A frequent performer at the exits of busy BTS or MRT stations, street musician Naradate Kongthanajirapanya, 34, talks about why he spurned his degree in political science and picked up a drum to play in a pin perd muak (open-hat Isaan band) with his friend.

BK: What did you do before you were a street performer?
I was born in Nakhon Ratchasima to poor farmers. When I finished grade six, I came to Bangkok looking for a job and started working at a car garage as an apprentice. I also continued my education part time and finished high school in 2 years. I later got into multi-level marketing business (MLM) and studied political science at Ramkhamhaeng University. 

BK: Why did you choose to study political science?
At first I wanted to be a public servant but it’s too hard to get work in government agencies. It’s all about having connections. But I wanted to give it a shot, and I finished the course in four years. I continued doing MLM and became a lecturer for trainees.

BK: How did you become a street musician?
Well, MLM is OK but it wasn’t making me rich. One day I read a book that said if you want to be rich and successful, you have to be creative and invent something new. Don’t depend on others. Two months ago, I met my music partner who was playing on the street, so I asked him to teach me how to play pin [an Isaan guitar]. Instead, he asked me to play the drum instead and join him as a band to tour around the city. I also created my own drum from a bucket.  

BK: Do you feel like it’s a waste of your degree?
No, I don’t. I am doing what makes me happy. I don’t have to compete with others in the world of employees. I have loved music since I was a kid. Mo lam is in my blood but I’ve never before had the opportunity to do it. Now I preserve Thai traditional music like this and make money from it.

BK: How much can you make?
It’s pretty good, but it can vary. I now make B20,000 a month. I start from 2pm and finish about 8-9pm. We’ve also got so many jobs by playing on the street. Many people hire us to play for their events like monkood ordinations and birthday parties. Many people, both Thais and tourists, also ask to study the instrument. Some ask about our CD. 

BK: What does your family think of this?
They are OK. My wife understands what I am doing. I have two kids to support.

BK: How do you see your future?
I would like to say that I am really proud that I have come this far. I thank my parents and thank the poverty that drives me to this day. I also thank those books that gave me the idea that everyone has the potential to be rich. I also want to have a big Isaan band to promote our traditional musical. Monruedee Jansuttipan


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