H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej & His Music

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In honour of the auspicious occasion of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s (King Rama IX) Birthday on 5th Dezember, I’d like to focus on and honour his musical talent and accomplishment. Being a talented musician, His Majesty is also referred to as the ‘Musical Monarch’.

H.M King Bhumibol Adulyadej

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, portrait from 1946 (photo: wikimedia.org)

H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, portrait from 1946 (photo: wikimedia.org)

Thus, H.M. King Bhumibol is known as a great jazz saxophone player and composer. In addition, he also plays many other musical instruments like the piano, the clarinet, trumpet and the guitar. Only few people know that His Majesty has composed 49 songs among them ‘Candlelight Blues’, ‘Falling Rain’ (Sai Fon) and ‘Love at Sundown’ which are his most popular musical pieces.

In particular, ‘Love at Sundown’ which has a foxtrot rhythm became a top hit for Thai people. However, ‘Falling Rain’ is also an all-time favourite song. These songs were composed in 1946 and are in the genre of jazz swing. What is more, the King has also written Thai patriotic songs and marches among others.

Photograph of Bhumibol and Sirikit of Thailand on their wedding 28 April 1950 (photo credit: wikimedia.org)

Photograph of Bhumibol and Sirikit of Thailand on their wedding 28 April 1950 (photo credit: wikimedia.org)

His Majesty’s musical compositions have been mainly influenced by legends like Louis Armstrong, Benny Carter, Sidney Bechet and Johnny Hodges. Thus, in his younger days, the King also performed with well-known musicians like Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Benny Carter. At that time, His Majesty’s favourite musical style was Dixie Land Jazz.

In his youth, King Bhumibol was studying in Switzerland where he received his first music lessons. The musical talent of the ‘little Prince’ was early discovered. His brother who was at that time King Ananda Mahidol also made music and later they would perform together – King Ananda on the clarinet and Bhumibol on the saxophone. At first, the two bought a second-hand saxophone for 300 francs 🙂

King Ananda Mahidol and Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1946 (photo: wikimedia.org)

King Ananda Mahidol and Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1946 (photo: wikimedia.org)

After King Bhumibol returned to Thailand in 1950, he launched a jazz band called Lay Kram. He perfomed with this band on the Palace Radio Station and as his band became more successful and grew, it was renamed as the Au Sau Wan Suk Band. His Majesty would perform each Friday evenings with his band and they also played at Thai universities. Hence, the King also wrote the anthems for Chulalongkorn, Thammasat and Kasetsart University.

It is also important to note that King Bhumibol performed with jazz legend Benny Goodman (the King of Swing Jazz) in Bangkok as well as in New York where Goodman was at home. This was in the late 1950s to 1960s. There is also a documentary film about His Majesty and his music called ‘Gitarajan’ (1996). I truly recommend you watch this documentary, if you are interested in His Majesty’s jazz music and education. What is more, there are also some interesting early and historical recordings of King Bhumibol.

His Majesty also received a number of awards for his musical accomplishment. For instance, he received the honorary membership of Vienna’s University of Music and Performing Arts in 1964. Later in 2000, King Bhumibol got the Sanford Medal from Yale School of Music and in 2003 he received the honorary doctorate in music from the University of North Texas College of Music.

King Bhumibol with his mother and his elder sister at Villa Vadhana, 1945 (photo: Bureau of the Royal Household, Kingdom of Thailand, wikimedia.org)

King Bhumibol with his mother and his elder sister at Villa Vadhana, 1945 (photo: Bureau of the Royal Household, Kingdom of Thailand, wikimedia.org)

Finally, we may say that H.M. King Bhumibol has been a great musician and we should honour his musical accomplishment. Today, in honour of his 88th Birthday on 5th December 2015, there will be many activities in Thailand to celebrate the King’s Birthday. For instance, there will be a bike ride called ‘Bike For Dad’ for His Majesty on 11th December. Thai people from 70 countries are expected to join their compatriots in Thailand to bike ride for King Bhumibol.

Yours, Sirinya

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