I always believe you can tell a lot about a country, it’s culture and people by listening to its music. Just like Art, Food and fashion you can understand more about a culture when you read the lyrics of its popular songs.
Actually for me this was one of the ways I began to learn English and it helped me understand about Western culture when I would listen to the songs and try to understand and learn the lyrics to them.
Thailand has many styles of music but just like every other country we always sing about love in some way. But the other day I got to thinking about our music and it struck me that although we may sing about the same things our interpretations of them can be very different, so I would like to share with you a very Thai interpretation of some popular ideas about love which might give you a different insight into Thai culture that you may not have realized before.
Waiting for love
This is a very popular theme for Thai music, in fact I think it might be the most popular. It is the idea of waiting for a love even when you have not yet found the person you are waiting for. You know that person could be out there somewhere and you dream of the day you will be together and how it will be a perfect love. This theme often goes on to include then finding that love and how wonderful it is, a good example of this is the beautiful song by Rose Sirinitip called ‘More than love’ (Maak Gwaa Rak). This is a really romantic song and is very popular in Thailand.
I love you but you but you love someone else
This song theme is about a 3 person love triangle which I know is one of the most classic themes for songs all over the world. This theme in Thailand is very often expressed in the style of ‘you love someone but they love someone else’ which makes love complicated because of the issue of whether it is wrong to love someone in this way.
An example of this theme in Thai music is
Poor Boy heads to the City and meets a girl from Hometown.
This theme is so often sung by Thai males because it is about the idea of a young man who must leave his hometown to find work and meets and falls in love with a girl from his hometown or at least from the country like him. This also connects with the theme of waiting for love very often sung by Thai females and you can begin to see how these two themes play out in Thai culture. It is very much about how people from the country understand each other and the struggles in life they are prepared to face together.
A good example of this idea is a song called ‘Num Bao Sao Parn’ by Carabao and Parn.
Our music reflects Thai culture
When I listen to styles of music from around the world I see that Thai music is in fact very soft and quite deep about matters of the heart. We don’t sing about the physical side of relationships because it is not really acceptable and can actually be banned because Thai culture is essentially a Buddhist culture. We are careful about the lyrics to our songs for this reason and so in comparison to Western music this is why our music songs are softer in nature. I think this does reflect our culture quite well in both men and women of Thailand.
So if you like to learn more about Thai culture just listen to some of our Thai music and you will find out more about our culture than you might realize.