TRACKS: 1. Ritual Dialog 2. Nine Monks Chanting
It's doubtful that many villagers in Thailand walk out to a paved road to pick up the mail. Chances are, to get to any village upcountry, some stretch of dirt road has to be traveled. It can be a heart pounding experience for a foreigner to find themselves in the back of tuk tuk bouncing down a dirt road at dusk en route to a small community where they still eat bugs and believe in ghosts. It's no big deal until the sun goes down. But after that, there's no telling where you've been or where you're going. The roads don't have street lights. It's pitch black. That little phrase, pitch black, doesn't mean much in the average modern city because these days there's always some sort of light. But in the back of a three wheeler that's hauling your body into the unknown it means a lot.
Nine Monks Chanting was recorded in a Thai village called Nong Sum. It's upcountry in a region known as Isan, just outside of Roi Et in the northeast. The only way to get there is by dirt road or helicopter or buffalo. It's humid and it's hot. Delicacies are warm ants and snails in the shell. Most of the houses are on stilts because of the monsoons that wash through each year. One or two hundred natives live there at any given time. It's a simple place with charming people. They love to socialize, love to eat and love to lay around laughing. The center of activity in the village is the temple. It's a common building with open sides and exposed beams. It's for practicing a form of Buddhism known as Theravada Buddhism, old school Buddhism, the way of the elders.
The recording was made during a traditional house raising ceremony. The natives have a strict process they follow before inhabiting a new house. They won't move anything into the house until after they have performed their rituals. It's fascinating. They act out dramatic scenes, circle the house burning incense, and devour a lavish feast. Then the monks arrive. Nine of them in mustard colored robes. They take their place inside the house and begin to chant. As they chant they unravel a ball of string. It passes from the first monk to the last and then back again. By the time it makes its way home to the first monk they're done. Nine Monks Chanting in Pali is mesmerizing. (50% of the proceeds are donated yearly to organizations that encourage the spread of Buddhism.)