SHOUTS AND MOANS
By Andrew Biggs
Two songs threatened to bring down Thai society in just the last seven days. One was about the evils of military rule. The other was about moaning the name of your ex-lover on your wedding night mid-coitus.
Which one do you want to hear about first – the political one or the sexy one? Did I have to even ask!
What if I told you they were remarkably similar in their intent?
We don’t need to spend too much time on the political one, and thank goodness for that. As I write this, it has not been one hundred percent established whether it is a crime to like this song or not.
Even the police had to think about that. Earlier in the week yes, it was shaping up to be a crime, but common sense stepped in and now the probability of being jailed for liking this song has dropped to just 50 percent. One hopes it will drop down to zero by the time you read this over the weekend, but one cannot be sure, so let’s focus on the sexy song in just a few paragraphs.
The saga surrounding the political song, sung by a collective called “Rap Against Dictatorship”, was covered more than adequately by Bangkok Post star columnist Kong Rithdee this time last week, so do go back to last Sunday’s paper and have a read of that article.
The song is called Prathet Ku Mee which means “My Country’s Got That”. It’s a protest song about all that’s wrong in modern day Thailand, starting with the non-arrest of the black panther killers to the inability to make choices in the land of the free.
The music video is powerful, as it draws upon scenes from the October 14, 1973 and October 6, 1976 student uprisings that were brutally oppressed by state forces. It emulates a famous event, where one student was strung up and hanged at Sanam Luang amid a cheering crowd, including children, who then bashed the corpse with broken chairs.
The song references that era and its relationship to what is happening in 2018. It is a familiar scenario here in Thailand which we used to call a broken record back when we listened to songs such as Prathet Ku Mee on vinyl. Now and again a song will pop up that doesn’t curry favor with the ruling government. They are invariably storms in teacups. The more they are attacked, the more popular they become.
Only this time around we are now in the fifth year of military dictatorship, and such musical protests are frowned upon more than usual. The police, one target of the song’s vicious lyrics, made vague assertions a week ago that anybody who liked and shared the video on Facebook might be committing a criminal offence.
Those lyrics were false, they claimed, and spreading false information that may damage national security or cause public panic. That meant the single act of pressing “Like” on the YouTube video could mean a jail sentence of five years or a 100,000 baht fine.
By mid-week the police had softened their approach. National deputy police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, vilified in the song for his handling of the black panther case, said that sharing the song was not illegal.
Pol. Maj. Gen Surachate Hakparn went one step further. As head of the technology crime centre, he said that everybody is entitled to express public opinions.
“Society’s elders must accept that it’s not possible to prohibit or restrict personal opinions, especially among the youth,” he wrote. “Adults should see them as views from another perspective that they should listen to.” Surachate is absolutely correct, and it is refreshing to hear such views from police and the government.
If there was a national music chart in Thailand, Prathet Ku Mee would be at number one with a bullet, so to speak, despite zero airplay. The military regime couldn’t stop it. The cops couldn’t stop it. And in fact, the more they drew attention to it, the more it gained in popularity, resulting in some 25 million views on Youtube. Could anything detract from its popularity?
Well … yes. It came in the form of a luk thung song about sex.
Thailand’s country music scene is a hotbed of innuendo and lewdness. Just last year this column explained the double-entendre in the title of a hit song by a young male singer. His song, with a chorus lamenting “I Can’t Speak English Well,” when sung quickly sounded curiously like “My Penis Is Not Hard.” There were ripples of discontent over the naughtiness of that song, but nothing compared to the avalanche of disgust of the current hit song — most probably because it is sung by a woman who is clearly, er, enjoying her conjugal rights.
It’s not just that number one political song that’s absent from commercial radio airplay. It’s this one, too, sitting firmly at number two.
The song is called Khrang Cheu Ai Nae which roughly means “Call Out My Name In A Moaning Voice Whilst You’re Having Sex With Your New Husband.” Don’t shoot the messenger, dear reader. I’m only reporting the facts.
Like most country music songs, it’s about a poor upcountry boy who loses his girlfriend to a wealthier Chinese-looking guy from the city. We’re supposed to feel sorry for the guy but I don’t. He may have a good heart but he’s clearly a no-hoper, dressing badly and having a face only his mother would love.
This jilted lover’s name is “Ai”, which is a generic term for “big brother” and a vital cog to the story’s punchline.
Ai’s girlfriend leaves him for the light-skinned guy in the Honda Civic. When she gives Ai the bad news, a despondent Ai asks her to call out his name “in a moaning fashion” on her wedding night, as she and her Chinese husband are performing their conjugal duties for the first time. Ai isn’t just a poor farm hand — he sounds a little kinky to boot, suggesting the woman dodged an Isan bullet. She refuses, claiming her new husband would kill her if she did that.
We now reach the climax.
On their wedding night, we see the woman and husband in their new home. In what has to be a contender for the award of Most Ludicrous Scene In A Popular Song 2018, the woman lies down on the bed. Her naked husband moves towards her … but she remains in full bridal gown, make-up intact, not a strand out of place on her three-cans-of-hairsprayed head. She is, after all, a good Thai girl.
As things get underway the woman starts moaning all the different vowel sounds of the Thai alphabet: “Oh oh oh oh! Ee Ee Ee Ee! Ah ah ah ah!” And yes, dear reader, at the very end, with a slightly mischievous look, she lets out what we’ve all been waiting for, including the jilted boyfriend standing in the shadows outside: “Ai Ai Ai Ai!”
GET IT? SHE DID IT! SHE SAID HIS NAME!
Which just goes to prove my theory of similarity. Against all odds, in the face of imminent personal danger, she said the unspeakable. In that respect, those two songs have more in common than we ever thought.