If you stay in any big town or city in Thailand for long enough you are likely to encounter the country’s street musicians. Many of these street singers are blind and this is how they earn a living. With a microphone in hand and an amplifier hung around the neck, the blind singer is usually guided by a relative as they move from location to location hoping for donations. The quality of singing can vary greatly, but the best music often comes from the blind people who have formed into groups who play at a fixed location. The blind band in the photo are a regular fixture at Chiang Mai’s Sunday Walking Street Market.
As with so many other things in Thailand, the notion of karma and Buddhism comes into play when trying to explain the cultural phenomenon of the blind street musicians. In Thailand there is a widespread belief that if you make merit in your current life it will help you in the next life when you are reincarnated. Donating money to somebody less fortunate than you is one way of accruing merit. The musicians are also providing a service and so they are actually earning a living which is important in a society which expects individuals to provide for their family.