2009/08/12

Molam...

take a break from filling out your TPS report and enjoy a piece or 2 of sweet Molam:

(better to view full screen or go to the youtube page as this blog cuts off 20 pixels from the right - i tried adjusting but it doesn't work)a friend (hi Danielle!) just pointed out that this is actually from Laos, and not Thailand as i previously thought. but i think the style can also be found along the border and in other parts of Thailand.

my Thai friend says this is the music people from the country side prefer, while the big city folk are all listening to Rihanna and Kanye.

i was thinking about why a style like Molam from Southeast Asia is unheard of in the west, while it is as funky and enchanting as anything, for instance Cumbia, the third-world darling of the hipster world at the moment. these sounds feel more strange to western ears, but why? for sure the reasons lie in history, trade, access, interaction between cultures, and a slew of economic and political factors.

for instance why has Reggae become by far the most internationally popular music from the Caribbean? and not the incredible grooves from the Dominican Republic, wicked VouDou sounds from Haiti, or of course, the amazingly rich musical traditions in Cuba? El Congo, my Cuban trumpet man, explained that this is due to trade agreements between Jamaica and US from early and mid 20th century, Cuban politics which isolated it from the world, and large scale migration of Jamaicans to the UK, etc., etc. in other words, arbitrary reasons little to do with the artistic merit of the music.

the above are more traditional examples, in Thailand there is an urban Molam sound system culture -- in poorer parts of town they would just set up a stage and speaker bins anywhere, and people come and dance all night:and this, my friends, is what the information age is all about: was ecstatic to encounter braingoreng, a treasure trove of South East Asian cassettes and vinyl. i'm still in the stage of frantically downloading, and have not yet reviewed the material, but there has to be some quality Molam hidden in the depths of this blog, along with all kinds of Gamelan, Muay Thai (Thai boxing) soundtracks, Afro-Arabic-South Asian hybrid pop (!!!), and who knows what else. the author writes of one recording: "... unfold like stratified mandalas" -- words that can likely describe the blog itself.

6 comments:

Giles said...

I've always liked the contemporary molam music (as in the bottom Youtube clip).

I find Thai pop (the city stuff) is very bland, but the molam has a lot more soul. I find that the molam instrumentals can become quite trance like at times.

It's always great racing through the Bangkok streets in a non air-conditioned bus when the driver is playing some molam.

chris_c said...

thanks for the steer to brain goreng - there is some exceptional gear there. am new to molam so this is a revelation. all the best.

Anonymous said...

Hi Leo, I love your blog. I read it all the time. Thank you for the amazing stuff that you put on it.
A little note for you: my Thai friend told me those videos were recorded in Laos not in Thailand.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I forgot to tell you who I was in my last comment on the Molam music possibly being Laotian not Thai. Danielle! Yes, it's me:)

Mondo Electrico said...

Yes, Molam is absolutely fascinating. Perhaps, the first western artist to fuse molam with electronica (in this case - dub) was Jah Wobble - chk out Molam Dub (think it on the Real World label).

Molam also reminds me of Ethiopian Jazz and some lo-fi East European gypsy ballads, and has the soul of Cape Verdian "morna".

Also, you might want to chk out LA-based act Dengue Fever, fronted by a lush Cambodian diva, whose vocal style bears similarities to Molam singers (though the Khmers wouldn't call it molam - regional rivalries prevail).

I am visiting Laos in Dec-Jan - so any suggestions for artists, venues, and music shops would be much appreciated.

Cheers --- Pradip
(www.myspace.com/lordlingham)

Mondo Electrico said...

Yes, Molam is absolutely fascinating. Perhaps, the first western artist to fuse molam with electronica (in this case - dub) was Jah Wobble - chk out Molam Dub (think it on the Real World label).

Molam also reminds me of Ethiopian Jazz and some lo-fi East European gypsy ballads, and has the soul of Cape Verdian "morna".

Also, you might want to chk out LA-based act Dengue Fever, fronted by a lush Cambodian diva, whose vocal style bears similarities to Molam singers (though the Khmers wouldn't call it molam - regional rivalries prevail).

I am visiting Laos in Dec-Jan - so any suggestions for artists, venues, and music shops would be much appreciated.

Cheers --- Pradip
(www.myspace.com/lordlingham)