Phongthaep Kradonchamnan พงษ์เทพ กระโดนชำนาญ

So I keep piecing together connections between Add Carabao and other important Thai artists. Often the connection is that Add Carabao, or rather Yuenyong Opakul, helped them at the very beginning of their careers (writing songs for them (the band Hammer)), producing their first album (the band Zu Zu, with lead singer Tom Dundee), guest singing on their first studio album (the band Asanee & Wasan, with Asanee). In each case, the famous or soon-to-be famous artists, undoubtedly influenced Carabao in return, so understanding the connections helps one understand Carabao music.

Of course we know that Add Carabao idolized Nga Caravan and the band Caravan (pronounced Carawan). See for instance the Carabao tribute song to Caravan on their 20th anniversary. He even chose “Carabao” as the band’s name, in part because it is similar to Caravan. But did you know that a former Caravan band member toured with the band Carabao in their earliest days?

The singer Phongthaep Kradonchamnan, nicknamed “Moo” meaning pig, started out in the band Caravan. After a horrific massacre of students at Thammasat University in 1976 many left-leaning students and young people, including Caravan band members, escaped to the jungle to join the Thai communists. There was an amnesty for the communists in 1980. Phongthaep came out of the jungle and Add invited him to come tour with Carabao, which he did. But Phonthaep was never an actual Carabao band member according to Thai Wikipedia.

He was definitely touring with Carabao during the Made in Thailand tour, as you can see in the historical concert footage of the famous first Velodrome concert in 1985 (the one the police shut down early because of a rowdy crowd, at which point, Add soothed the crowd with a song sung acapella and urged them to leave peacefully). In that concert Phongthaep was very bouncy and animated and had a different style than Carabao, perhaps more influenced by traditional northeastern Thai styles, like mor lam, which is often compared to western rap. (Phonthaep is from the northeast). Phongthaep also guest starred in the first Carabao movie, เสียงเพลงแห่งเสรีภาพ (Music of Freedom), about the origins of the band (very much fictionalized) that came out in 1985.

When Phongthaep left to work as a solo artist, Add, along with other Carabao band members, played back-up on his first album “ห้วยแถลง” “Huay Talaeng,” released in 1986. The title of the album is the name of a district in Nakhon Rachasima Province, where Phongthaep is from. A YouTube of that full album is at the top of this page. Interestingly, the 7th song on that album หยดน้ำ “Water Drop” has borrowed the tune of the Christmas carol “Deck the Halls”

According to Thai and English Wikipedia, Phongthaep Kradonchamnan’s lyrics are very poetic and he sings about the downtrodden, thus earning the him name “กวีศรีชาวไร่ or “The Farmer’s Poet.” Interestingly this name was given to him by Asanee Polachan, who famously wrote “Kit Tueng Baan” (“Missing Home)” the song that evolved into Carabao’s “Duan Pen” or “Full Moon”). To learn more, check out the Carabao song,”Polachan’s Song ‘Full Moon’” (yes, it’s a song about a song.)

Below is Phongthaep Kradonchaman’s 25th Anniversary concert (the 25th Anniversary of “The Farmer’s Poet”), which should be a better, more accessible introduction to his music than his first album.

And finally, for those who speak Thai, here is a fairly recent TV show in which he is interviewed.

For more of his music, just search using his name in Thai: พงษ์เทพ กระโดนชำนาญ