Jaran Manophet – the Enduring Appeal of Thailand’s Celebrated Folk Singer

Jaran Manophet (Thai: จรัล มโนเพ็ชร)
Jaran Manophet (Thai: จรัล มโนเพ็ชร) was pioneer of Luk Thung Kam Mueang and wrote around 300 songs in his lifetime.

TUNE OF THE WEEK: บ้านบนดอย (Baan Bon Doi / House of the Hill)
(จรัล มโนเพ็ชร (Jaran Manophet))

(GOLDEN sound, 1984)

In Chiang Mai, Thailand, there’s a bronze statue of a man with a guitar sitting on a bench. This is Thai folk singer Jaran Manophet (Thai: จรัล มโนเพ็ชร), who was born and lived in the city. The sculpture is somewhat a rarity in a country where most statues commemorate the monarchy or famous historical figures, however Manophet is a national treasure in his own right.

Jaran Manophet (1955–2001) is considered the pioneer of Luk Thung Kam Mueang, Thai country music performed in the Northern Thai (Lanna) dialect. In his lifetime, Manophet composed and recorded around 300 songs, roughly half in the Lanna dialect and half in standard Thai language. He wrote catchy hum-along acoustic guitar tunes about everyday life of the local people of his city and alluded to the economic and political changes of his day.

Take Baan Bon Doi (House of the Hill) (Thai: บ้านบนดอย) for instance, Manophet recounts life in a remote hill village, where amenities are sparse, but the people are cheerful and kind. There are a couple of recorded versions out there, the earliest being from 1979, but this version from 1984 with its upbeat strumming and light-hearted singing is a gem. The recording was released as part of Manophet celebrated ‘Set 3’, ชุดที่ 3 บ้านบนดอย โฟล์คซองคำเมือง, album.

บ้านบนดอย บ่มีแสงสี
บ่มีทีวี บ่มีน้ำประปา
บ่มีโฮงหนัง โฮงนวด คลับบาร์
บ่มีโคล่า แฟนต้า เป๊บซี่


ถ้าสูอยากกินข้าว สูต้องไปไถนา
ถ้าสูอยากกินปลา ก็ต้องไปหาในห้วย


The house on the mountain has no lights.
There is no TV, there is no running water.
There is no movie house, massage hall, club bar.
No Cola, Fanta, Pepsi


If you want to eat rice, you have to go plow the field.
If you want to eat fish, You have to go find it in the creek.

Alongside amplifying the voices of his local community in his music, Jaran Manophet worked hard throughout his life to offer opportunities to students in rural communities and Lanna musicians via teaching and organising performance events.

Mother tongue speakers of Kam Mueang are gradually diminishing as younger generations adopt standard Thai language instead. Some researchers forecast the language will go extinct within 50 years

Today Manophet is a beloved household name, and his music is immortalised as a love letter to local identity in the midst of a changing social and economic landscape.

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