Thai culture deacons to promote Buddhist rap music

Turkish Daily News (Associated Press), February 22, 2005

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Seeking to break new musical ground while instilling traditional values, Thailand's Culture Ministry is planning a concert to feature rap and hip hop music touting Buddhist virtues, a news report said Saturday.

The ministry will hold a concert on Feb. 23 - Makha Bucha Day, a major Buddhist holy day - to introduce a new genre of tunes, "Dhamma Rap," reported the official Thai News Agency.

Dhamma, or dharma , refers to the teachings of Buddha, which serve as a moral guide on how one should conduct one's life. Makha Bucha celebrates Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death.

Like many cultural fashions originating in the United States, rap and hip hop music are popular with Thai youth, with lyrics adapted to the local scene. The music is sometimes criticized in Thailand as well as the West for seeming to glorify sexist and decadent lifestyles and attitudes.

"Doing away with the often violent and misogynist lyrics associated with rap, the new genre will focus on compassion, sharing and the ability to let go of material possessions," said the news report.

It said the government was spurred to enter the music promotion business by the popularity of Valentine's Day among young people, who reportedly regard the occasion as an opportunity to celebrate the sexual aspects of love.

The Cultural Ministry since its establishment just a few years ago has given great attention to purported sexual promiscuity among youth. On Valentine's Day, police were sent to patrol Bangkok hotels traditionally used by lovers to ensure that students did not get up to any hanky-panky.