟไหม้ฟ้า), To Whom It May Concern (ถึงผู้มีส่วน เกี่ยวข้อง), and My Country Has (ประเทศกูมี).

28 December 2021

Long Live the People


Long Live the People

Thai band Dezember released their new single, Long Live the People, on Christmas Eve, and the accompanying music video on Christmas Day. The title and one of the lyrics—“จำเอาไว้เราไม่ใช่ฝุ่น” (‘remember, we are not dust’)—both come from a speech by Parit Chirawak at Sanam Luang on 20th September last year. The video ends unambiguously with a falling guillotine blade.

The lyrics also include “ขอเวลาอีกไม่นาน” (‘give us a little more time’), a line from Returning Happiness to the Thai Kingdom (คืนความสุขให้ประเทศไทย), a propaganda song released by the junta. Chulayarnnon Siriphol used the same line as the title of a video installation and exhibition catalogue, and it was sampled by Thunska Pansittivorakul in his documentary Homogeneous, Empty Time (สุญกาล).

Another lyric from Long Live the People, “7-8 ปีแล้วนะไอ้สัตว์” (‘it’s been 7-8 years, ai hia’), is essentially an update of the 2018 concert title จะ4ปีแล้วนะไอ้สัตว์ (‘it’s been 4 years, ai hia’). In both cases, ai hia is a strong insult aimed at the Prayut Chan-o-cha.

21 December 2021

แบบเรียนพยัญชนะไทย ฉบับการเมืองไทยร่วมสมัย



แบบเรียนพยัญชนะไทย ฉบับการเมืองไทยร่วมสมัย (‘Thai consonant textbook: contemporary politics edition’), PrachathipaType’s parody of an alphabet picture book, was launched at the Bangkok Art Book Fair last month. (In an installation at CityCity Gallery, people sat at wooden desks and posed as students reading copies of the book.) The project is a collaboration with Rap Against Dictatorship, who released a song—กอ เอ๋ย กอ กราบ (‘k is for krap [prostration]’)—and animated video based on PrachathipaType’s illustrations. (The song’s lyrics are printed at the back of the book.)

Each of the forty-four Thai consonants is represented by images satirising the government, the monarchy, and the justice system. Specific themes include mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic, state budget allocations, and the Constitutional Court’s dissolution of popular political parties. Thammanat Prompao, surely the most disreputable Thai politician in recent memory, is namechecked for his insistence that the 3kg of heroin he was convicted of smuggling into Australia was actually flour. (Incredibly, the Constitutional Court ruled that he could still serve as a cabinet minister, as his crime was committed outside Thailand.)

05 December 2021

Next Love


Next Love Next Love
Next Love Next Love

The music video for Badmixy’s single Next Love was released this week. In the video, a birthday party (filmed surreptitiously) is being held for a rich man at his poolside, and a succession of women are competing for his affections. The first lady, who has a rather ample figure, is supplanted by one wearing a G-string posing next to a poodle. Another wears a sash proclaiming her ‘Miss Nan’ (from a fictional beauty pageant in that province). All of this may—or may not—have a coded meaning.

The video has been viewed more than half a million times on YouTube already, though satirical content such as this is becoming increasingly risky. Also this week, Warunee Weerasak was charged under the lèse-majesté law and the Computer Crime Act, after posting a Photoshopped image of the Emerald Buddha statue wearing a dress designed by Princess Sirivannavari on Facebook on 24th November. She was arrested on 2nd December, and has been released on bail.

17 November 2021

“I am not a shock artist...”


Brass Against

Florida police are investigating Sophia Urista after she urinated on stage on 11th November during a performance at the Welcome to Rockville festival in Daytona. Urista, lead singer with Brass Against, was performing a cover of Rage Against the Machine’s Wake Up when she told the crowd that she needed to pee. She then invited a volunteer onto the stage, squatted over his face, and urinated over him.

Today, Urista tweeted an apology: “I have always pushed the limits in music and on stage. That night, I pushed the limits too far.” She also insisted that the performance was not only for shock value: “I am not a shock artist. I always want to put the music first.”

12 November 2021

อนาคตคือ


A Na Kod Keu

In the music video for their new single อนาคตคือ (‘the future is...’), Milli and Youngohm play high school sweethearts who are bullied by their classmates and, in a virtual reality simulation, they find themselves surrounded by tear gas and captured by riot police. The video, directed by Putiroj Devakul, also includes split-second images of recent anti-government protests, at which the police have also deployed tear gas.

Thai students have numbers embroidered on their uniforms, though the numbers in the video all have political significance. Milli’s number is 393, the section of the criminal code that forbids public insults. (She was fined ฿2,000 after insulting Prayut Chan-o-cha on Twitter, and the song includes the ironic lyric “I love you two thousand”.) Youngohm’s number, 113, refers to the law against overthrowing the government. (The record label vetoed his original plan to use the number 112, a reference to the lèse-majesté law.) The respective numbers of the two school bullies, 010 and 250, refer to a regnal number and unelected senators (250 of whom were appointed by the junta).

Filmmaker Thunska Pansittivorakul has also used numbers on clothing as a political code. In his music video Remember (วน), a man wears a jumpsuit with the number 1721955, a reference to 17th February 1955, the date when three men were executed for the murder of King Rama VIII. In his new film Danse Macabre (มรณสติ), two men have the numbers 1702 and 1955 on their respective running shorts.

10 November 2021

Simply the Best: The Tina Turner Story


Simply the Best Simply the Best

A lawsuit brought by Tina Turner against a tribute act has now reached the Federal Court of Justice, Germany’s highest criminal court. Turner sued the producers of Simply the Best: The Tina Turner Story (Die Tina Turner Story) last year, arguing that the show’s poster falsely implied that Turner herself was the star of the show.

Turner won her case in the Regional Court of Cologne, prompting the producers to add the words “Starring Dorothea Fletcher” to the poster, to avoid any ambiguity. That judgement was then overturned by the Higher Regional Court, and in his preliminary remarks, Federal Court judge Thomas Koch endorsed the Higher Regional Court’s decision. The final verdict is not due until next year.

09 October 2021

Madame X:
Music from the Theater Xperience


Madame X

Yesterday, Madonna released a concert film and live album, edited from a dozen performances of her Madame X Tour in Portugal. Although the Madame X album was available in a range of formats, the Madame X Tour is the first Madonna tour without a physical release. Instead, the film is streaming on Paramount+ and being broadcast on MTV, and the album is available on the major music streaming platforms.

The album track listing is: God Control, Dark Ballet, Human Nature (followed by an a cappella version of Express Yourself), Vogue, I Don’t Search I Find, American Life, Batuka, Fado Pechincha, Killers Who Are Partying, Crazy, Welcome to My Fado Club (incorporating La Isla Bonita), Extreme Occident, Rescue Me (a pre-recorded spoken interlude), Medellín, Frozen, Come Alive, Future (with a new second verse), Like a Prayer, and I Rise. Two songs from the tour—Sodade and Crave—are not included.

07 October 2021

Sun Rises When Day Breaks


Sun Rises When Day Breaks Kraipit Phanvut

The Thai band View from the Bus Tour released their new single Sun Rises When Day Breaks (ลิ่วล้อ) on 5th October, an appropriate date as it was written in support of the 5 ตุลาฯ ตะวันจะมาเมื่อฟ้าสาง (‘5th Oct.: sun rises when day breaks’) campaign and uses the campaign’s slogan as its English title. The song is one of several commemorating the 45th anniversary of the 6th October 1976 massacre.

The music video for Sun Rises When Day Breaks begins with a recreation of an iconic news photograph from the massacre - not the ubiquitous image of a man hitting a corpse with a chair, but instead a photo by Kraipit Phanvut showing a police colonel (Salang Bunnag) aiming his pistol while nonchalantly smoking a cigarette. Director Anocha Suwichakornpong restaged the same photo at the start of her film By the Time It Gets Dark (ดาวคะนอง), and it has also been reappropriated by artists such as Headache Stencil.

22 September 2021

Luk Thung:
The Culture and Politics of Thailand’s Most Popular Music


Luk Thung

Luk Thung: The Culture and Politics of Thailand’s Most Popular Music, by James Leonard Mitchell (published in 2015), is the first English-language study of luk thung, a genre that’s usually characterised as Thai country music. Luk thung takes its name from a 1964 television show, and this period was the genre’s golden age, mostly due to the popularity of Suraphon Sombatcharoen—“the King of Thai Country Song”, whose most famous single was สิบหกปีแห่งความหลัง (‘sixteen years past’)—and the success of the blockbuster musical film Monrak Luk Thung (มนต์รักลูกทุ่ง).

Mitchell’s revisionist history covers the genre’s origins in Isaan during the Phibun and Sarit era, when “censorship combined with better economic conditions encouraged songwriters... to abandon social commentary and move into writing commercial and sometimes nationalistic luk thung.” These included a series of stridently nationalistic songs such as เขาพระวิหารต้องเป็นของไทย (‘Preah Vihear Temple must be Thai’), protesting the 1962 judgement that the Preah Vihear Temple was part of Cambodian soil.

The book concludes with an account of the politicisation of luk thung by the red-shirts and yellow-shirts, and provides a detailed analysis of the pro and anti-Thaksin songs played at their respective protest rallies. This final chapter (expanded from Mitchell’s excellent journal paper Red and Yellow Songs) is both a fascinating study of popular culture as propaganda, and a groundbreaking recognition of luk thung’s political dimension. It also situates luk thung within the tradition of Thai ‘songs for life’ following the 14th October 1973 uprising (a tradition that continues today with protest songs in support of the anti-government movement).