Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 10/06/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Know what you want before you think of ordering this CD. It's a quick tour of festival music from extremely diverse local cultures of Thailand, a kind of Frommer's Guide to Exotic Sounds for Five Minutes a Day. It's not a concert album to sit down and listen to in rapture.
I spent several months traveling around Thailand in the early 1980s. Even with a funky calendar of local festivals, I was hard pressed to hear anything like the music on this CD. What I heard mostly was American country/western, old stuff at that and played on tape decks with failing batteries. Eventually I discovered my problem. I was going to bed too early. None of this music gets played or sung before midnight!
A lot of the choices on this CD are not Thai in a cultural/ethnic sense. There are selections of Hmong, Miao, Karenni, Khmer, etc. And they are all too brief, the longest being about seven minutes. That's misleading. In my experience, the musicians took longer than that just to warm up. The experience of listening to the music unwind from the musicians over hours, lit by fire or lanterns under a night sky, is hypnotic. I think it's supposed to be mind-altering, a meditation on shadows. And if you're really lucky, you'll be on hand for a shadow-puppet performance with the music in context. But you'll have to stay up way past bedtime."