Left: Pink Martini’s album art of “Amado Mio” in Thai. Right: China Forbes in a Zoom video call with Khaosod English on May 5, 2020.
PORTLAND, Ore. — From her records-filled home, China Forbes belted out the Thai version of “Amado Mio” via Zoom call.
Forbes is the lead singer of Pink Martini, the multi-genre, multilingual music band based out of Oregon. With the release of their first Thai song on April 18 – a Thai version of “Amado Mio” – the mini-orchestra’s repertoire now covers 26 languages.
“Amado mio, kae kor hai ruk gun,” Forbes sang. “Lae kor hai ruk gun, baeb nee naan naan.”
Under normal circumstances, China Forbes would have been too busy touring for a private call with Thailand. But these aren’t normal circumstances.
“This quarantine has been an interesting time because it’s so radically changed our lives from touring and always travelling and barely ever being home to being home for such a long time,” Forbes said.
She continued, “In the midst of this terrible situation, we’ve had some really big gifts that have come out of it, which is being with our families more, and having time to finish projects.”
The idea for the band to sing “Amado Mio” in Thai came from band member Lincoln Sheranian, 51, who has deep ties with Thailand. An impressively fluent Thai speaker, Sheranian lived in Thailand from 1991 to 1994; he said he was even a cast member in a soap opera.
“China is amazing at mimicking sounds, even difficult ones like the hard tor tao [ต] and สระอือ,” Sheranian said, the latter is a Thai vowel that sounds close to the German Ü.
Forbes, who speaks English as well as French and Italian, has sung in 25 other languages, and this is her first Thai song.
“It’s exciting because it’s so new. I have no experience with it, but with certain languages that I sing in, I also have no experience with it, such as Arabic or Turkish,” Forbes said. “It’s like a puzzle of sounds that don’t mean anything. It’s hard to sing it with feeling. That’s the biggest challenge.”
It was Forbes and pianist Thomas Lauderdale who founded Pink Martini back in 1994. The Portland-based group would later win global renown for its orchestra band and multi-genre music
“Amado Mio” is a song from the 1946 noir Rita Hayworth film “Gilda,” sung by Anita Kert Ellis. Pink Martini’s English rendition was the first song released on their first album in 1997 and is currently featured on the Netflix series “Money Heist.” It’s also the “quintessential” song the band translates the most
“The first thing anyone ever heard when they put on a Pink Martini album was the harp coming and that note that I hold. It just sort of lends itself to being romantic in all different languages,” Forbes said.
The Thai song is a close translation of the English version, with slightly antiquated verbiage appropriate in conveying the vintage era of the song. The current album cover features a closeup of the 1978 Thai film, “Jum Loey Ruk” (Defendant of Love); the original cover was of a Bollywood film.
Forbes, 50, and Sheranian said they hope to come to Thailand on a tour when the pandemic is over.
“We never figured out how to gain an audience in Thailand. We hoped singing Amado Mio in Thai would help us,” Sheranian said. “I really believe that when we get Pink Martini on a stage in Thailand, that the band will feel the love and the graciousness of the Thai people.”
Forbes said that while on lockdown, watching a film about the 2004 tsunami that struck southern Thailand, was “heart-wrenching” and made her really want to come to Thailand.
“I always wanna send the message that love is the most important thing in the world. If you can feel my love coming to you and you can give that love to someone else, then I’ve done a good job,” she said, when asked if she had anything to say to her Thai fans.
The band added that it may release more Thai songs, depending on the success of the Thai “Amado Mio.”