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Ben Fairfield, UHM alumnus, Translates ‘Forbidden Songs of the Pgaz K’Nyau’


Ben Fairfield

Congratulations to UHM alumnus Benjamin Fairfield (Peace Corps Volunteer Thailand 2007-2009, East West Center degree fellow 2010-2012, summer FLAS awardee 2015, PhD Ethnomusicology 2017) for his translation work of Chi Suwichan Phattanaphraiwan’s Forbidden Songs of the Pgaz K’Nyau.

The second book published by this Karen scholar/performer/activist (currently a lecturer at Bodhivijjalaya College of Srinakharinwirot University, Mae Sod, Thailand) tracks the impact of Protestant Christian conversion and Thai modernization on the oral tradition (“tha”) of the Karen people in northern Thailand in the late 20th century, with special attention devoted to funeral songs. Ben also translated Chi’s first book, I am Tehnaku, which discussed the Karen harp as a musical instrument that links Karen culture to sustainable ecological practices. He credits the close supervision of Ajaan Yuphaphann Hoonchamlong, professor of Thai in the UH Mānoa Dept. of Indo-Pacific Languages and Literatures, through the translation process as key to these accomplishments.

The translation is published  by the Society for Ethnomusicology and is available open-access.