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.”

video

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 respective numbers of the two school bullies, 250 and 010, refer to unelected senators (250 of whom were appointed by the junta) and King Rama X.

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 scapegoats 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


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: 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).

10 August 2021

No God, No King, Only Humans


No God, No King, Only Humans No God, No King, Only Humans

The young Thai rapper Elevenfinger has released an album on CD to raise money for those affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The lack of sufficient welfare support or vaccine provision from the government has left many Thais in dire straits, and Elevenfinger will donate the proceeds from No God, No King, Only Humans (ไม่มีพระเจ้า ไม่มีกษัตริย์ มีแค่เพียง มนุษย์ เท่านั้น) to his local community in Khlong Toei.

The album is limited to 100 copies, each signed by the artist. It includes his single เผด็จกวยหัวคาน (‘get rid of the dickhead’), a no-holds-barred condemnation of Prayut Chan-o-cha and others in authority.

รุ้ง


This morning, The Commoner released their new single, รุ้ง (‘rainbow’). The title is Panusaya Sithjirawattanakul’s nickname, and the song is a tribute to her on the first anniversary of her speech calling for reform of the monarchy. (Booklets that reprinted the speech were later seized by police.)

The song’s lyrics highlight the moment when Panusaya broke a longstanding taboo by reciting the protesters’ ten-point manifesto: “คืนที่รุ้งทลายเพดาน” (‘the night when Rainbow shattered the ceiling’). The music video is mostly animated, with drawings of yellow ducks (symbolising the protesters) and riot police. A monstrous spider, with a recognisable face, makes a brief appearance.

The band’s EP สามัญชน (‘commoner’) was released in 2019. Panusaya performed guest vocals on their single Commoner’s Anthem (บทเพลงของสามัญชน) earlier this year. She also appeared in Paeng Surachet’s music video กล้ามาก เก่งมาก ขอบใจ (‘very brave, very good, thank you’).

Today marks the first anniversary of her speech. On Monday, another core protest leader, Arnon Nampa, was charged with lèse-majesté following a speech he gave on 3rd August marking the first anniversary of a rally he organised. Arnon was denied bail, along with several other protest leaders (including Parit Chirawak and Panupong Jadnok) who were also arrested over the past few days.

27 July 2021

Tetra Hysteria Manifesto


Tetra Hysteria Manifesto was released last week on cassette by Chinabot. The album includes a new track by Pisitakun Kuantalaeng, 18.05.2010, which features audio of military gunfire recorded (as its title suggests) on 18th May 2010 and a man desperately calling out for a nurse to attend to the casualties.

Abhisit Vejjajiva authorised the use of live ammunition by the army for its violent suppression of red-shirt protesters. Pisitakun’s 10 Year: Thai Military Crackdown [sic], shown at the Conflicted Visions Again exhibition, included a poster documenting the victims who were shot on 18th May 2010. His album Absolute Coup was released on cassette by Chinabot last year. (Tetra Hysteria Manifesto celebrates Chinabot’s fourth anniversary.)

03 June 2021

“Do you hear the people sing?”

Reform
The Commoner
Ta Lu Fah
Paeng Surachet
In 2018, Rap Against Dictatorship’s single My Country Has (ประเทศกูมี) encapsulated the frustrations of anti-coup protesters. In 2020, when the protests expanded to include calls for reform of the monarchy, the band released Reform (ปฏิรูป), a song whose lyrics address Prayut Chan-o-cha and King Rama X directly. (Lines such as “pawns have a king captured” in the song’s official English translation are even more blunt than the Thai original.)

The video for Reform—blocked by the government on YouTube—was filmed at Siam Square in Bangkok on 16th October 2020, and includes footage of riot police using water cannon to disperse the protesters. The music video for Elevenfinger’s เผด็จกวยหัวคาน (‘get rid of the dickhead’) was also filmed during the protests, and is even more confrontational than Reform. Elevenfinger hurls insults at Prayut and others, and lyrics such as “ละควรรีบๆตาย” (‘hurry up and die’) are as subtle as a brick through a window.

The lyrics of another recent song are addressed directly to Rama X: Paeng Surachet’s กล้ามาก เก่งมาก ขอบใจ (‘very brave, very good, thank you’). Its title is an ironic appropriation of a comment made by the King to one of his supporters during a walkabout on 23rd October 2020, and its lyric video features animated yellow ducks in reference to the inflatable ducks used by protesters to protect themselves from water cannon.

Paeng’s song takes the form of a breakup message to an unfaithful lover, with lines such as “ประนีประนอมได้ไหม ไม่ compromise นะถ้าทำตัวเเบบนี้” (‘Can we compromise? No, I won’t compromise if you behave this way’). ‘Compromise’ is a reference to a comment by the King on another walkabout: on 2nd November 2020, he told a reporter that “Thailand is the land of compromise.” Paeng later released a music video for the song, featuring protest leaders Panusaya Sithjirawattanakul and Parit Chirawak in angel costumes.

Panusaya and Parit also performed guest vocals on a new version of The Commoner’s track Commoner’s Anthem (บทเพลงของสามัญชน), released last month with a music video featuring footage of pro-democracy protests. (Parit was recently hospitalised after going on hunger strike for forty-six days, and was released on bail on 11th May; Panusaya was bailed on 6th May.) The Commoner’s video คนที่คุณก็รู้ว่าใคร (‘you know who’) also features protest footage, and Parit and Panusaya are name-checked in the lyrics of Hockhacker’s song Pirates (โจรสลัด).

Protesters have also reappropriated existing songs. Do You Hear the People Sing? (from the stage musical Les Misérables) was sung at several of last year’s protests in place of the national anthem. Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan performed his hit single 12345 I Love You at a protest near Bangkok’s Democracy Monument on 14th November 2020, leading the crowd in chants of “ai hia Tu” instead of “I love you” during the chorus. (Ai hia is a strong insult, and Tu is Prayut’s nickname.) Chaiamorn was released on bail on 11th May, after burning a portrait of Rama X outside Bangkok’s Klongprem prison on 28th February.

Chaiamorn also performed 12345 I Love You outside Thanyaburi Provincial Court on 14th January, with Phromsorn Weerathamjaree, leading to lèse-majesté charges being filed against both of them. Whereas Chaiamorn usually sang Prayut’s nickname during the chorus, at Thanyaburi they used a nickname for the King instead. Phromsorn was also charged with lèse-majesté for singing three traditional royalist songs at the same event—สดุดีมหาราชา (‘praise the King’), ต้นไม้ของพ่อ (‘father’s tree’), and ในหลวงของแผ่นดิน (‘the king of the land’)—which he performed with altered lyrics.

Ai hia Tu” also appears in the lyrics of Rap Against Dictatorship’s latest single, Ta Lu Fah (ทะลุฟ้า), and another line—“Burn this image”—is also a reference to Chaiamorn. The ‘sky’ in the title is metaphorical, and the lyrics refer indirectly to “someone in the sky. Fuck knows he’s alive.” (This is a reference to a recent rumour that went viral online.) The music video, directed by Teeraphan Ngowjeenanan, includes footage of recent REDEM protests, which also feature in the lyrics (“Gunshots from the police as REDEM marches in line”).

01 June 2021

Cunts

Cunts
Cunts, the Los Angeles punk band who began playing live in 2018, released their self-titled debut album, Cunts, in 2019. The album is available on vinyl and CD. Cunts are by no means the first band to use the c-word in their name: there is also a band called The Cunts, and others include Anal Cunt, Selfish Cunt, Rotten Cunt, Cuntsaw, Märy’s Cünt, Cunt Grinder, Filthy Maggoty Cunt, and Prosthetic Cunt.

20 April 2021

Lets Kill

Thai experimental noise band Gamnad737’s album Lets Kill [sic] includes several tracks with anti-government titles: Kill the Government, Kill the Dicktatorship, and Kill the Section 44. Section 44 is a reference to article 44 of the interim constitution, which granted absolute power to the 2014 military junta. Similarly, P9d’s rap album RAW Jazz Effect includes the track Section 44, which begins with the unambiguous line “Fuck the section 44”.

Lets Kill is available on cassette and CD, and in a unique CD edition splattered with founding member Arkat Vinyapiroath’s blood. (The blood-splattered edition also comes complete with two vials of Arkat’s blood, and it remains unsold almost three years after its release.) Gamnad737’s latest release is the Drilling Technique cassette EP (which includes a grisly photo of a Jeffrey Dahmer victim). Arkat is also the bassist for thrash metal band Killing Fields, whose most recent EP is Death to Dictator.

Death to Dictator

Death to Dictator
Death to Dictator, the latest EP by Thai thrash metal band Killing Fields, was released last year on cassette. The cover illustration, by Slaughterhouse21, depicts the skeleton of the army chief with a bullet hole through his head, and a cobwebbed Democracy Monument. The Monument has appeared on several previous album covers, such as the สามัญชน (‘commoner’) EP by The Commoner, ดอกไม้พฤษภา (‘May flower’) by Zuzu, and the compilation ตุลาธาร ๑๔ คน ๑๔ เพลง ต้องห้าม (‘14th October: 14 artists, 14 forbidden songs’).

The Death to Dictator EP includes a live version of 6th October, a track from the band’s previous album, Gigantrix Extinction. The cassette features the Dolby logo, though this is presumably an error, as Dolby noise reduction is no longer licensed to cassette releases. Bassist Arkat Vinyapiroath is also the founding member of experimental noise band Gamnad737.

23 August 2020

Levitating

Levitating
The Dua Lipa song Levitating has been remixed by The Blessed Madonna (DJ Marea Stamper’s stage name), and features guest vocals by Madonna and Missy Elliot. The remix was released earlier this month as a one-sided 12” single on The Blessed Madonna’s record label, We Still Believe. It also appears on Dua Lipa’s digital remix album Club Future Nostalgia.

Madonna and Missy Elliott previously collaborated on Into the Hollywood Groove, recorded for clothing store Gap. (While Madonna sang excerpts from her singles Hollywood and Into the Groove, Elliott was reduced to rapping about how much she loved her Gap jeans.) They also performed together at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards.

16 August 2020

Radflection

Thesis Exhibition 2020
Radflection
Radflection, a short documentary about Rap Against Dictatorship, was shown yesterday at Lido Connect in Bangkok, as part of Silpakorn University’s Faculty of Information and Communication Technology Thesis Exhibition 2020. The event, titled สุดขอบคุณ (‘thank you’), continues today.

Rap Against Dictatorship’s anthemic single and music video My Country Has (ประเทศกูมี) perfectly encapsulated the frustrations of anti-military protesters. Radflection, directed by Patchamon Khemthong, also includes an interview with Neti Wichiansaen, director of the controversial documentary Democracy After Death (ประชาธิปไตยหลังความตาย).

29 July 2020

Absolute Coup

Absolute Coup
Absolute Coup
Absolute Coup
Future of Cunt
Artist and musician Pisitakun Kuantalaeng’s new album Absolute Coup, released today, features seven tracks, named after seven sectors of society that, according to Pisitakun, created the conditions for Thailand’s many coups. The album is available on a gold-coloured, bullet-shaped USB drive (limited to fifty copies), symbolising the Thai military’s vast wealth and lethal force. It’s also available on cassette (limited to eighty copies).

The album’s first three tracks are also the most controversial: MoMoNarNar!!Chy, ArArMyMy, and ConConStituStitutionalCourt. (Disregard the repeated syllables, and the subjects become clear.) There are laws protecting each of these institutions from criticism in Thailand (namely lèse-majesté, article 44, and contempt of court), so Pisitakun is walking a legal tightrope.

MoMoNarNar!!Chy (and the album itself) begins with the Thai royal anthem played on a traditional phin (a type of lute), in a rare (and perhaps unique) appropriation of the anthem. ArArMyMy features samples of a speech by junta leader Prayut Chan-o-cha, and a roll call of cadets such as Phakhapong Tanyakan who died during military training. The album also comes with seven highly provocative stickers, based on paintings by Pisitakun, representing the subjects of the seven tracks as bug-eyed monsters.

Pisitakun’s work is currently on show at WTF Gallery as part of the group exhibition Conflicted Visions Again. His 10 Year: Thai Military Crackdown [sic] box set (limited to fifty copies, available at WTF) commemorates the tenth anniversary of the military massacre of reds-hirt protesters in 2010. The first issue of his Risographed comic zine Future of Cunt (limited to thirty copies) is available at another Bangkok gallery, Speedy Grandma.

23 June 2020

Shout Out or Shut Up (?)

Shout Out or Shut Up (?)
Shout Out or Shut Up (?), edited by art critic and curator Judha Su, was published by Bangkok CityCity Gallery in 2017. It has the same dimensions as an LP sleeve, and is limited to 300 copies.

The booklet features the first English translation of lyrics by Thai rappers P9d and Liberate P, who Judha describes as “the poets for our generation”. Both artists have released singles criticising the military government, and Liberate P is a member of Rap Against Dictatorship. (The booklet misnames his song Oc(t)ygen as “OCT(Y)GEN”.)

28 October 2019

RAW Jazz Effect

RAW Jazz Effect
Rapper P9d’s album RAW Jazz Effect was released in 2017. Each CD (packaged in a DVD case) is signed by the artist and inscribed with a line from the track Light On. The album’s full title is Ruthless and the Whole Jazz Effect.

Like his fellow Thai bands Rap Against Dictatorship, Dogwhine, and The Commoner, P9d’s lyrics are often political. The track Section 44 begins with the line “Fuck the section 44,” in reference to article 44 of the interim constitution, which granted absolute power to the military junta.

The Thai experimental noise band Gamnad737 also released a song in opposition to article 44, though the track—Kill the Section 44, from their album Lets Kill [sic]—has no lyrics. (Lets Kill is available on cassette and CD, and in a unique CD edition splattered with founding member Arkat Vinyapiroath’s blood.)

25 October 2019

Framed

Revival
A Freedom of Information request by BuzzFeed News has revealed that the Secret Service interviewed Eminem on 16th January 2017. The rapper was questioned about his single Framed, from his album Revival, after a TMZ reporter alerted the Secret Service to the song’s lyrics. (The song is about a man who kills Trump’s eldest daughter: “how the fuck is Ivanka Trump in the trunk of my car?”)

After two days, the investigation was closed and no further action was taken, though Eminem referenced the interview in a later song, The Ringer: “Agent Orange just sent the Secret Service / To meet in person to see if I really think of hurtin’ him”. The case lends credence to another rapper, YG, who previously claimed that his single FDT was censored at the request of the Secret Service due to its violent anti-Trump lyrics.

audio

22 October 2019

Dog of God

Dog of God
Democrazy
Dog of God is the debut EP by Thai band Dogwhine, and is available on CD from the Ageha café in Bangkok. The EP includes a couple of overtly political tracks: Leader is a dig at unelected Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (“Leader must come from election”), and Democrazy comments on the country’s cycle of military violence (“Nowhere to hide, no way to run / Not your first time to see the dictator”).

The animated promo video for Democrazy features the folding chair and hanging corpse from Neal Ulevich’s famous photograph of the 6th October 1976 massacre. (The video’s director is credited only by his nickname, Jung.) The song’s Democrazy pun echoes the name of Bangkok’s Democrazy Theatre Studio and the titles of the short films Democrazy.mov (by Thunsita Yanuprom and Sarun Channiam) and Demockrazy (by Duangporn Pakavirojkul).

Dogwhine are part of a wave of musicians using protest songs to comment on contemporary Thai politics. Rap Against Dictatorship’s anthemic My Country Has (ประเทศกูมี) is the most prominent example, though others include The Commoner’s EP สามัญชน (‘commoner’), P9d’s single Section 44, and the จะ4ปีแล้วนะ (‘four years already’) and BNK44 concerts.