Thai Country Music – Pumpuang Duangjan

Pumpuang ‘Peung’ Duangjan – Life and Success

Look Thung (Thai Country Music) wasn’t always the saucy sexy blend of glamour which it is today. It used to be all very tame and bland until a shooting star appeared on the stage changing Look Thung for a new generation. It all happened in the mid-1980s.

A new songstress named Pumpuang ‘Peung’ Duangjan suddenly arrived on the scene bringing with her a rich blend of traditional Look Thung with Western pop music and style. This revolution can be traced to one man, Peung’s songwriter, composer and producer ‘Kru Lop Burirat’. An accomplished musician who could play both Western and Thai music, he mixed them both together for a brand new style. In 1985 they experimented with this new look and sound with the album ‘Aue Hue Lor Jang’ ( Wow, he’s so cute!). The album was a phenomenal success.

‘Peung’ was no ‘one-hit-wonder’. She and Kru Lop quickly released a succession of record-breaking albums including ‘Hang Noi Thoi Nid’, ‘Noo Mai Roo’ and ‘Noo Mai Ao’. While there is no doubt that Look Thung owes Kru Lop a great much, it was ‘Peung’ who was in charge of her own self-promotion. She performed on stage in a variety of flesh revealing costumes giving her an outrageously sexy look which often brought a severe backlash from music critics and the older generation. Loved, but also loathed, she was criticized for trying to ‘copy’ Western popstar ‘Madonna’ and lambasted for her Un-Thai sense of dress and flirtation.

Being undisturbed and completely ignoring her detractors, ‘Peung’ continued with her own naughty thing and her audiences just loved it. Thailand had never seen anyone like it before!

In recent times, a new generation of Look Thung artists such as ‘Yui Yartyuth’, ‘Arphaphorn Nakhorn Sawan’ and Dau Mayuree all pointed to ‘Peung’ as their inspiration. Til this day she will always be remembered as ‘the girl who put the spice into Look Thung’.

Pumpuang ‘Peung’ Duangjan – A Life Of Tears and Sorrow

This rags to riches story of an illiterate peasant girl who achieved legendary status as the ‘Queen of Look Thung’ is of almost mythical proportion.

Though born in ‘Isarn’, she was brought up in Suphanburi province just north of Bangkok. As her family was so poor, ‘Peung’ was forced to drop out of school after just one year to help her parents in their sugar-cane fields.

Being unable to read did not deter Peung from picking up a microphone and learning by heart a collection of almost 100 songs by the age of twelve. Growing up and wanting to hit the big time, ‘Peung’ entered the notorious world of ‘Cafe and Temple Fair’ concerts as a dancer and singer.

It was ‘on this circuit’ where she met her first husband.

The marriage was a rocky one and her husband later ran off with a another girl. Adding injury to insult, he returned after the affair and eloped with Peung’s younger sister – they married later. The man who married first Peung before her younger sister, was known to the public as an ‘alcoholic womanizer’ who did nothing but ‘live off women’.

Family feuds erupted and Peung’s brother was sentenced to 15 years in prison after he had killed Peung’s former husband in a fit of anger. Another of her brothers, broken-hearted at the rejection of a singer he wished to married, picked up a shotgun one day – placed it at his head and pulled the trigger.

Shortly after shooting to fame, Peung married again and had a baby son. More family quarrels erupted after Peung’s mother blamed her new husband for taking advantage of Peung’s illiteracy and having her unknowingly, sign over to him – her financial documents and earnings. The marriage did not last long and the couple seperated over his supposed womanizing and extortionate spending (of her money)

(Lottery players pay homage to the spirit of Pumpuang at Wat Tapkradan, Pumpuang Temple, in Suphanburi province)

Over time, Peung’s health just went from bad to worse and she was hospitalized several times. In 1992, though still sick, Peung travelled to Chiang Mai to see her son. Before returning to Bangkok – Peung, close family and friends stopped off to pay their respects at one of Thailand’s most revered Buddha Images located at Wat Phra Si Mahathat in Phitsanulok province. “She had wanted to pray for her son’s well-being”

Before even leaving the temple gates – Peung collapsed.

Just as quickly as she had arrived on the stage, she was lost to us. Peung died of kidney failure at Phra Phutthachinnarat hospital in Phitsanulok. She was just 31 years of age.

The passing away of the ‘Queen of Look Thung’

No-one had realized just how huge and popular ‘Peung’ really was until after her death. Holding legendary status she was renamed ‘Pumpuang – The Queen of Thai Country Music’. At her funeral at Wat Tapkradan in Suphanburi province, an estimated 200,000 people turned up to pay thier last respects. Even HM The King attended.

Sadly for ‘Peung’, her family never failed in bringing to the attention of the country, their seemingly endless battle for possession of Peung’s fortune.

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