Friday, February 23, 2007

Bring the noise

All taxi journeys in Bangkok come with a soundtrack, whether you want it or not. The drivers tend to prefer the luuk thung and mor lam sounds of their native Northeast, which to most untutored ears end up sounding like the Dixie Chicks going Bollywood. Occasionally, a switched-on cabbie will notice it's a farang that's hailed him, and select one of the Western pop stations, although that usually entails a high-cholesterol diet of Mariah Carey, Kenny G and Blue.

Every now and then, however, you chance upon something that steps outside the boxes. Just the other day, I was in the quasi-Zen state of mental absence that's the only way to cope with being stuck in the tail-end of the evening rush hour on Rama IV Road, when a new sound startled me back to reality. The most arresting component was that wooop! woooop! siren noise that turns up in 70% of Public Enemy tracks. Every now and then it was edged out by some fantastically fast and complicated and silly Eddie-Van-Halen-style guitar pyrotechnics. And over the top of it was a gravelly voice that created a zone of its own somewhere between singing, rapping, toasting and cackling like the Wicked Witch of the West. It took me a moment to place it, but I'm pretty sure I've now heard the Thai answer to the late, great Judge Dread.

In an ideal world, this would be the sort of phenomenon that points the way to a new musical dialectic, merging East and West, black and white and yellow, rock and rap and reggae. In reality, it sounded bloody horrible.

On the other hand, by the time it finished, the traffic had cleared.


Flirty Something said...

I really got into thai pop when I was there. It had this weird trance like addiction or maybe that was the grass??

Geoff said...

As George Bush said, "I haven't heard any Thai pop, only skinny tie pop. Gee, I love The Knack."

Tim F said...

Flirty: It can be fun, until they start singing. The Thai language is tonal, and it makes for a funny blend with funky beats. I prefer the blind street musicians on Silom Road. They sound like Ornette Coleman jamming with Duane Eddy. Niiice.

Geoff: But his favourite is 'Siam What Siam'.