In 2014, the Jim Thompson Farm, in collaboration with the Jim Thompson Art Center, held an exhibition in Bangkok on molam music from Isan (northeast Thailand), entitled, “Khaen Long Kanong Lam” (Joyful Khaen, Joyful Dance). Molam music is a centuries-old narrative folk art that was originally derived from animism, Buddhism and a repartee- style courting folk tradition. It features the iconic bamboo mouth organ – the khaen.
In 2015, the exhibition was modified and transformed into the Molam Mobile Bus Project by designers Jiro Endo of Japan and Woraya Boonyapanachoti. On board, an interactive exhibition included instruments, videos, a small shrine, photos of molam stars and vinyl records. Seats were bolted on the roof for sunset viewing. A flatbed truck was added complete with a small stage, lights and a typical hand-painted molam backdrop. The bus then set off as an outreach programme to tour the Isan region. Its first appearance was at Wonderfruit festival in 2015 and it has since become a popular fixture at the festival.
Bus curator Arthit Mulsarn said the bus made 23 trips to temple fairs, schools, colleges, universities and galleries, joining new year celebrations, anniversaries and religious festivals, and travelling around 11,552 kilometres. He added that in 2017 the interior of the bus was updated and changed to a new theme: Molam in the Cold War.
Contributing artist John Clewley, a former bus conductor in Manchester, went along for the ride.