Writing these posts for Oido Del Mundo is as much a journey of discovery for me as I hope it is for you guys. A song will piqué my interest and I’ll trawl the web for information on the artist, hoping to create an overview of their career. Sometimes though, finding enough information is impossible. This, unfortunately, is one of those times. What follows is the barest bones of Onuma Singsiri’s story.
Onuma Singsiri was born in Khon Kaen, one of the four major cities in Isan, the northeastern region of Thailand bordering Laos. The region shares with Laos a traditional form of music called molam (or mor lam), whose repertoire is stuffed with songs of unrequited love and the harshness of rural life. It seems to be out of this tradition that Onuma Singsiri emerged, lyrically, if not musically.
Onuma was active in the 60s and 70s, though exact dates are hard to come by. Her most famous song is Mae Kha Som Tam (Papaya Salad Merchant), from the album Sao Isan Ro Rak (unknown label/year). It’s been included on a couple of compilations in recent years, including the Soundway’s one pictured in the video below.
And that’s about all I’ve managed to find out. I hesitated about even writing this post, so paltry is the amount of information at hand, but the song is simply too good not to share – a funky, and moving tale of heartache. There are lyrics below, written by YouTuber Witcha Suyara, who posted the translation in a comment (I’ve edited the English slightly to make it clearer, but the main credit must go to him).
I guess there’s nothing else to do now but enjoy the music!
Come taste my papaya salad, very delicious.
From sunset till night at the gas station, I sell papaya salad. Handsome taxi driver and tricycle boy are my best customers. But tonight I didn’t see them. Are they bored of my papaya salad?
Papaya salad merchant from Isan worrys about it since sunset. Handsome taxi driver is not coming. Tricycle boy’s shadow is never seen. Papaya salad merchant feels so neglected.
Maybe my papaya salad is not delicious like another merchant in Suthisan Trok, so that’s why handsome taxi driver is bored of me. Maybe he has a crush on the Northern girl who sells Mieng Khum. Tricycle boy is also never seen again. He used to flirt with me but now he’s disappeared.
I wait at the gas station from dusk till down. I look at the road but never see you dear. You used to take me home but why did you leave me alone? Taxi driver was never seen again. Tricycle boy has disappeared. It hurts papaya salad merchant so deeply.