Guests staying at the hotel near Bumrungrad Hospital might have seen blind singers all over Bangkok as they roam around the city and its streets. These blind singers are usually chased away by the authorities but because of the latest reform from the Thai government, these visually challenged singers are given the chance to perform legally on the streets using what they call talent cards.
Singhkum Boonriang is one of these singers. He is playing a guitar and he sings together with a drummer. They perform Thai ballads to passers-by and they perform in various areas in Bangkok such as sky train stations and traffic junctions.
He said that he was doing it because of his love for music. Since his teenage years, he has been performing but four years ago he decided to leave his hometown in the north and move to Bangkok where he started the street performances. He said that he was encouraged by the number of performers in Bangkok and though he should try it as well.
Majority of the blind singers in Bangkok came from poor backgrounds and they are originally from rural provinces. They move to the capital looking for employment.
Yupin Boonchuen, another street singer with visual impairment, admitted that because they are visually challenged there are a limited number of jobs where they are accepted such as giving massages, selling lottery tickets and singing.
The locals have different views when it comes to street performers because of superstitious belief that people with disabilities happen due to bad karma in their past lives. There is also a misconception that they are hustlers that are scared of the city officials.
Philip Cornwell-Smith who is an author of a book about the culture of Thailand said that these singers preserve the folk culture of the country using their bamboo flutes and tradition instruments such as mandolins.
The good news is that the government started giving talent cards to these singers to separate them from street beggars. All they have to do is to sign up legally. This is good news for tourists and guests of hotel near Bumrungrad Hospital because they will have a chance to experience Thai culture through music.