Indie filmmaker Waraluck Hiransrettawat tunefully examines Thai culture in the documentary "Y/Our Music"
A SMALL FILM making big waves in local theatres, “Y/our Music” is a music documentary that has been a long time – five years – in the making.
Co-directed by Waraluck Hiransrettawat Every and David Reeve, it was partly funded by the Busan International Film Festival’s Asian Network of Documentary Fund and Thailand’s Cultural Ministry and made its debut at the festival last October to critical acclaim.
Waraluck can’t remember a time when she wasn’t interested in film and music.
“I’ve always been curious about other people’s lives. As a student, I used to hang around Siam Square and observe people’s behaviour. My very conservative parents didn’t like that much,” she laughs.
“I guess I was a rebel. Most of my family members and relatives graduated from Chulalongkorn University, but I selected to study at Thammasat University. I’m sure their suggestions are right for them but they are not right for me,” says Waraluck, who was the eldest child and thus under pressure.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and during her last year at the university’s liberal arts faculty worked as an apprentice in the personnel department of Far East Advertising, where she learned the art of communications. After graduation, she took a job in casting at Matching Studio, produced a television commercial and turned her attention sound engineering. That led to a study period in Bristol, England, to learn all about the recording process.
“It was an exciting time and very instructive, as I learned about both analog and digital. I was also offered the chance to produce a soundtrack for an animated ghost film made by a Thai director who lives in the UK,” says Waraluck.
On her return to Thailand, she worked as a sound engineer at Jingle-Bell, a music scoring and sound studio, and in 2009, along with Reeve, produced her debut short, “The Piano Tuner”.
“The film looked at how music reflects society and followed on from David’s comment that Thai society has a monotonous sound. That led me to research the relationship between people and music and examine how music reflects the musicians and their work. Our short film was shot here but shown at the British Film Institute,” says Waraluck.
Music was also the topic of her next short film, “Good Deed Ensemble”, which centres on a brass band temporarily formed by five students of Silpakorn University to raise the morale of flood victims.
“I had doubts about the effectiveness of music as an assistance measure for flood victims. Wouldn’t they be better giving out daily necessities? Could it really help?” says Waraluck.
Then came the idea for “Y/our Music”.
“It was originally called ‘AM-FM: Khon Tham Hai Sud Khud Hai Thueng’, which means ‘doing with all your might’,” the director continues. “It comes from something mor lam diva Chaweewan [Phanthu] said to her father. But we worried that it was too long and hard to understand, so we changed it.
“The ‘Y/our Music’ name makes it clear that music, regardless of the genre, is really for everyone,” says Waraluck.
Nine artists, some from Bangkok and others from Thailand’s Northeast, are featured. Bangkok is represented by Happy Band, an experimental punk-rock group formed as an art project, Prasert Keawpukdee, the host of old-time music jam sessions at Chatuchak Weekend Market, Wiboon Tangyernyong, an optician who makes bamboo saxophones, indie label founder Bun Suwannochin who formed the duo Sweet Nuj with his singer mother-in-law Worranuj Kanakakorn, and DJ Maftsai, a collector of vintage Thai vinyl. The star from Isaan are National Artist singers Chaweewan Phanthu and Por Chalardnoi Songserm, progressive pin player Thongsai Thabthanon and blind khaen player Sombat Simlhar.
“I looked at mainstream artists but didn’t feel their music was interesting enough. In fact, I thought that the mainstream was like propaganda,” says Waraluck.
“I had met Lolay [graphic artist and Happy Band member Thaweesak Srithingdee] and was interested in the band, which was formed by four Silpakorn students as an accompaniment to their installations, paintings and visual art. They also played at the Fat Fest.
“Prasert sells small Buddha images and music instruments at Chatuchak Weekend Market and generally plays violin with other people out there. Wiboon had always wanted to build a bamboo saxophone but had no idea how to do that or even to how play it. But he finally figured it out and now plays it with other musicians.
“I knew Chaweewan’s songs from the radio and like Por Chalardnoi was inspired by them. He liked her work so much that he decided to become a mor lam performer.
“I listened to Thongsai’s pin playing on YouTube. After our interview, I discovered he is very progressive and that his songs are inspired both by his own experiences and several music genres. Sombat is also very progressive. He is playful and cheerful. He can imitate vehicles, animals and even a train with his khaen.
“Bun Suwannochin is a producer and record label founder who has enjoyed success and endured failure. DJ Maftsai is the bridge that connects the sounds of Isaan to the music in Bangkok and brings the documentary to its natural conclusion. He was the first Thai DJ to play mor lam on the dance floor,” she says.
- “Y/our Music” screens at 6.45 nightly until July 22 at the Lido cinemas in Siam Square.
- Find out more at Facebook.com/yourmusicmovie.