Since the 1960s, the hybrid popular music called luk thung has embodied the aspirations, frustrations, and sorrows of Thailand’s working class. Global scholarship, however, has been slow in pulling back the curtain on this seminal genre. In this pioneering book, ethnomusicologist James Mitchell traces the history of luk thung, lays out its musical influences and characteristics, and gives an inside view into the world of luk thung through ethnographic research with singers, songwriters, fans, and other professionals in the entertainment industry. Throughout this account, the author maintains a focus on the historically overlooked region of northeastern Thailand and its intricate connections with luk thung. This culminates in the groundbreaking final chapter, which refutes the widespread opinion that luk thung is an apolitical genre, not only through a close look at its high-profile role in the political turmoil of recent years but also by tracing currents of protest and sociopolitical commentary back to the music’s origins.
This book also includes links to many of these songs online so that readers can hear for themselves the sounds that came to express the triumphs and hardships of everyday working Thais.
James Leonard Mitchell completed his PhD from Macquarie University in 2012. He currently lectures at Khon Kaen University in Thailand and is an adjunct research fellow at Monash University, Australia.
“Mitchell expertly combines his thorough knowledge of the scholarly literature with in-depth, personal study among luk thung performers, songwriters, and fans to tell the full story of Thailand’s most important form of popular music. This book brings luk thung the scholarly attention it deserves and is an important exploration of how a non-elite part of Thai society is adapting to a mediated world where global and local collide.”—Pamela Moro, Professor of Anthropology, Willamette University
“Bringing alive a world of Thai popular culture inaccessible to many, Luk Thung has something for everyone—musicologists, students of popular culture, and political observers alike.”—David Streckfuss, author of Truth on Trial in Thailand: Defamation, Treason, and Lèse-Majesté