His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej and His Passion for Music

One of the most iconic portrayals of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej is the image

of His Majesty playing His beloved saxophone. Here we see a man deeply concentrated

as He blows into the wind instrument and places His fingers precisely on its keys.

The essence of this image is found within the various melodies composed by King

Bhumibol. Each of the compositions have its own unique charm and ability to create a

range of emotions. Whether performed live or played on tape, whether heard for the first

time or repeatedly, His Majesty's soulful tunes have always left audience members and

listeners deeply impressed by such an exceptional display of musical talent.

Music, especially Jazz and Blues, was a major part of His Majesty the King's life. Not only

did He perform- but also composed, conducted and instructed. It all started with a spark

of passion for the 13 year old boy growing up in Switzerland, who was encouraged to

learn how to play the saxophone and pursue musical theory by a certain Mr. Weybrecht,

a native of Alsace.

From that point, it was not long until His Majesty the King began composing his

own original pieces at age 18. His first piece, known in English as Candle Light Blues,

contained subtle hints of the main influencers of His work: Berchet, Armstrong and

Ellington. Yet, at the same time, the piece expressed a certain depth of melancholy that

stood out originally. This unique composition marked the birth of a musical career that

ultimately brought about 48 compositions across a number of musical genres.

As the musical works continued to attract significant international recognition, His

Majesty King Bhumibol eventually became the first Asian person ever to be granted an

Honorary Membership of the Institute of Music and Arts of Vienna in 1964. In 1980,

UNESCO named His Majesty's composition Falling Rain as the Song of Asia.

Today, the legacy of the jazz-loving King's musical compositions has found its way back

to the origins of classical music. In Europe, performances of the King's works by

renowned Thai orchestras on tour, including the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra, Siam

Symphonic Band, Bangkok Pro Musica, Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra and the Siam

Sinfonietta, have taken place at historical landmark venues such as the Musikverein in

Vienna, the Berlin Philharmonie, FranzAlsischer Dom in Berlin, Schloss Nymphenburg in

Munich, Hotel Taschenbergpalais Kempinski in Dresden, the SchAlnbrunn Palace, the

concert hall in The Hague, and many others. The Royal Guards March generally known as

" March Rajawallop" always receives a big round of applause whenever this piece of His

Majesty's composition is performed on international stage.

Although music was a personal passion of the talented King, He always displayed an

eagerness to share the pleasure with others. Initially, this came in the form of teaching

His children to play musical instruments. Then, His Majesty took on a number of students

from His own entourage which led to the formation of the Sahai Pattana band,

consisting of a group of friends and students who would play and produce music

alongside the Monarch.

Another effective way of encouraging others to join in His love for music was through

establishing the Aw Saw Radio Station in 1952- the year in which His Majesty returned

to live in Thailand permanently. The purpose of this station was to broadcast to the

general public compositions played by the musical King and to communicate His ideas

and words in order to break down pre-existing barriers that prevented communication

between a monarch and his people.

However, for the extraordinary King, music was not merely a pleasurable pastime. His

Majesty believed it had the power to inspire, unify and bestow strength to the people.

This is reflected in His music's repertoire composed to remind soldiers, civil servants and

citizens of their values and to inspire them in the performances of their duties to the

country. Perhaps the most touching piece within this category is the song

Yim Su (Smiles) which was composed in 1952 in order to give hope to students at a

school for the blind and to encourage them to make the most out of their lives in spite

of their misfortune.

A moving story about the inspirational effect of His Majesty's music

could perhaps illustrate the relationship between the King and His subjects. His Majesty

the King once strived to teach a blind student to play an instrument. Although it was a

challenging task for the pupil who was unable to see the movements required to play,

His Majesty patiently persisted until his pupil understood. As soon as the pupil was able

to play the first correct note of the melody, his face lit up with pride and joy. For the

blind pupil, the sound of a correct note was more than just pleasure to his ears; it was an

inspiration to his soul.

The same is true when the King's people listen to His Majesty King Bhumibol'

s songs. Their faces, too, light up with pride and inspiration. For when they hear His

music and are reminded of His legacy, they unite in the common realisation that they are

indeed one truly blessed nation.

Source: Royal Thai Embassy, MYANMAR