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Ghost Festival-themed 'Gangnam Style' video offends Loei villagers

Nov 08. 2012
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The Nation

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Residents of Loei's Dan Sai district yesterday denounced a YouTube video clip produced by Dan Sai municipality showing people wearing masks from the province's famous Phi Ta Khon, or Ghost Festival, performing the popular "Gangnam Style" dance, saying


Upset by the video clip, which was shot at Wat Phone Chai and the Phi Ta Khon Museum, the villagers told The Nation it was unacceptable for the municipality to combine the Ghost Festival with a fad, saying they would demand an explanation from officials. “Gangnam Style”, a video by Korean pop star Psy, has become a YouTube sensation. It shows him performing a comic dance that has become a global fad. 
One villager said the municipality should have consulted residents first instead of trampling on their feelings and tarnishing the image of the festival. “Soon, Phi Ta Khon will [be combined with] a Lady Gaga dance, and no one will say anything,” he scoffed, adding that using a pop song was not the same as Phi Ta Khon dancing to Mor Lam (northeastern folk music) tunes, which were part of the tradition. He said that on a previous occasion, residents had voiced their disapproval of a beer garden set up at a temple fair, and this time they would fight against the video clip.
The YouTube clip features 10 people in Phi Ta Khon masks performing the “Gangnam Style” dance in front of various landmarks, including the Phi Ta Khon Museum, Wat Phone Chai’s Sri Song Rak Pagoda replica and a large Phi Ta Khon statue on Dan Sai-Lom Sak Rd. 
The district’s spiritual leader, Thavorn Cheuboonmee, also known as “Kuan the guardian spirit”, said he had watched the clip and felt uneasy about it. Even though the dance moves were performed in a gentle way, it was still inappropriate, he said. Thavorn said Dan Sai residents were greatly offended because the tradition had been passed from generation to generation for over 400 years. Although people had different opinions about this, he felt it was very inappropriate. 
Dan Sai Mayor Santiparp Cheuboonmee said his office made the video clip to promote tourism and propagate the Dai Sai residents’ tradition. “Nothing is broken; the dance moves are simple. If you think this in inappropriate, then the annual parade of Phi Ta Khon, in which they dance to Mor Lam tunes or English songs would be inappropriate, too. People are entitled to their opinions, but the municipality thinks we did the right thing,” he said.
Loei Culture Office director Samrit Sumapa said using Phi Ta Khon in a “Gangnam Style” performance was acceptable if the dance was performed in a manner that wasn’t so aggressive. He said the problem could have been avoided if the municipality had asked the residents before making the clip.

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