Phleng Thai sakon (Thai: เพลงไทยสากล; lit. International Thai music) is a genre of Thai classical music. It blends traditional Thai music elements with the instruments of Western classical music. Its most representative composer is Eua Sunthornsanan, who popularized the genre during the 1930s – 1940s.
Nowadays, the term is usually used to refer to Thai popular music in general, as opposed to classical and folk genres.
By the 1930s, Western classical music, showtunes, jazz and tango were popular. Soon, jazz grew to dominate Thai popular music, and Khru Eua Sunthornsanan soon set up the first Thai jazz band. The music he soon helped to invent along with influential band Suntharaporn was called Phleng Thai sakon, which incorporated Thai melodies with Western classical music. This music continued to evolve into luk krung, a romantic music that was popular with the upper-class. King Bhumibol Adulyadej is an accomplished jazz musician and composer. As such, the modern University Bands, like Kasetsart University and Chulalongkorn University was established.
In the 1960s, String, a genre of Thai music roughly equivalent to western pop emerged. Its origins lie in American R&B, surf rock artists like The Ventures and Dick Dale, Exotica, rockabilly and country and western brought to Thailand by American and Australian soldiers serving in Vietnam in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It also drew heavily on British beat music, American garage rock and Hollywood film scores. The term later evolved into something extremely broad, covering Thai rock, dance music, rap and western-influenced popular music in general. It further encompases pop, rock, luk thung and mor lam, but normally excludes the folk rock phleng phuea chiwit.
By the 1980s, it became influenced by genres such as disco and funk. Notable string artists and bands include The Impossibles and GRAND EX’. Popular artists in 1980s included Bird McIntyre, Pumpuang Duangjan, Asanee-Wasan Micro, Ploy and The Innocent, who were most successful during the 1990s. More recently successful artists include Christina Aguilar, Tik Shiro, J Jetrin, Boyscout, Nuvo, Lift-Oil, Joey Boy and Tata Young,
String pop took over mainstream listeners in Thailand in the 1990s, and bubblegum popstars like Tata Young, Bird Thongchai McIntyre and Asanee-Wasan became bestsellers. Simultaneously, Britpop influenced alternative rock artists like Modern Dog, Loso, Crub and Proud became popular in late 1990s. In 2006, famous Thai rock bands include Clash, Big Ass, Bodyslam and Silly Fools.
At present, a group of Indie or independent artists and records which produces music for non-commercial purpose also found in Thailand: Bakery Music (now under Sony Music Thailand), Smallroom, FAT radio, City-Blue, Coolvoice, Dudesweet, Idea-radio and Panda Records
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