Composer and songwriter Pongprom Snitwong Na Ayuthaya remembers the late Monarch in a new song
Pongprom Snitwong Na Ayuthaya – one of Thailand’s most eminent composers, songwriters and arrangers – has created a Thai requiem in honour of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the first time such a work has found its way into the country’s musical library.
“I spent ages researching the songs composed in remembrance of the late King Bhumibol since last year and looked at how their lyrics were related to the late King. Almost all of them touched on love and loyalty from the songwriters’ perspectives – and appropriately so, as this conveyed the feelings of his people. But I couldn’t find a song that told the story of the King. That prompted me to score a song relating to his life that would tell the world who the late King was and what he did for his country and people," Pongprom explains.
“After that, I thought about what kind of a song can be dedicated to our beloved monarch. As a musician, I know about the requiem, which is a Roman Catholic mass for the repose of the soul though it is now more widely used in other religions,” says Pongprom.
“A requiem was traditionally Western classical music and long, divided into settings. Over the centuries it has developed into other musical genres such as folk. In both its instrumental and sung forms, it conveys grief though often not the identity of the person for whom it is being played or sung. I felt that my requiem for the late King had to convey not only that grief but also the late King and his work, hence the words,” he adds.
Titled “Phra Phu Ma Prode” in Thai and “Phra Mahadhamracha Bhumibol” in English, the requiem runs for 11 minutes 47 seconds. It is performed by 160 international and traditional Thai musicians and vocalists, who have come together with one heart, one mind and one love to record the work. They include Billy Ogan, Peter Corp Dyrendal, Chawin “Jugg” Chitsomboon, Sakda Pathasima of Inca, Nopanan “Kor” Prayoonsuk of The Olarn Project, Isariya Kooprasert, Supatra Korad, Tippawan Pinpiban, Promsorn “Fang” Riewpakorn, Thalassa Tapia Ruano Ferrand, Kittinant “Fung” Chinsamran, Dr Jaruwaree “Fah” Snidwongse Na Ayuthaya, Jaoh Varavudhi, Naruedon “Knot” Suteerasak, Benyapa Sukeenu, Apinya “Nudee” Sangkhasanya, and Air Chief Marshal Anuphan Snitwong na Ayuthaya.
“The vocalists were all in tears during the recording. I was careful in giving them each one phrase in a verse that matched their vocal tone,” says Pongprom.
This extended musical composition in Thai style is divided into four settings or acts: “Krab Phrabat”, “Phra Bodhisattva Song Juti” (“The Incarnation of Phra Bodhisattva”), “Prach Haeng Din Lae Nam” (“Philosopher of Earth and Water”) and “Krab Bangkhom La”.
“The composition is not the same as a Western requiem but truly Thai in style. The first act covers our condolences for the late King. It opens with the sound of Ajarn Thanis Sriklindee’s khlui and continues in a minor scale to convey loneliness and grief. Traditional Thai music and Thai-style singing are prominent in the second act and combine the mood of Thai and Brahmin music with the tabla. This act is concerned with the late King’s astrological position as cast by Plu Luang [late National Artist Prayoon Uluchita]. All our astrologers appreciated the perfect star of the late King and the astrological position appeared in his royal duties – the late King devoted himself to work hard for the wellbeing of his people and he had a natural talent for science and arts.
“The music then segues into modern classical with a light mood and tone. This third act features five verses related to the late King’s wisdom and guidance as well as his projects. Those verses include ‘We shall reign in righteousness for the benefits and happiness of the Siamese people’, ‘If the people don’t abandon me, how can I abandon them?’, ‘We are not fighting against people; we are fighting against hunger. If we make this and the people have a better life, the people you call communist insurgents will have a better life also, so everybody’s happy’, ‘Pid thong lang phra’ (‘Doing good without boasting’), ‘Use wits to solve problem’ and ‘Our loss is our gain’. It also covers the late King’s sufficiency economy philosophy, cultivation of three kinds of forests for four benefits, that trees should be planted first in the hearts of the people, fon luang [artificial rain] and transforming the opium-growing areas into agricultural farms enriched with high-value products.
“And the requiem ends with ‘Thawai Bangkom La’, which explains how the late King dedicated his body and soul to improve water management and reverse the effects of soil erosion throughout his 70 years on the throne. We must continue the late King’s commitments,” explains the 55-year-old.
Pongprom is quite sure that if foreigners listen to the requiem, they will get to know who the late King was and what he did for his country and people. “Most importantly, they will understand why all Thai people around the country grieve for him.”
Tribute in four acts
- Listen to and download “Requiem: Phra Mahadhamracha Bhumibol” at http://RequiemKingRama9.com/