Music, the media and the thai state following the death of king bhumibol: Popular music’s role in orchestrating certainty in thailand’s existential crisis

John Garzoli

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Following the death of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej on 13 October 2016, the country entered an official period of mourning. In an attenuation of existing practices rather than a departure from them, the unelected military government assumed control of all media and used it to curate the tone of national mourning. Music was then enlisted in the process to help shape the emotional register of the grieving process. Government-controlled media’s actions were exemplified in the broadcasting practices of the police-run radio station in the north-eastern city of Khon Kaen. It repeatedly played only a small number of structurally and aesthetically similar popular songs that shared hagiographic narrative themes of praise for the late king and emphasized national solidarity. The government’s use of its power, the importance of the king in the Thai imagination and the maintenance of societal equilibrium following his death are briefly explained through Bunn’s concept of ‘new censorship’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-381
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Community Music
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Censorship
  • Media
  • Military
  • Monarchy
  • Music
  • Nationalism
  • Thailand

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