Suphanburi Soul

20/05/2019Bangkok’s Zudrangma Records Presents Crucial Compilation Of Rarities By The First Lady Of Lae

All the way from Bangkok comes a fantastic new compilation, featuring a selection of rare and "crucial cuts" by Kwanjit Sripajan, aka "The First Lady of Lae Music". Lae is a vocal genre that is generally performed at initiation ceremonies for monks and focusses on the teachings of Buddha as well as communicating traditional values and "exhorting listeners to a righteous life."

Born to a farming family in 1947 in the Suphanburi region of central Thailand, Kwanjit Sriprajan's road to music was a windy one, seeing as her father opposed her pursuing a career in music. It was actually her younger sister who received training in the plang puen baan tradition. But Kwanjit found ways to observe singing techniques and receive valuable tips along the way.

When she heard of a competition taking place on a Bangkok radio station in 1966, she managed to participate and actually won, providing her with an opportunity to perform and record with a local band, which led to her connecting with key producers from the era (Jiew Pijit and Porn Pirom). 

"Recognising her talent and unique vocal delivery, [Porn Pirom] arranged a series of recordings for [Kwanjit] to perform on. He assembled a band of different players from military and police groups, who created an uneven mix of traditional arrangements coupled with elements of R&B and latin percussion. Such flourishes were not so surprising for luk thung, but less common for lae, which tended to be played on Thai percussion and wind instruments."

These recording sessions were eventually released on an LP ("Sin Haa") as well as four EPs and although "they weren't big hits commercially, they were hugely popular with the religious community" and "spread her notoriety as a performer and artist." Kwanjit continued to perform with different groups and self-release her music, until she became pregnant in 1973 and returned to Suphanburi, where today "she runs a centre from her house for anyone who wishes to come and learn about the music and culture for themselves."

"Suphanburi Soul: Kwanjit Sriprajan - The First Lady Of Lae Music" introduces listeners to eleven tracks from her storied career, compiled by Nattapon Siangsukon, aka Maft Sai, and Chris Menist of Paradise Bangkok.  

You can stream/buy the full release via the Bandcamp page of Thai record store and label Zudrangma Records and watch her perform live at the Paradise Bangkok fifth anniversary party in 2014 below.

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom