|Luk Thung Music|
|Stylistic origins||Phleng Thai Sakon|
|Cultural origins||1930s, Thailand|
|Typical instruments||Thai Traditional Instruments, Brass Instruments, Electronic Musical Instruments|
|Derivative forms||Phleng Phuea Chiwit|
|Electronic Luk Thung|
|Thai Traditional Music, String Music, Mor Lam|
Luk Thung, or Phleng Luk Thung (Thai: ลูกทุ่ง or เพลงลูกทุ่ง [pʰle:ŋ luk tʰuŋ], “Child of the Field song”), often known as Thai country music, is an acculturated song genre that emerged after World War II in the central region of Thailand. The genre was derived from Phleng Thai Sakon, and developed in the early 20th century. Suphan Buri in particular became the center of Luk Thung music, producing many major artists, including Suraphol Sombatcharoen, and Pumpuang Duangjan. Later, the genre was prominently popularized in the northeastern region.
Luk Thung songs consist of poetic form of lyrics that typically reflect the rural lifestyle, cultural traits and social patterns in Thailand, accompanied by singers’ distinctive country accent and common use of vibrato, harmonized with influential western instruments, mostly brass instruments and electronic instruments, along with Thai traditional instruments. Lyrically, records have dealt with a wide range of themes in addition to Thai rural life: including hardships of rural poverty, romantic love story, beauty of rural scenery, religious beliefs, traditional culture and political crisis.
The first recording of what was considered Luk Thung was, “Mae Saao Chaao Rai (“Lady Farmer”)”, written by Hem Vejakorn for Suraphol Sombatcharoen in 1938, a released soundtrack for the radio drama, “Saao Chaao Rai (“Lady Farmer”)”.
Luk Thung trace its roots from Phleng Thai Sakon, which adopted western instrumental traits like the Orchestra and electronic instruments since King Rama IV. Phleng Thai Sakon continuously evolved throughout the time of King Rama V, and were showcased in numerous films and stage performances. Atiphob Pataradetpisan’s, “Waltz Pleumchit ("Delighted Mind Waltz")” in 1903 was recorded to be the first Thai Sakon song.
During Plaek Phibunsongkhram’s government (1938-1944), Phleng Thai Sakon became a form of propaganda for the government to broadcast their political ideology of modernization in Thailand. In 1939, Eua Sunthornsanan formed the first Thai Sakon band, called Suntharaporn. Eua Sunthornsanan also served the Prime Minister, Plaek Phibunsongkhram, as the Head of Thailand’s main orchestra, and the music section for Thailand’s Public Relations Department. He dominated the music industry by composing over 2,000 songs, leading him to become one of the most influential pioneers of Phleng Thai Sakon. Some of his notable records were, “Phleng Wattanatum (“Culture song”)”, “Phleng Faai (“Cotton song”)”, and “Phleng Saang Thai (“Building Thailand song”)”.
After World War II, Thailand experienced economic growth, which shortly led to inflation within the country, including severe shortage of rice supplies. The entertainment and commercial industries recovered sustainably, artists were able to resume to their recording careers. Hence, the aftermath of the war influenced new music trend, mainly associated with lyrics that highlight the social crisis and government pressure after the war, as well as political and economic concerns.
The first generation emerged from 1945 to 1957. The new style of Thai Sakon evolved into two directions of cultural traits: rural Luk Thung, and urban Luk Krung (“Child of the City”). The original form of Luk Thung was called, Phleng Talat (“Market Music”), or also referred to as Phleng Chiwit (“Life Music”). The term Phleng Talat was initially used to refer to Luk Thung songs that were popular in temple markets and festivities, and Phleng Chiwit were used to refer to songs that lyrically reflect people’s way of life and social concerns. The early Phleng Chiwit artists include Saeng Napha Boonra-Sri, Saneh Komanchun, and Suraphol Sombatcharoen.
The term Luk Thung gained popularity in 1964. According to Prakob Chaipipat, Manager of Thai Television Channel 4, “on 11th May, 1964, Jumnong Rangsikul established a TV show, called “Phleng Chao Baan (“Folk song”)” and showcased three Phleng Talat artists: Porm Pirom, Pongsri Woranuch, and Toon Tongjai. Shortly, the show was removed by Ajin Panjapan due to the negative receptions. In December 1964, Jumnong Rangsikul revived the show, and renamed it to “Phleng Luk Thung (“Child of the Field Music”)”. After six months of broadcast, despite the negative responses, the show resulted prominent acceptance from the society. Moreover, it initiated a trend of Luk Thung TV shows. “Luk Thung Krung Thai (“Thai Capital Luk Thung”)” was later established by the TV Channel 4”. Luk Thung music gained massive national television exposure leading to a rapid increase in numbers of new artists and songs.
Golden Age of Luk Thung
Suraphol Sombatcharoen played a major role in launching Luk Thung's earliest records in the late 1950s to 1960s, leading Luk Thung to reach its peak of popularity, and earned him the title, “King of Luk Thung”. He composed over 100-songs, includes his first hit, “Nam Da Sow Vienne (“Tears of a Laos Girl”)” and many well-known records, such as “Sieow Sai (“Stomachache Nervous”)”, “Kong Bplom (“Fake Stuff”)” and "Sao Suan Taeng ("The Girl of the Cucumber Farm")”.
In February 1966, Somyot Thassanaphan became the first Luk Thung artist to win the Thai Royal Golden Disk Award, with “Chor Tip Ruang Tong (“Divine Bouquet of Gold”)” composed by Payong Mookda.
Age of Musical Film
In 1970, the release of “Monrak Luk Thung (“Luk Thung Love Spell”)”, directed by Rangsi Thatnopyak and starring Mitr Chaibancha and Petchara Chaowarat, popularized Luk Thung throughout Thailand. Nevertheless, it led to a rapid increase of musical films to showcase Luk Thung music, hence, a seized opportunity for many new artists later in the period. Some of the notable films include, “Mae Sri Phai (“Mother Sri Phai”)” and “Thung Setti (“Country Millionaire”)”, and followed by “Tone”, starring the rising artist of the period, Sangthong Sisai. Sangthong’s records incorporate energetic tempo and rhythm, demonstrated in his famous hit, “Lung Sang Thong (Uncle Sang Thong)”.
During Thanom Kittikachorn’s government, most records emphasize resistance towards the corrupt government. One of the famous hits, “Yom Mabarn Jao Ka (“King of Hell”)”, gained Buppha Saichol attention due to the depiction of the opposing views towards the government, leading her to become one of the most successful artists of the period.
Age of Haang Kreuang and Concert
Haang Kreuang became an essential component in Luk Thung concerts in the late generations. The term Haang Kreuang is used to refer to groups of backup dancers, dressed in western-influenced fancy costumes. Pumpuang Duangjan was the most successful Luk Thung female artist of the period, she pioneered a new style by incorporating String Music into Luk Thung music, called Electronic Luk Thung. Her first record was, “Phleng Kaew Raw Pi (“Kaew Wait for me song”)”, followed by many other hits, earning her the title, “Queen of Luk Thung”.
Luk Thung Artists
- Pongsri Woranuch
- Suraphol Sombatcharoen
- Pumpuang Duangjan
- Tai Orathai
- Jintara Poonlarp
- Jonas Anderson
- Christy Gibson
- Sattar, M. "Mor Lam and Luk Thung: A guide to Bangkok's Thai folk music scene" (6 January 2012). CNN Travel. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
- Krobthong, S. (October 2004). วิวัฒนาการเพลงลูกทุ่งในสังคมไทย [The Evolution of Luk Thung Music in Thai Society]. Bangkok, Thailand: Panthakit Publishing Co.,Ltd. ISBN 974-92139-7-1.
- Damronglert, J. (1990). วรรณกรรมเพลงลูกทุ่ง [Literature of Luk Thung Music]. Thammsat Printing House, Bangkok, Thailand: Thai Khadi Research Institute. ISBN 974-572-447-5.