His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand has been interested in music since he was young. He started studying music seriously when he was at school in Switzerland. His early training was in classical music, which he studied jazz and learned to play the saxophone.
His Majesty sometimes invited Thai students in Switzerland to a get-together at the Vadhan Villa, where they had jam sessions with the King. During his private visit to the Royal Thai Embassy in Paris, His Majesty also often joined Thai students in musical performances.
His Majesty the King encouraged music lovers to set up a musical band called "Lai Khram." He also established his own "Au Saw Band" which had a regular musical program on Au Saw Radio, and later the "Sahai Patthana Band", comprising members of the royal entourage which included medical doctors, royal guards, security personnel, agricultural officials and retinues, most of whom did not know music before but were taught by His Majesty until they, too, could play musical instruments.
Established by the King in 1952, the Au Saw radio station was the first to broadcast His Majesty's own musical compositions. "Au Saw" stands for Ambhorn Satharn Palace, which was the royal temporary home. When the Royal Family moved to Chitralada Villa at Dusit Palace, the radio station was also relocated there.
In the beginning, the Au Saw Band played only two instrucments: His Majesty's current favorite, and the piano. According to a person close to His Majesty, the King cleaned and kept his instruments himself.
The band later expanded, both in size and the number of musical instruments played. Most of the Au Saw band members were amateurs who shared with His Majesty a common interest in music. All had professions and included lawyers, but although amateurs they played as well as professionals, if not better.
The Au Saw radio station's early broadcasts were music selected by His Majesty himself. Later, he initiated a musical program -- broadcast live for listeners at home -- at Amphorn Gardens for the general public. Western music was played on Wednesday, an idea picked up by the mulitary which made Wednesday afternoons their sports day. Friday evening was devoted to music by the Au Saw Band and, on Sunday, the station played Thai music from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and western music from 11 a.m. to 12 noon.
His Majesty has composed and arranged 44 songs, the latest of which is titled "Rak" (Love). He also granted permission for other composers to write the lyrics, five of which were written in English by His Majesty composes the music before he writes the lyric, but for two songs, "Supreme Dream" and "We Fight," he wrote the Iyric before composing the melody.
His Majesty's benevolence to his people is manifested even through his musical work. For example, he gave the song "Yam Yen" (Evening) to the Anti-Tuberculosis Association for use at their fund raising, while "Klai Rung" (At Dawn) was first played at a fair organised by the Poultry Raisers Association of Thailand. "Yim Su" (A Winner Smile) was given to the school for the Blind, and "Lom Nao" (Winter Wind) to the British Alumni Association.
His Majesty's "Kinnaree Suite" was used for a Manohra ballet which was presented to raise money for the Thai Red Cross Society, and "New Year Blessing" was presented to all Thai people on the occasion of the New year. In addition, His Majesty also composed songs specially for universities such as Chulalongkorn, Thammasat and Kasetsart. "Saeng Thian" (Candle Light), however, was his first song in the blues style of jazz music.
His Majesty has also expressed interest in Thai classical music, and once said he wanted to try his hand at playing Thai musical instruments. He never got to it, but His Majesty presented money from his personal fund to the Fine Arts Department for use in recording Thai classical music to facilitate performances. With the money, the department was able to publish a book on Thai classical music notes.
A Gifted composer, His Majesty has unique imagination and has taken the lead in composing modern Thai songs. Many of his songs remain popular at all times.
His Majesty has also granted royal patronage to musical groups and given support to musical activities in Thailand. It is for this reason that Thai music has greatly developed and is becoming well known to the world at large.