Dangerous waters and the ship of state: A metaphor across 3 songs

Three songs, all written by Yuenyong Opakul, aka Add Carabao, at three different moments of high political tension, develop a metaphor of dangerous waters and a ship, with the dangerous waters probably representing “waves” of political protest and the ship being the ship of state. Don’t let my suggestion mix you up if you see something else in the songs. And be aware that Carabao songs routinely mix metaphors within a song.

พายุ Payu (Storm) came out on the album ตะวันตกดิน Dtawan Dtok Din (2006). I don’t know the exact day the song “Storm” was written but it seems to have the same message, and is on the same album, as เว้นวรรค Wen-Wak (Some Space), a song which came out March 12, 2006 is widely interpreted as asking Prime Minister Taksin Shinawatra to step down. According to Wikipedia, on September 19, 2006, “the Royal Thai Army staged a coup d’etat against the elected caretaker government of Prime Minister Taksin Shinawatra. Planning for the coup started about February 2006. . . . Rumors of unrest in the armed forces and possible takeover plots swirled for months leading to the event.”

นาวารัฐบุรุษ Nawa Rataburut (Navy Statesman) came out just one day after General Prayut Chan-ocha’s 2014 coup* and seems to offer conditional support to Prayut, like “OK, you’re here. Let’s see what you can do.” Prayut would stay on as dictator (self-appointed Prime Minister), postponing general elections until March 24, 2019; and under the rigged system, he also “won” the election for Prime Minister. Prayut was finally voted out for real and left office in 2023, nine years after he overthrew the elected government.

น้ำพึ่งเรือเสือพึ่งป่า Nam Peung Reua Seua Peung Bpa (Waters Depend on the Boat; The Tiger Depends on the Forest) is an extremely coded song that came out on Facebook September 12, 2020 during mass protests of students and young people calling for reform of the monarchy. For instance, the presentation of the “10 Demands” by Panusaya (Rung) Sithijirawattanakul had taken place a month earlier on August 10, 2020. By October she would be in jail. In the notes under the song, P’Add says [in Thai] the song was inspired by “Dr. Prawet Wasi’s article about the old and the new generation facing each other” and basically diverse groups trying to work things out in the current political crisis. If it is a statement of support for the students, it pales in comparison to much stronger statements by younger artists (See Music of Thai Freedom website for many examples).

The three songs appeared on Add Carabao solo albums and/or were first posted straight to Facebook and YouTube by Add Carabao himself. Other members of Carabao may or may not hold similar views.

*People were amazed at the speed at which the song นาวารัฐบุรุษ Nawa Rataburut (Navy Statesman) came out relative to the timing of the coup. A partial explanation is that the melody (and probably the entire track minus the vocals) is borrowed directly from a lesser known song ไม่อยากทน Mai Yaak Ton (I Don’t Want to Endure it) released on the previous Add Carabao solo album.  As far as I know, this is the only time Add Carabao has totally recycled one of his own songs.