Following World War II, the US government invested heavily in “area studies” in an effort to gain knowledge about the world which it was seeking to dominate. Southeast Asia was one of the “areas” that the US government wanted information about, and a massive amount of scholarship on that region was produced over the course of several decades.

That body of knowledge, however, contained massive gaps. One of the biggest gaps concerned knowledge about popular music. It is simply impossible to really get a sense of another society if one doesn’t attempt to understand the popular music of that society, but in the (Western) academic world, popular music gets relegated to the (unfortunately peripheral) discipline of ethnomusicology.

This is a shame, because popular music is simply too important to ignore.

I was thinking about this while watching the above video. This video is a recent “re-enactment/interpretation” of one of the most famous songs by one of Thailand’s most famous singers.

In the 1960s, there was probably no performer in Thailand who was more famous/popular than Suraphol Sombatcharoen (สุรพล สมบัติเจริญ).

Tragically shot to death in 1968, Suraphol Sombatcharoen’s last song was about the end of his marriage and was called “The 16 Years of Our Past” (สิบหกปีแห่งความหลัง). This is the song that the above video “re-creates.”

Here are the lyrics. I have adapted them from this English version. I’m not entirely happy with what I have here, so if anyone has suggestions, please contribute.

สิบหกปี แห่งความหลัง

For the 16 years of our past,


We’ve shared love, hatred, sweetness and bitterness.


Our 16 years were just like 16 days.


Our love was so terribly short, and did not endure.


There was sweetness, happiness, bitterness and bitterness.

สิบหกปี ที่เธอและฉัน

For 16 years, you and I,


Lived our love of joy and bitterness.


We have tried to conserve our good feelings,


But I never thought that we would end up broken-hearted.


Like heaven collapsing,


My heart conflicted with melancholy.


Be on your way and please accept my blessings.


I wish you all the best,


And forget those 16 years, my dear.


Let us just imagine that we have woken up from a dream.

ลืมคืนเราสอง ที่ครองความรักกันมาถึงสิบหกปี

Forget all the nights we’ve shared together over the past 16 years.

สิบหกปี แห่งความฝัน

The 16 years of our dream,

ทั้งเธอและฉันจบเกมรักกัน เพียงนี้

Both you and I have decided to end our game of love.


16 years were just like 16 months,


16 months were just like 16 years,


My heart is saddened because I have lost you.