Review article: Waeng Phalangwan - a Lao-Isan perspective

James Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In Lukthung Isan, Waeng Phalangwan (2002) makes a case for recognition of the Isan involvement in phleng lukthung, usually translated as Thai country music. The significant involvement of Isan people within the lukthung music industry has provided Isan people with an effective way of influencing Central Thai culture, when most other avenues were closed. The article examines Waeng’s Lao-Isan identity and his use of standard tropes to disguise a defiant radicalism. The centrepiece of Waeng’s argument is a revision of the history of ‘the king of Thai country music,’ Suraphon Sombatjaroen. Phalangwan redefines Suraphon’s current status as the symbol of Central Thai cultural supremacy by placing him within the context of two contemporaries, the Isan songwriters Chaloemchai Siruechai and Benjamin. Waeng’s history of Isan singers and groups of Isan songwriters in Bangkok during the late 1960s and 1970s can be crossreferenced with establishment histories to make possible a reinterpretation of the development of lukthung. The closing chapter of Lukthung Isan, detailing the existence of ‘communist’ lukthung, suggests that a re-evaluation of the counter-hegemonic potential of lukthung may be warranted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-96
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Lao studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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