Meeting Eh Klo
Tuesday morning. We leave the city of Chiang Mai and take a songthaew (one of the most popular forms of public transport in Thailand) to the suburbs. We are meeting with Eh Klo Moo–a Karen musician, producer, and dreamer.
Eh Klo is a man with one foot in the past and one foot in the future.
As we step through his front door and into his recording studio, the first thing we notice is the temperature. In Thailand, air conditioning is more of a luxury than a necessity, but Eh Klo has his studio temperature-controlled to protect his equipment. On the back wall beneath the hanging Karen flag sit his guitars: about seven or eight, with a bass leaning against the side wall.
Eh Klo is a man with one foot in the past and one in the future. Through talking with him, we can sense his passion for Karen music. As a trained Karen musician, he seems to have a sense of ownership of his own culture. He is well-versed both in traditional Karen music and contemporary Western music. Much of his producing work has been on modern rock albums by Karen musicians that incorporate traditional instruments.
He has plans to establish a center for Karen music and media.
Eh Klo is a humble man. When we mention recording him, he jokingly calls it a “waste of time.” Despite that, he strums a traditional Karen tune for us on his acoustic guitar. It sounds both familiar and foreign. If you’ve heard any blues music, then you would recognize the pentatonic scale influencing the melody, but it is still distinctly Karen.
He spends some time showing us his other Karen instruments: flutes, horns, and the tenaku harp. More exciting than any of that, however, are his plans for the future. He has plans to establish a center for Karen music and media: a media hub with state-of-the-art equipment to support Karen musicians and empower Karen youth.
In the meantime, he is going to continue his education by pursuing a master’s degree in theology–in addition to recording more Karen music. We will be continuing our dialogue with Eh Klo in the future. He is a great guy, and will be very helpful in building bridges with the Karen community in Thailand.