The Musical King – Remembering King Rama 9

by | Oct 13, 2019 | Jazz, Articles

October 13 is a sad day for Thai people, as it marks the third anniversary of the passing of their favourite monarch, the King of Kings, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX. He reigned Thailand since June 9th 1946 until his death on October 13th 2016, making him the longest-reigning monarch ever in Thailand’s history. 

Besides many great things he has done for his people and his country, King Rama 9 is also known and respected as an accomplished jazz saxophone player and composer. His musical influence is one of the main reason why Thailand has so many great jazz study programmes, musicians and venues. King’s music is ever-present in Thai culture, fr0m radio stations, schools to shopping malls, you can always here these nostalgic and elegant melodies that echo some more easy-going and slower-paced times.

He was into Dixieland and New Orleans jazz, and besides the saxophone, he also played the clarinet, trumpet, guitar, and piano. Being interested in music since he was very young, he started studying music seriously when he was at school in Switzerland. His early training was in classical music, but later he studied jazz and learned to play the saxophone. By the time His Majesty turned 18, he started to compose his own music with the first being Candlelight Blues. He continued to compose even during his reign following his coronation in 1946. He performed with Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Benny Goodman, Stan Getz, Lionel Hampton, and Benny Carter. Throughout his life, King Rama 9 wrote a total of 49 compositions. Much of it is jazz swing but he also composed marches, waltzes, and Thai patriotic songs. His most popular compositions were Candlelight Blues, Love at Sundown, and Falling Rain which were all composed in 1946.

This documentary titled Gitarajan (original title in Thai คีตราชัน ร ๙; eng. The Musical King) made in 1996 by the Thai government tells a story of his musical path and legacy he left behind. In respect of the third year of his death anniversary and Buddhist Lent Day most of the live music venues will be closed on Sunday, October 13.