Recently Add Carabao shared the song “Don’t Let the Old Man In,” by Toby Keith, saying he really likes this song and it reminds him of his own song “อย่าเพิ่งตาย” (Yaa Peung Dtai) (“Don’t Die Just Now”). I totally agree.
Similarly, he once introduced the Thai song, “รอยไถแปร” (Roi Tai Bprae) “Plowing in Straight Furrows” (not his own song but a cover) with a verse from “Desperato” in English. Notice how the two songs have a very similar feel? The lyrics of both songs describe a desperate, hard worker, and yet the melodies are soothing.
I have a short list of famous Carabao songs that I think are closely comparable, not superficially but in their essence, to some famous English-language song. Here is an annotated list of pairs of big songs (one English-language and the other Thai and Carabao) that just happen to have the same “feel,” by covering similar ground and capturing the same emotion:
English Language song — Carabao song
I Will Survive – รักต้องสู้ Rak Dtong Soo (Love Must Struggle)
These were, at some point, the go-to “I can survive this break-up” songs in American and Thai cultures, respectively.
Lean on Me – โลกแห่งความรัก Lok Haeng Kwaam Rak (World of Love)
Here are two startlingly powerful, uplifting songs that elicit a big reaction from the audience. The first asks, “Lean on me when you’re not strong,” while the other requests, “Just help me with one step first. From here on, I’m sure I’ll walk on secure” . . . on towards a world where everyone loves each other. (Note there is a great singable English version of this Carabao song, as well as a direct translation.)
Black or White – คนจนผู้ยิ่งใหญ่ Kon Jon Poo Ying Yai (Poor Person, Great Person)
These are two totally addictive hit songs, with a similar of level of fame (relative to the size of their audiences as defined by language group), and similar themes. Add Carabao says that poor people are great people, sticking up for those often dismissed in Thailand. Michael Jackson sings, “If you want to be my brother, it don’t matter if you’re black or white.” “Poor Person, Great Person” came out 5 years before “Black or White.” The totally credible child sex abuse accusations against Michael Jackson caused me to throw out his music, but . . . for the record, these were two great songs, that were great in the same way.
Forever Young – ไม่ยืนยง Mai Yuenyong (Not Endure [Forever])
All I have to say is these songs have almost EXACTLY the same feel of respect and sympathy for oneself as a mortal human being.
Yesterday and Let it Be – ทะเลใจ (Telay Jai) Ocean Heart
The tune to the startlingly great song “Yesterday” came to Paul McCartney in a dream, literally. He woke up with the tune in his head and had to ask other people if they had heard it before. Similary, Add Carabao’s song “Telay Jai,” which is heralded as one of his two best songs, was written quickly in just 30 minutes, including music and lyrics (at a highly charged moment, after returning from a protest that had turned violent – the Bloody May (1992) event). However, the message of “Let it Be” is closer to the message of “Telay Jai.”
A Whiter Shade of Pale – น้ำตาเพื่อน ต.ค. Nam Dtaa Peuan Dtula (Tears of the October Friends)
Jim Beviglia in American Songwriter says: “The general consensus is that “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” is a snapshot of a drunken sexual escapade gone awry. Yet the song defies a specific interpretation, instead conjuring various shades of melancholy which are embellished by the mournful music and Brooker’s pained delivery. . . . If you spend too much time trying to figure out Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” you might miss out on its majestically-rendered sorrow.” [emphasis mine] And Add Carabao’s song has just that, although his song is more explicit about the source of the sorrow—it’s about the lost or thwarted ideals of a generation. “A Whiter Shade of Pale” was famously used in the movie “The Big Chill,” which was also about sorrow over lost ideals.
Pride (In the Name of Love) by U2- ในนามแห่งความรัก Nai Nam Heng Rak (In the Name of Love)
In this case only, I wonder if the one song may have inspired the other, such that the two songs are casually connected. Add Carabao says that he often challenges himself to do an original song like some other song—without cheating in anyway. If that was what he was trying here, he knocked it out of the ballpark. Aside from the same title, both songs have the same defiant, driving sound, similar theme, and an overall feel of love and hope—perhaps only barely—winning out over evil and despair. I believe they are equally addictive musically. In the Carabao song, wait for two sudden quiet interludes in the middle—and the high notes! OMG. However, this Carabao song was never famous. It seems to be an overlooked gem, coming at the end of the 14th Carabao studio album, out of an eventual total of 28, at a time when people had stopped following the band as closely. My impression that I had found a hidden gem was confirmed by an unusually high number of likes and shares when I shared the YouTube on Facebook.
The Bridge by Elton John – อยากได้ยิน Yaak Daiyin (Want to Hear)
These are two gorgeous songs with just a voice with a piano. However neither song is famous. That is, even the fans of each artist may have missed these songs. The meaning of Elton John’s song is ambiguous, but I think expresses a longing desire for some sort of fame that lives on past death. Add Carabao’s song, from one of his solo albums, is a plea for everyone to look past a serious political conflict and at least get along on a personal level when they pass each other on the street (given that the alternative is civil war). Somehow these two songs create almost the same mood, at least for me.
What do you think?
Those are all the pairs that really jump out at me, given my limited knowledge of music. There is also the “problem” (for this game) that many Carabao songs are not similar to ANYTHING in English, once you take the lyrics into account. They capture a feel or space seemingly not covered by any other song I know, which is why I am busily translating!
Write to me to suggest other pairs of similar English-language and Carabao songs!