Born in the province of Ubon Ratchathani in Isan (the northeastern region of Thailand), Angkhanang Khunchai was a young female prodigy who emerged on the molam (*1) scene, and became one of the first generation of molam performers who were able to “sing” popular music (*2). From an early age she was mentored by renowned national molam artist Chawiwan Damnoen, and in her mid-teens joined the legendary musical troupe the Ubon Phatthana Band as the lead vocalist.
In 1971 at the age of 16 she released a single "Isan Lam Phloen", which went on to become an enduring classic, covered most recently by major contemporary pop star Tai Orathai. The song was also a defining moment in the career of Ubon’s legendary producer Surin Phaksiri, as it was the first recording in which Isan music – in particular molam – was fused with luk thung (*3) from Bangkok to form the new musical genre of luk thung Isan. This music invented by music industry genius Phaksiri, transformed molam groups into rock bands and saw them starting to perform with the same kind of intensity as luk thung artists. The mix of contemporary singing styles with traditional molam broke new ground and resulted in some truly surprising and influential music. "Isan Lam Phloen" became a major hit as the theme tune to the film "Bua Lam Pu" (1971), and before long this new forbidden cool began to infect everyone, with performers turning in their droves to the luk thung Isan style. This turned out to be a precursor to the spread of Isan music across the country and the molam boom that engulfed Thailand in the 90s – an unprecedented period in Thailand’s musical history in which luk thung singers were simply not able to make it in the record business unless they could perform molam.
While typically albums produced in Thailand tended to be collections of singles, this work produced by Phaksiri has an unusual degree of conceptual unity, and this is a very significant aspect of the album. It is an undeniable masterpiece that sees the Ubon Phatthana Band, led by Phaksiri, delivering a performance that dramatically traverses genre boundaries, in an eerie sound-scape populated by the cute and rarefied tones of the young singer… It stands above and apart from the many luk thung Isan works that followed. As a bonus track, we have included Kongphet Kaennakhon ’s version of the much-covered "Isan Lam Phloen".
(*1) Molam: “mo” is an artist and “lam” is a kind of performance art where the artist tells a story using tonal inflexions.
(*2) Molam pieces are not actually “songs”, so this distinction is significant. At the time, molam performers were basically forbidden from singing popular music.
(*3) Luk thung: A musical genre whose name means ‘country person’s song’ or ‘children of the field’. The name became established in the latter half of the 1960s and now has the status of a national genre of popular song unique to Thailand. The lyrics of luk thung songs deal mainly with the rural idyll, comparisons between the city and the countryside, life in the big city and current affairs. There are certain typical traits to the music, but no official musical form.