at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Angkanang Kunchai


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Apps-Google-Music-Metro-iconSong: Isan Lam Plearn by Angkanang Kunchai from the album Isan Lam Plearn (1975). Visitors can listen to the Featured Song by clicking the play button above.

angkanangkunchaiParadise Bangkok, Soi 48 and EM Records have teamed up to deliver a new series showcasing the extraordinary performances of some of Thailand’s greatest musical legends. The first release is the seminal album Isan Lam Plearn, released in 1975 by Angkanang Kunchai. Born in the province of Ubon Ratchathani in Isan (the northeastern region of Thailand), Angkanang Kunchai was a young female prodigy who emerged on the Molam scene, and became one of the first generations of Molam performers who were able to “sing” popular music. From an early age she was mentored by renowned national Molam artist Chaweewan Dumnern, and in her mid-teens joined the legendary musical troupe the Ubon-Pattana Band as the lead vocalist. In 1972 at the age of 16, she released her debut single “Isan Lam Plearn,” which went on to become an enduring classic, covered most recently by major contemporary pop star Tai Orathai. The song was also a defining moment in the career of Ubon’s legendary producer Surin Paksiri, as it was the first recording in which Isan music — in particular Molam — was fused with Luk Thung from Bangkok to form the new musical genre of Luk Thung Isan. This music invented by record industry genius Paksiri, transformed Molam groups into rock bands and saw them starting to perform with the same kind of intensity as Luk Thung artists. The mix of contemporary singing styles with traditional Molam broke a major taboo and resulted in some truly outlandish music. “Isan Lam Plearn” became a major hit as the theme tune to the film Bua Lam Pu, and before long this new forbidden cool began to infect everyone, with performers turning in their droves to the Luk Thung Isan style. This turned out to be a precursor to the spread of Isan music across the country and the Molam boom that engulfed Thailand in the ’90s — an unprecedented period in Thailand’s musical history in which Luk Thung singers were simply not able to make it in the record business unless they could perform Molam. While typically albums produced in Thailand tended to be collections of singles, this work produced by Paksiri has an unusual degree of conceptual unity, and this is a very significant aspect of the album. It is an undeniable masterpiece that sees the Ubon-Pattana Band, led by Paksiri, delivering a performance that dramatically traverses genre boundaries, in an eerie soundscape populated by the cute and rarefied tones of the young singer. It stands above and apart from the many Luk Thung Isan works that followed. As a bonus track is Kongpetch Kaennakorn’s version of the much-covered “Isan Lam Plearn.” Includes commentary in English and Japanese and an explanation of the lyrics. Newly-remastered.

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