Yuenyong Opakul (Thai: ยืนยง โอภากุล; rtgs: Yuen-yong O-phakun; born November 9, 1954 in Suphan Buri) or stage name Aed Carabao (Thai: แอ๊ด คาราบาว; rtgs: Aet Kharabao) is the main singer/songwriter and leader of the Thai rock band Carabao, known for its "Songs for Life".
Yuenyong (Aed) Opakul's love for music came naturally as he was from Suphan Buri Province, where he could soak up the local amusements of Central Thailand, for example the call and response style of singing, Thai folk music, and even Thai dancing and look thung (Thai country music). It also comes from the fact that his father was the manager of a band. When Yeunyong became a teenager he was influenced by Western-style music, and so learned to play Western musical instruments, like guitar. These were the influences that he had to draw on as a musician.
Yuenyong began primary education at Wat Suwan School, then left for further studies in Bangkok, like other children all around the country. He continued on in his studies at Rajamangala Institute, Uthenthawai Campus, where he majored in architecture. Then he continued in architecture for one year at the Mapúa Institute of Technology in the Philippines. (In 2013, he received an honorary doctorate in Thai Popular Music from Ramkhamhaeng University.)
In the Philippines, Yuengyong Opakul met his friend Kirati Promsaka Na Sakolnakorn, or Keo, another Thai person who had gone there to study. They had the opportunity to listen to the music of Led Zeppelin, John Denver, the Eagles, and Peter Frampton from records that a third friend, Sanit Limsila, or Kai, had accumulated. All three then decided to set up a band using the name "Carabao" for performing at events at the Institute, playing folk music.
When Yuenyoung Opakul graduated and returned to Thailand, he got a regular job as an architect in a private office and his own work was to be responsible for designing houses and work buildings. Later when Kai and Keo returned from the Philippines, all three were able to play music together again, by playing in the restaurant of the Windser Hotel, 20 Soi Sukhumwit. Then they moved on to play at Hotel Manderin Samyan on Saturdays and Sundays. But all three were fired for skipping work many days without notice.
After the group had been fired, Kai left the group to go work in construction in the south of Thailand. Aed and Keo stayed and continued playing music together with the band Hope. Later in 1980, Yuenyong Opakul was working as an architect in an office administering a project of the National Housing Authority. Keo was working as an engineer estimating the worth of machines in factories with a Filipino company that had come to open a branch in Thailand. And both would play music in the evenings at a bar at the Ambassador Hotel Sukhumvit.
Sparking a change in the life of Yuenyong (Aed) Opakul, was the responsibility to be the producer for the first album of the group Hammer in 1979. It was this album that caused Hammer to be known in the world of music. And in 1980, Aed composed the song "Teuk Kwaai Tui" ("Wild Buffalo") for Hammer to record for their album "Bpak Dtai Baan Rao" ("Our Southern Home"). That album caused Hammer to be extremely famous. So afterwards, Yeunyong Opakul worked with Hammer to come out with an album of songs under the name "Khanchanmueang" with a folk/look thung musical style and participated in composing songs for a movie starring the singer Phonom Napon in 1981.
After that, Yuengyoung Opakul (Aed) had the idea that if he came out with his own album he'd be just as successful. So he got together with Keo and came out with the first album under the name "Carabao," the album "Kee Mao" ("The Drunkard"), in 1981, which did not achieve much success during the period in which the band was just starting out. So they went out touring, playing in all kinds of movie theaters across the country, but they didn't receive much interest. Sometimes the audience didn't even reach 10 people!
Carabao became successful with the fifth album of the band, the album "Made in Thailand," which came out in 1984, selling 5 million copies, and ever since the name of Yuenyong Opakul (or his stage name "Aed Carabao") is known throughout Thailand, as well as his many, original songs continuously coming out of the band up and into the present. (It wasn't until he made it big that Aed Carabao had to quit his day job as an architect, a job he has said he enjoyed very much.) He has also toured in the United States, but more often in other countries such as Switzerland, England, and Japan.
Because Yuenyong Opakul, or Aed Carabao, is the head of a band, he is someone who has to deal with Thailand's Ministry of Transport and Communications, but he is bold in speaking and bold in criticizing all kinds of matters in society, forcefully and straightforwardly. With regards to his accomplishments, songs which he has written and sung himself on behalf of the band, together with the songs from his own solo albums, number no less than 900 songs, making him one of the most prolific singer/songwriters in the world.
Yuenyong Opakul (Aed Carabao) did not limit himself to the role of song artist only, but also hosts television programs and composes music for movies. He has even acted in several movies. He will also, at each opportunity, compose songs as public service announcements about some issue or to advertise some project, for all kinds of institutes.
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