Sunday, 8 July 2007

Music For a Monk

In the middle of the day we dedicated the new wooden house, I was feeling a bit ragged after my early start and was only wanting to hide awhile and play the ‘new’ Nick Drake album, ‘Family Tree' his sister Gabrielle had just sent me. But I was drowned out by some extremely loud music in the next soi. At first it came from the west, but I soon realized it was moving and so must be part of a procession. Giving up on Nick Drake, I got on my bicycle and went out to see what was happening.

The procession or mob more like was coming up the soi at the back of our house, so I turned left to meet it head on. I’m well past culture shock in these parts but it was more than a bit intimidating coming head to head with and confronting a noisy mob of young drunks, shouting their heads of, baying at the farang as if he were a green faced creature from Mars. In the narrow land, I was soon engulfed by them, juggling my bicycle and trying to take some photos at the same time.

It was soon pretty apparent what the procession was all about… it was the sacred and the profane. Sitting up on top of a slow moving pickup, his head shaven and in priestly robes sat an androgynous young man on his way to the temple to be inducted as a monk. It has long been the tradition in Thailand for all young men to become monks, even for a month or two, either as a planned event or perhaps on the death of a parent, and it’s yet another excuse for a big party.

Here he now was, cool and serene amidst the loud music coming from the huge speakers and generator following him in the next pickup, ignoring the raucous mob that surrounded the procession.

Nobody could accuse this celebration of religiosity or of being boring, but as so often in Thailand the contrasts were stark. This was a religious display as serious as anywhere else and deeply imbued in the local culture, but equally it had to be sanuk, noisy and irrepressible fun. And fun it certainly was, such fun that I was almost scared… but then I was probably the only one who was stone cold sober.

I was glad to get out to see it, but equally relieved to be back to the house to listen to Nick Drake whose new album issued more than thirty years after his death couldn’t have been more different. (See

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