Global warming is a topic that elicits impassioned anger in some and resigned shrugs in others — seldom is anyone ever genuinely excited to talk about it. So when Sirintip decided she wanted to make an album about climate change, she knew it had to be sexy. She started by examining materials available in her Uptown Manhattan apartment: plastic trash from her kitchen and a water jug she decided to use as a drum to create. She also wanted to incorporate sounds from nature; she found a video online of a bird native to New Guinea, the Black Sicklebill, and sampled its strangely melodic mating call.
The result was an upbeat, jazz-infused song that washes over you like a rising tide: “Plastic Bird” is a part of her second album, ”carbon,” which dropped last October. The entire project is like a sonic Trojan Horse, so sensual and experimental that a first-time listener wouldn’t necessarily know that it was about the man-made destruction of our planet. For Sirintip, that’s the point.
“I don’t think we will find solutions by making climate change a more polarized topic,” she told HuffPost. “You still have to make an album about climate change, fine art and enjoy the music for what it is.”
When I tell Sirintip, a half-Thai, half-Swedish multimodal musician, that she reminds me of a Thai Solange, she smiles and tells me it’s not the first time she’s heard that. Her experimental and tantric rhythms feel drawn from a deep place. Like a certain Knowles sister, she is unafraid to delve into the more peripheral parts of her cultural repertoire for inspiration. She uses Thai instruments and sounds not often heard in “Western” music, electronic and pop beats that harken to ABBA’s homeland — and jazz, which brought her to New York in the first place. Many songs on ”carbon” are slow burn and don’t have clear-cut melodies or hooks. In other words, Sirintip is not here to make TikTok music.
But she is here — and that feels complicated. Like so many mixed kids before her, Sirintip felt insecure about her identity growing up. When she went to school as a child in Thailand, she’d get flustered whenever she was picked up by her “tall, blonde” mom, who attracted much-unwanted attention. Then, when she moved to Sweden, people assumed she was an adoptee from Asia and made fun of her Thai name. It wasn’t until she arrived in New York from Stockholm in 2015 that she finally found a place where she felt at home, and her blended identities were the norm, as opposed to the exception.
That feeling of uprootedness is also a major undercurrent in “Plastic Bird,” a song that is, in addition to being about the plastic polluting our oceans, about imposter syndrome. In Sirintip’s head, it conjures images of a plastic toy bird who looks at other birds and realizes that it can’t fly. She recalls a similar sense of being out of place and having trouble imagining her career as a musician when no one she knew about shared her cultural background. During a European tour, she’d look out at the crowd each night and think, genuinely, that she didn’t deserve to be there.
But that’s the thing about having a seat at the table: You get to surround yourself with people like you so that you’re no longer “the only one.” When everyone around you shares some part of your story, it’s harder to feel like a fraud. For example, in the music video for “Plastic Bird,” Sirintip made sure to have a primarily all-Thai cast, from the choreographer to the director of photography to the animator. For her, it wasn’t just comforting but also grounding because of how her vision came to life in what felt like a place she belonged.
And that’s the thing about collective action. When you zoom out too far, change feels overwhelming. We know that we can’t solve climate change or diversify the music industry overnight, so we plant seeds in whatever way we can. We do our best to find joy in all the despair, and we walk further away from shame and closer to an ethos of care for ourselves and others. If we want to heal the earth, we must also heal ourselves.
“It’s why I decided to go by my birth name, which I know is difficult for people to say,” Sirintip says. “It’s important for the western world to recognize our names.”