Thai­land’s late king also artist, jazz mu­si­cian, in­ven­tor

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Aside from his kingly du­ties - and they were im­mense - Thai­land’s late King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej took time dur­ing his 70-year reign to com­pose mu­sic (and jam with some of the world’s jazz leg­ends), build sail­ing craft (and win an in­ter­na­tional yacht­ing race), paint sur­re­al­is­tic oils and have some 20 patents reg­is­tered for an as­sort­ment of in­ven­tions. Here’s a look at the many pur­suits of Bhu­mi­bol, who died last week at the age of 88:


“He is sim­ply the coolest king in the land,” de­clared Amer­i­can jazz great Lionel Hamp­ton of Bhu­mi­bol’s tal­ent on the sax­o­phone. He also played clar­inet, trum­pet and the piano, of­ten with his own palace band, and one of the highlights of a 1960 visit to New York was a twohour jam ses­sion with Benny Good­man.

Largely self-taught, he is cred­ited with nearly 50 com­po­si­tions, in­clud­ing a three­move­ment bal­let pre­viewed in Vi­enna and songs that are still fre­quently heard in Thai­land, in­clud­ing “Fall­ing Rain” and “Can­dle­light Blues.” Six of his songs were in­cluded in a 1950 Broad­way mu­si­cal, “Peepshow,” with one, “Blue Night,” de­scribed by one critic as a “sen­su­ous be­guine.”


Hav­ing tin­kered since child­hood and stud­ied some sci­ence and en­gi­neer­ing in Switzer­land, the king came up with in­ven­tions through­out much of his reign, with 20 patents and 19 trade­marks reg­is­tered un­der his name and some gar­ner­ing in­ter­na­tional awards. Most were related to ru­ral devel­op­ment, although he also con­fig­ured a new gun mount on he­li­copters and of­fered ideas on how to pre­vent the M-16, the stan­dard US as­sault ri­fle in the Viet­nam War, from jamming.

Pon­der­ing how to pre­vent an­nual flood­ing in Bangkok, he re­called from child­hood pet mon­keys munch­ing on ba­nanas, then re­tain­ing the food in their cheeks to later swal­low. The king’s “mon­key cheeks” ini­tia­tive fea­tured reser­voirs on the pe­riph­eries of Bangkok into which on­rush­ing wa­ter was di­verted and later flushed into the sea or used for ir­ri­ga­tion. His in­ven­tions in­cluded a bio­fuel from palm oil and the low-cost Chaipat­tana aer­a­tor, which re­sem­bles a pad­dle wheel on old steam­ers and can be in­serted into rivers, canals and marshes to counter wa­ter pol­lu­tion. The aer­a­tors can be seen across Thai­land, in­clud­ing at the royal res­i­dence in Bangkok.

A 2005 Euro­pean patent, num­ber 1491088, de­scribes a tech­nique for seed­ing clouds to in­duce rain over drought-stricken ar­eas. Dubbed the “super sand­wich,” pi­lots dis­perse en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly chem­i­cals to form cool and warm clouds at dif­fer­ent al­ti­tudes.

Bhu­mi­bol was 8 when he got hold of his first cam­era - a Coronet Mid­get given by his mother - and rarely was one out of reach through most of his life, cap­tur­ing both do­mes­tic scenes and doc­u­ment­ing his ef­forts to im­prove ru­ral lives. The king’s more than 60 sculp­tures and paint­ings range from tra­di­tion­ally re­al­is­tic to ex­pres­sion­is­tic and ab­stract. Some are starkly con­tem­po­rary. “This is called ‘Sub­ver­sion’ - there is greed, anger and evil. I painted it with a knit­ting nee­dle,” he said of one.

The king also penned sev­eral books, in­clud­ing one about a beloved stray dog that he had adopted. A keen sports­man un­til hob­bled by ill­nesses over the past decade, he teamed up with one of his daugh­ters to win a yacht­ing gold medal in the 1967 Southeast Asian Penin­su­lar Games. A year later, he chal­lenged an­other royal sailor, Bri­tain’s vis­it­ing Prince Philip, to a race. — AP

In this July 5, 1960, file photo, Thai­land’s King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej, right, plays the sax­o­phone dur­ing a jam ses­sion with leg­endary jazz clar­inetist Benny Good­man, left, drum­mer Gene Krupa, sec­ond left, and trom­bon­ist Ur­bie Green in New York. — AP photos

A Thai Bud­dhist monk takes a pic­ture of draw­ing por­traits of the late Thai King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thai­land, yes­ter­day.

In this Sept 22, 1935, file photo, ten-year-old King Ananda Mahi­dol of Siam, now known as Thai­land, right, stands with his brother Prince Bhu­mi­bol, while play­ing with presents in­clud­ing a sci­ence kit he re­ceived on his tenth birth­day, in Lau­sanne, Switzer­land.

In this Fri­day, Aug 4, 2006, file photo, Thai­land’s King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej holds a cam­era as he leaves Siri­raj Hospi­tal in a wheel­chair after un­der­go­ing surgery in Bangkok, Thai­land.

Peo­ple take pic­tures of a draw­ing por­trait of the late Thai King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thai­land, yes­ter­day.

A woman passes by draw­ing por­traits of the late Thai King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej in Bangkok, Thai­land.

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