Beneath a row of palm trees, Prayoon Yomyiam and her singing partner take turns belting out the playful lyrics of a classic Thai tune in a new Google Doodle honoring the icon of central Thailand’s traditional Lam Tad folk music genre. Also known in Thailand as Mae Prayoon or “Mother Prayoon,” she is a celebrated guardian of this unique musical tradition who would have been 85 years old today.
Here’s what to know about the masterful musician.
Who is Prayoon Yomyiam?
Mae Prayoon is a renowned Thai artist widely regarded as the icon who revived a style of Thai folk music known as Lam Tad. Born on Aug. 30, 1933, Prayoon began singing Lam Tad when she was just 15 years old, and she rose to popularity over the years as her cassette recordings circulated throughout the kingdom of smiles. In 1994, Thailand recognized Prayoon as a National Artist of Thailand, a distinction for notable artists essential to the country’s cultural traditions.
What is Lam Tad?
Originating from central Thailand, Lam Tad is an antiphonal style, meaning two people alternate singing, often improvised with humor and typically to the beat of a drum known as a Klong Ramana.
Lam Tad was under threat of extinction until Prayoon breathed new life into the art. Remembered for her clever lyrics with double-entendres — called song ngae song ngam in Thai — Prayoon reinvigorated the genre both domestically and internationally. She captivated audiences at home, and helped spread the style of music far and wide through Thailand’s state-sponsored tourism campaign.
Mae Prayoon died in 2010, but her legacy lives on as a custodian of Thailand’s rich musical heritage.