Once upon a time, on a small alley next to Wat Machimawat on Mak Khaeng Road, a dozen houses could be seen. The houses were the homes of molam artists and dancers. Once scattered throughout Isaan, they had all moved from their hometowns to this alley in the city of Udon Thani. There they all had dreamt that they would become stars. But today, only a few of the original houses remain, sheltering aging molam artists.
“It’s no small thing. If you know that people died at the hands of the state, if you know they were shot with bullets paid for with our taxes, it’s quite a different matter than being shot by a common robber,” says Dueanwad Phimwana, author and S.E.A. Write Award winner of 2003. [VIDEO]
Muslims in the Northeast of Thailand are experiencing a very different Ramadan as the coronavirus outbreak upended their rituals and forced male followers to become religious leaders for their families.
For the past six weeks we’ve run a special series, “The Soul of Molam.” We brought you features, photo essays, interviews, and videos about the rich culture of molam and the people who live and breathe it. In this final part, we give space to our readers and some of the people we interviewed to take a look at what the series did well and what it missed out on.
What does the future hold for molam music? Five molam artists share their views on the state of the genre. We talked to Nattapon Siangsukon from Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band, Boonchuang Denduang, Dao Bandon, Ratri Sriwilai and Phichai Phorahomphui.
The molam we know today stems from a century-old Lao tradition that is being transformed by its mingling with central Thai forms and international styles. What do we know about that original tradition? Are there khaen-playing practitioners still performing today in Isaan? John Garzoli, an ethnomusicologist looking precisely at these issues, shares his views.
In molam music, the vocals of the molam performer and the sound of the khaen, a free reed mouth organ, are intimately linked. Panupong Thongsri looks at the evolution of molam lyrics and khaen music in Isaan.