Khun Narin On Unknown Sundays

Gotta love unlocking a good mystery or at least wondering about it, right? The timing could not be more appropriate, considering the sacred mysteries of the past several weeks upon some in the Catholic faith (remember this article was written back in March 27 of 2016). So, why don’t we go on an interesting musical mystery, and this one has been solved for all to enjoy!

 

Miles into nowhere from the buzz and bang of Bangkok, what’s that coming down the street with bewildering musical talents and heavy psych-instrumentation like some quasi New Orleans hippie-day of the dead ensemble? And, who are these people following their vibe like some Jimi Hendrix pied piper?  Khun Narin. There, that’s all that needs to be said, when it comes to this Thailand improvisational band. It probably won’t matter what I write after this…you’re going to either dismiss this as some shot in the crazy dark from an overly attentive, self absorbed supposed music infatuation junkie. It won’t be anywhere near accessible, and I’ll have to listen to it for hours to even remotely appreciate it. Well, let’s find out–even after the background (and it’s extremely interesting). So, put their latest “II” on, if you have access on Google Play Music or Spotify, or you can check out link above for a live 2 HR performance recorded and…read along…
The music they play is called phin prayuk. The first word refers to the lead instrument, a 3-stringed lute known as the phin. Beer, the phin player, uses a string of Bass effects pedals, including a phaser (oh—I have the attention of the Star Trek lovers now), distortion and digital delay to get his sound. He also builds his own instruments, installing Fender pickups into hand-carved hardwood bodies, with elaborate mythical serpents adorning the headstock. The band takes pride in their custom PA system, as well as an imposing tower of 8 loudspeaker horns atop a huge bass cabinet. And, like a favorite movie of mine (Begin Again), a Los Angeles music producer, Josh Marcy, captured the essence of the group and their sound in their natural environment, which originated, as stated above, in the field. Literally! A field outside the city of Lom Sak, in the valley of mountains that form a rough border between Thai- land’s North and Northeast.
Interested? First mystery is how did Josh Marcy come to hear this obscure, foreign band that literally plays at house parties in the middle of nowhere? Enter—YouTube. Oh, the power of the internet media and medium, and may the world bless Josh for his obsessive musical appreciation and devotion to tracking them down on the net and into the fields of remote Thailand. Second mystery is who is in this band with this kind of diversity, talent and relevance? That one is as elementary and obvious as The Prestige. It’s all about getting the vibes from an ever rotating line up and from generational creativity and experiences. They can be from as young as teens to artists in their late 60’s. Now you understand (especially if you took my advice and read this while listening to Khun Narin).
This is certainly going down a very unique rabbit hole in brilliant music, and from a place that might least expect. I hope you took the time and ears to follow me into it. Admit it! You’re glad you Thai’d one on, right?! Sorry, could not resist.

 

SPECIAL ARCHIVE POSTING NOTE

Khun Narin Albums in my collection:   II (2016)

This “Unknown Sundays” was done back on March 27th of 2016.  While this still remains one of the best, most interesting stories of Unknown Sundays, I fear that the success or exposure from NPR must have caused some uncertainty or issues.  While the band has a bandcamp page, I’ve found nothing.  It was only a few months ago that I stumbled across the album, II, which might have been the most expensive used CD I’ve purchased.  My heart tells me that they probably maintain their Thailand status, and that the nearly seven years passed has only expanded their band members and tribal (if you will) legacy.  Wait…I think I hear them coming down the street with that beautiful old PA system strapped to a wheel barrel!  I’m suddenly all anxious and excited — but then it’s only the shitty broken, warped pa system of an ice cream truck.  That sucks!  – Mark Kuligowski  [June 3rd 2023]

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