Thai ‘Royal Rocker’ Hugo Chakrabongse Levy

Last time I was in Thailand, I went to the house of my grand cousin and that was the first time I saw a music video of the Thai singer and songwriter Hugo Chakrabongse Levy who is an internationally acclaimed musician. The wife of my grand cousin asked my if I knew Hugo and she told me that he is related to the Thai royal family. Hence, I became curious to know more about this artist because he is part-Thai and proficient in both English and Thai. Thus, he sings songs both in English and Thai language as well.

Royal Rocker Hugo*

Royal Rocker Hugo*

Hugo Chakrabongse Levy’s Story

Hugo Chakrabongse Levy, born 1981 in England, is the great great grandson of King Rama V (Chulalongkorn). Hugo was raised in Thailand and his Thai name is Chulachak Chakrabongse. His artist name is the mononym ‘Hugo’.

Hugo Chakrabongse Levy*

Hugo Chakrabongse Levy*

In fact, Hugo’s mother is M.R. Narisa Chakrabongse, the daughter of Prince Chula Chakrabongse and granddaughter of ‘Katya – The Russian Princess of Siam’. Hugo’s father is the British-Jewish songwriter Allen Levy. When Hugo’s parents divorced, he moved with his mother to Thailand. In his adolescence, he became a singer in different bands and also worked as an actor in various Thai soap operas. As a matter of fact, Hugo’s music was not very popular in Thailand at first when he started his career with the band Siplor in 2001. However, he was recognized in the USA and became famous. Today, the CNN even calls him the ‘royal rocker of Thailand’!

Making independent music at first in Thailand, Hugo later turned more to mainstream music, claiming “take The Doors, The Beatles or even our very own Carabao. They are all popular mainstream bands and no one would ever doubt their credibility. That’s what I want to do.”(Hugo quoted from CNN)

Hugo became particularly recognized when his song ‘Disappear’ was featured on Beyoncé’s album “I Am…Sasha Fierce”. Hugo also featured the song ‘Disappear’ beautifully with Thai-Belgian singer Palmy. Hence, Jay-Z signed Hugo to his label Roc Nation. Thus, Hugo became very popular with his cover of Jay-Z song “99 Problems”. It was Hugo’s first single and it became a great blues song because it was additionally featured in the romantic comedy ‘No Strings Attached’ with Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher. What is more, Hugo has been in some commercials like for instance this one for JASPAL.

In 2013, Hugo had the starring role in Young Bao the Movie which is about the life and times of Thailands most famous Rock band Carabao.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjQsuEoDXh0

Today Hugo lives both in the USA (New York) and in Thailand. In fact, he feels very much attached to Thailand. He says that he wants to come home and enjoy an early retirement with his family and friends in Thailand.

One might be justified in saying that Hugo is not a typical Thai singer. However, do you like his music and do you accept him as a Thai musician?

Hugo Chakrabongse - example of a distinctively mixed heritage (img.kapook.com)

Hugo – example of a distinctively mixed heritage (photo credit: img.kapook.com)

I think Hugo Chakrabongse Levy is kind of special because he is recognized in the Western world and also in Asia. Hence, he is one of the Thai celebrities with mixed origin. In my opinion, this is a great and special achievement 🙂 He seems to feel home in both worlds.

Yours, Sirinya

*photo credit: Hugo, FB page