Surin Phaksiri - Chanon Phaksiri was born in 1942 and adopted the stage name Surin even though he was born in Ubon Ratchathani. From 1963 to 1965 he worked as a hospital wardsman before gaining permanent employment with the Government Prisons Department. In 1967 Khru Ko Kaeoprasoet introduced him to Phraiwan Lukphet but Phraiwan was only interested in cha cha-style songs. Surin had no experience writing in cha cha rhythm but after a short period of practice he produced four songs including ‘Khon khi ngon' for Phraiwan and ‘Lam kiao sao' (sung by Kabin Mueangubon) , which, according to the songwriter, was the first song to alternate verses of molam phloen with lukthung (Surin, 2004: 9). Soon he was writing for performers of the calibre of Saksri Sriakson, Waiphot Phetsuphan, Samai Onwong, and Dam Daensuphan. He launched the career of Banjop Jaroenphon with the song ‘Ya doen show' and in 1971 was awarded a Phaen siang thong kham for ‘Ngan Nakrong' sung by Phonphrai Phetdamnoen.

 

Surin worked as the musical director on several Rangsi Thasanaphayak films including Monrak lukthung and Monrak maenam Mun (‘magic of the Mun River'). In this role he distributed opportunities to other Isan song writers, such as Phongsak Jantharukkha, Thinakon Thiphamat and Sanya Julaphon, and also introduced sounds from other cultures, most notably the Indian influence in Monrak lukthung (Waeng, 2002: 342-343). Surin's specialty became adapting melodies from other cultures and he now calculates that he has written more than fifty songs using melodies from the West, Japan, India, Malaysia, Korea, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (Surin et al., 2004: 28).

 

In the 1970s he became a key figure in the development of the lukthung Isan genre beginning with the song ‘Isan lam phloen', which was written for the film Bua Lamphu in 1971 and performed by Isan-born Angkanang Khunachai. The success of this song emboldened Surin and, with his friend Phongsak Jantharukkha, he began a radio program that featured lukthung and molam and was defiantly Lao in character. If a fan rang up with a request, but refused to speak Isan, Surin would refuse to play the song. He played molam by artists such as Ken Dalao, Bunpheng Faiphiuchai and Khampun Fangsuk and took trips to Laos to purchase additional recordings. The program was so popular that the station was soon playing lukthung twenty four hours per day and cassettes of the show were distributed to Northeastern radio networks (Waeng, 2002: 338).

 

Working on Rangsi Thasanaphayak 's 1976 film Mon Rak Nak Rop (‘magic of warriors'), in which the government supports Isan villagers to start a band, gave Surin the idea to organise his own lukthung band. Building on the fame of his radio personality, Thitso Sutsanaen, the Thitso Lam Phloen band became a kind of Isan all stars group featuring Surin's disciples Santi Sammat, Phairin Phonphibun, Sonthaya Kalasin and Rungnakhon Phonamnat, with Thinakon Thiphamat as an announcer, Sanya Julaphon in the ticket room and Phongsak Jantharukkha as manager. In 1977 the band performed for five days and five nights at the Phuttha Phisek fair beating the previous record of Phloen Phromdaen. In 1984 the group disbanded and, with lukthung increasing in popularity after the post-insurgency phleng phuea chiwit craze (c1980-1983) had abated, Surin devoted himself to song writing once again (Waeng, 2002: 344-347).

Literally meaning ‘gold record'. Unlike gold or platinum records in the Western pop industry it does not signify sales of a certain amount.