Music fans might think they already know all there is to know about Athiwara "Toon" Khongmalai of Bodyslam and Karinyawat "Foet" Durongjirakan of Slot Machine, two of Thailand’s top rock stars.
However, what they might not have heard is the news that Toon and Foet recently joined the global campaign against child labour by covering a song titled "Till Everyone Can See" for the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the UN agency that deals with workplace issues and standards.
The song was written by Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger and violinist Ann Marie Simpson, who then recorded it with Travis Barker, Minh Dang, Dominic Lewis, LIZ, Pharrell Williams, and Hans Zimmer.
The artists all joined the ILO in the fight against child labour, and donated their talents for the ILO’s Red Card to Child Labour Campaign last year.
This year, for World Day Against Child Labour, which fell on Friday, the ILO wanted to continue raising awareness of the child labour issue through music. So the Organisation invited the Thai stars to help by creating and releasing the first cover version in Thai of "Till Everyone Can See". The recording features Toon and his band Bodyslam as well as Foet, the lead singer of Slot Machine.
"I think the original version of ‘Til Everyone Can See is charming," says Toon. "I thought it would be great to do the Thai version to communicate the song’s meaning in the way that Thai people can understand."
"I would like everyone to lend a helping hand. Those who have money can help financially. Others can help through their actions. We have to help. The way I can help is by singing," says Foet.
World Day Against Child Labour this year focuses particularly on the importance of quality education as a key step in tackling child labour. This makes the involvement of Toon and Foet particularly appropriate because not only are they very successful musicians, they are also good role models when it comes to showing the importance of education. Both have degrees from Thailand’s top universities.
Rock stars face several temptations but Toon says education has helped him refrain from doing anything stupid.
"It has helped me live outside the system, but with a certain immunity," said Toon. "Also it’s given me good friends. My bass player is an old friend from high school. It’s been 20 years and we’re still mates."
Both consider themselves lucky that their families did not put pressure on them over what to study. Foet loved to draw when he was young, but preferred to do it himself without taking lessons. In the same way, he achieved much of his success as a vocalist just by listening to music.
"When I become a dad, I’ll do the same for my kids," he says. "I’ll observe what they are interested in and let them do it."
"I often advise my fans to keep going with school," Toon says. "Having a degree is like having a back-up. When the passion you want to pursue doesn’t work out, you still have a back-up."
Foet adds that education has given him plenty of options.
"I’ve seen children begging or selling garlands on the streets. I think there is no child who does this willingly," he says. "I feel sorry about it and I try to figure out why this is happening, and how to solve this problem. And the only answer is education."