Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Waiphot Phetsuphan | The History of Princess Suphankanlaya

Dig the first track 

Wrastle with the second track 

Come to papa

Um, Peter, could you come in here a moment, please? 

So, I got this CD at Thai-Cam Video (5230 Southeast Foster Road, Portland, Ore.) and it's not quite like anything I've heard before. I think it's Thai and am guessing luk thung. But the guy singing (whom I've taken to calling "Inset Thai Guy" or "Inset" for short) is doing something in some of these songs that I've never quite heard before, lots of long, drawn-out, occasionally flat or otherwise slightly off "uhhhnnn"s, "ahhhhnnnns" and the like, and a generally sort of almost exclamatory kind of half singing. 

Is it a style? Or is it simply The Magic of Inset? [Update: See comments, where Yoshio provides the singer's name and Peter provides context for the style and album.]

As I've been hinting (read: bragging) for several posts now, I totally scored while in Portland last December, much of the take coming from two visits to Thai Cam Video, a media and grocery store run by a woman named Nang who told me she moved to Portland in 1980 from Cambodia by way of Thailand. Nang is half Cambodian, half Burmese and, although I did not ask her, I assume she left Cambodia for Thailand in the 70s for what would be rather obvious reasons. 

Nang opened Thai Cam Video in 2003, which means she's been in business nearly a decade, a comforting fact, considering that I didn't expect the place would still be there on this trip. (I'd first discovered it on a trip to the west coast in 2009 and when I called in advance of this recent trip, there was no answer.) I wanted to ask Nang more about her life, but didn't want to pry too much, so I asked her if it was possible to get good Cambodian food in the area. It was: Mekong Bistro, 8200 NE Siskiyou Street, where I wound up having my first-ever taste of amok trey, which I implore each and every one of you reading this right now to seek out and try at least once before you exit your earthly form. 

Nang also told me where to find Cambodian and Lao temples in the area. (There is, I hadn't realized before, a sizable southeast Asian population in the area. For instance, block after block of Vietnamese businesses on the way to the airport that I only noticed, alas, on the way to the airport.) Nang asked for my contact info in case she ever made it out to New York; I was surprised to hear that she'd never been to the east coast. I bought an obscene number of Cambodian, Lao and Thai CDs from her, creating two sizable towers near the register before my friend Rodney returned to rescue me from taking another dive back into the stacks.


yoshio said...


ไวพจน์ เพชรสุพรรณ (waiphot phetsuphan)
is his name


Gary said...

Thank you, Yoshio!

peter said...

sounds like a fantastic shop!
and yeah you stuck gold here, as almost everything this guy puts to record is fantastic. as yoshio correctly pointed out it is waiphot phetsuphan, and the singing style you so capably summarized is known as "lae"; the genre is derived from the unique chanting style of northeastern monks, and waiphot has reigned for decades as its king. the name of this album is "lae prawat phra suphankanlaya (the history of princess suphankanlaya)" and concerns a mysterious siamese royal said to have been kidnapped by burmese invaders, taken as consort by their king, and subsequently tortured to death. the story received a surge of popularity in the late 90's, during which time i'd imagine this was recorded. thanks for sharing!

Gary said...

Thank you, Peter! And you are almost assuredly correct in locating this CD in the 90s. Everything I picked up at Thai-Cam that *did* have a date seemed to have been published from 1995-99.