Som Phor – Promoting Northern Thai Music

Issue : Oct / Nov 2020 Elite Performance

Story by Elite Plus Editorial Team


Som Phor is a trio that performs a distinct contemporary blend of northern Thai and Western influenced music. During a visit to Chiang Mai, Elite+ had the opportunity to sit down with group leader, Ajarn A – Aekluk Norkhum and members Dala – Chotiga Kitiwong and Smart Zompor – Siripong Pochaikup to discuss their lives and music.


Som Phor – Promoting Northern Thai Music


Elite+: To begin, how did you come up with your name?


Ajarn A: Som Phor is the Northern Thai name for the Peacock Flower. 


Dala: The flower is believed to be sacred and is used in many important festivals, like Songkhran - Thai New Year,  when younger persons will sprinkle the heads of elders with water. You also often see them decorating a temple during a dharma sermon.


Smart: The flowers are quite pretty with their delicate orange and yellow petals, and we feel represent our northern Thai heritage.


Som Phor – Promoting Northern Thai Music


Elite+: Ajarn A, we understand that you began playing music long before forming Som Phor as your group is only around two years old. So, can you tell us something about your background?


Ajarn A: Like many young musicians, I had my dream to become a star. So, after beginning playing nighttime gigs in the north, I headed to Bangkok. I didn’t think about composing my own songs; I just wanted to play and make money, which I began to do. I was lucky and found work as a studio musician for RS and sometimes Grammy as well as other indy labels, but I was always working in windowless studios. I actually worked mostly as a producer using a synthesizer. Then, I started to go to malls and pubs, anywhere I could feel free, but life got old working in a studio and living in Bangkok, and I began to ask myself what I was doing with my life. I then read a book about Phaya Mangrai, (a famous Lanna king), and I realized I was loosing my northern Thai roots playing Western-style music. I had studied Thai classical music at Payap University in Chiang Mai. I tried to talk with my wife about how I was feeling, but she just didn’t understand. So, we divorced and I headed home to rediscover my roots and northern Thai music.

When I was back in the north, I began to travel around the region. I went to Laos and Myanmar and to areas where Karen were living. I used my music to get by and tried to get these people to stop fighting and using narcotics. Sometimes, the people seemed skeptical, but over time, my music and my talk seemed to win them over. I tried to help when I could, for example, assisting the women of Muang Yong, Myanmar who were being treated very badly. I composed a sad song about them to let people know.


Som Phor – Promoting Northern Thai Music


Elite+: Now, let’s talk about Som Phor. How did you get started?


Ajarn A: After my travels, I realised I wanted to find a group to play with. I wanted it to be made up of people of different ages with different ideas and experiences. I wanted to find a way to communicate with the new and younger generations, and I knew music is the perfect medium. After I met Dala and Smart, I knew we could work together but that it would take patience. We always have to be open and truthful with each other if we are going to make it


Dala: Since forming Som Phor, our lives have changed. We live together and play music together. Our music is a blend of indigenous Northern Thai music with a Western influence. We are quite unique and we want our songs to be appreciated by all generations now and in the years to come.


Smart: I have always wanted to create songs that have beautiful Northern Thai lyrics and melodies. I want people to appreciate our music when we go and play in different northern provinces, like Chiang Rai.


Dala: Our music is soft, more like a ballad or a lullaby without any heavy beat or rhythm.


Som Phor – Promoting Northern Thai Music


Elite+: Can you explain more about the concept behind your music?  


Ajarn A: Our music is acoustic, a mixture of Western and indigenous. We are not focused on preserving local music because then we would loose the younger generation. Already much of the hill tribe music has been lost. The youth aren’t interested. So, we try to blend local melodies using guitar or piano. 


Dala: We ant to create music that includes everyone on an equal par. We do dress in hill tribe clothing because we want to show who we are and let people know you can dress and be whoever you want to be.


Smart: People see us as indigenous artists, and I think we act like representatives who help promote local art and culture


Dala: We want to support the younger generation. We want to help them feel proud of who they are and not shy or embarrassed to dance and sing to traditional music.


Som Phor – Promoting Northern Thai Music


Elite+: How would you compare your music to that of I-sarn, Northeastern Thailand?


Ajarn A: Our music is softer, more acoustic. It doesn’t rock or build to a crescendo like I-sarn’s Morlam or Lukthung. After I escaped to Bangkok and immersed myself in farang (Western) music and lifestyle not just Bangkok Thai, when I returned to the north, I was a different person, and I’d say our music reflects this as well. Morlam and Lukthung are much more popular than our music, unfortunately. Their performances are bigger and more exciting, they have pretty background singers in sexy outfits that attract male fans as well. You can say their music is more spirited. We would like to see our music become as popular.


Som Phor – Promoting Northern Thai Music


Elite+: So, how are you trying to combat this so Northern Thai music can survive?

Dala: We have organized Freedom Art music camps, and through Freedom Art we are mobilizing composers and musicians and working to support them in their efforts to promote Northern Thai music.


Smart: If we can just get one song or one group or singer to capture public interest, not just locally, but nationally, maybe worldwide, I think we would be OK. 


Ajarn A: We will soon release a new album with a number of different style songs. It will include Aka Rap and Khmu Pop as well as other more traditional hill tribe styles. Our hope is to change the image of the Golden Triangle from one of danger, killings and drug smuggling to one of culture using our music and the art of the region.


For all new fan could go to the link below for listen their music;

  • The promise of love on the train - Link !!!
  • Lao Duang Duen - Link !!!




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