Singing and writing lukthung lyrics (in English)

Lukthung is of course sung in Thai with Isan (and sometimes English) words interspersed so it is not normally going to be accessible to English speaking students. However, this lesson introduces the typical lukthung lyric structure via a translated song that maintains the original rhythm and rhyme structure of the original song. ‘Chao na na dam' (‘Farmer with a dark face') written by Soraphet Phinyo, one of Thailand's most accomplished songwriters, is narrated from the point of view of an Isan farmer who feels unattractive.

Concepts : End and mid-line rhymes, class difference, drone, Tin-pan Alley song structure AABA.

Farmer with a Dark Face

 

I'm just a farmer man with dirty hands so who looks at me?

My feet are abused because I don't wear shoes or socks you see.

I have to tread softly so I'm tardy – just because I'm poor!

 

My fav'rite food's the frogs I catch in bogs and hang on the door

I hold and snap the legs, then boil in kegs and dry while raw.

I make frog dip to store when crops are poor cause I've got no wage.

 

A teacher has respect and step by step earns more with age.

The farmer works all year, promotion here is earth worm stage.

My house is like a cage – the roof is beige – straw not tile.

 

My farmer's face is black I can't attract the girls with style

Born into poverty so actually each meal's a trial

I go out all the while the taste of bile is in my mouth.

 

Farmer with a Dark Face

 

I'm just a farmer man with dirty hands so who looks at me ?

My feet are a bused because I don't wear shoes or socks you see .

I have to tread soft ly so I'm tar dy – just because I'm poor !

 

My fav'rite food's the frogs I catch in bogs and hang on the door

I hold and snap the legs , then boil in kegs and dry while raw .

I make frog dip to store when crops are poor cause I've got no wage .

 

A teacher has re spect and step by step earns more with age .

The farmer works all year , promotion here is earth worm stage .

My house is like a cage – the roof is beige – straw not tile .

 

My farmer's face is black I can't at tract the girls with style

Born into pover ty so actual ly each meal's a trial

I go out all the while the taste of bile is in my mouth.

 

Reading: First read through the song lyrics as a class and ask them if they can relate to the farmer's problems in any way (and other general content questions). Explain that the subject matter of this song is typical of lukthung - Thai country song. It is about poor people in Thailand feeling that they are looked down on by rich people - class difference.

Then ask the students to highlight the words that rhyme. They should end up with something that looks like the above. Make sure they understand that both end-line rhymes and mid-line rhymes are used and that the final syllable in a verse becomes the main rhyme for the next verse.

Listening: Listen to Soraphet singing the melody of ‘Chao na na dam' in Thai. Note the Tin-pan Alley song structure AABA. Most lukthung songs use this structure.

Performance: Sing the English lyrics using the notation and Soraphet's recording as a guide. Accompany singing with drone (any instrument) of B and F#.

Composition: Advanced students may like to try composing their own English lukthung song lyrics using the same rhyme and rhythm pattern and melody as ‘Chao na na dam'. However, this exercise will be quite difficult.

[Attachments - song lyrics and mp3]