The independent music festival Cat Expo got political this past weekend (21-22 Nov). During the band t_047’s last song, lead singer Nattee “Toon” Akaraponthanarak, 25, invited three very special guests onto the stage.
They were Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan (aka Ammy The Bottom Blues), Jatupat Boonpattararaksa (aka Pai Dao Din), and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul.
Toon’s last number was the song “หลังคา” (lang-kha, roof). The lyrics sing of being a roof over someone’s head to give comfort and protection. After the song, the three pro-democracy Ratsadon activists said thank you.
Together, they and the audience lit up their phones and raised the three-finger salute. The audience loved it. The organizers not so much.
One staff posted this on his public Facebook status, which has since been deleted:
“It’s a pity… there’s a band that insulted our intention by politicizing the event. Barking from the stage to show your prowess without caring which stage you are on. In short, the band smuggled these Ratsadon leaders into the event. If you’re a music lover, you should leave politics on the other side of the fence.”
We have reached out to the organizers but receive no reply. Here’s a talk with Toon.
Why did you do it?
It was actually not planned. I’m quite close with Ammy, and I’ve been quite active in participating in the movement. Ammy said that Rung and Pai wanted to come say hi to me and to show me support.
When I was playing the song Lang-kha, I wanted these guys to feel the warmth, love, and support from the audience. So I invited them up to receive the good feelings in this special moment with me.
I didn’t see it as making a political proclamation. I only saw these people as my friends who sacrifice their lives to fight for what is right and what they believe in. I just wanted to give them some support, that’s all. It felt like it’s the right and beautiful thing to do.
What do you think of the Facebook post by an organizer?
I have to ask them back, how was I not doing my job properly? It would have been a different story if I used my entire show slot to make political speeches. But I still did my job and performed. And those three guys when they joined me on the stage, they didn’t make any political speeches.
Should we separate politics from music?
No, it wouldn’t make any sense to do so. The music industry in Thailand is already tied so much to politics. The freedom to speak [through lyrics] is restricted. Corporate heads run the industry.
I work in the art scene and clearly I see politics in the industry. In fact, the protests provide opportunities for many artists to showcase their talents. [Many independent artists perform at protest festivals.]
Considering how much funding the Ministry of Culture gets, they could have provided so much more space and opportunities for the art scene in this country.