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World Music Celebrations: An Arid Desert Race, A Soaking New Year

Wikimedia Commons
People in a tuk-tuk get targeted during the Songkran festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Each week on World Music (Saturday nights from 8-10 on KSTX 89.1 FM), I take a look at celebrations happening around the world. This week, you can run for miles in the sun, or then get doused with water for the Cambodian New Year! 


Marathon runners are a breed apart, but the Sahara marathoners are really special. Over a six-day period, carrying everything they need in a backpack, including food, they’ll cover 150 miles. Temperatures soar into the triple digits during the day and plummet into the forties at night. Essential supplies include snake bite anti-venom, a sleeping bag, and a cooking stove. Rationed water is provided by race organizers. Amazingly there have only been two deaths over the years, but one year an Italian policeman lost his way, and when he was finally found, he had shed thirty pounds--a drastic weight loss method that is not endorsed in any way. Participants come from all parts of the globe and are made up of both sexes. Apparently, this is one way to meet like-minded people and lifelong friends.


In most places around the world, the New Year is celebrated in one night, but there’s a very different scenario in Thailand. The Thai New Year, which usually falls on April 13 or 14, means three days of unbridled fun in the sun. Fortunately the month of April is hot, so wandering around in soaking wet clothes will not be, as your mother said, the death of you. Everyone armed with what ever water source they can handle will flood, literally, the streets and each other with water. There’s dancing in the streets and a completely relaxed and family atmosphere in this very south Asian festival. The water used initially had been used to cleanse the Buddhist statues and was considered holy, but today any water source is considered acceptable. In addition to the water dousing, there’s also the application of chalk powder to people’s faces which emulates how the monks mark blessings. Not a great time for anyone fastidious in their dress attire.

You can hear more about these and other celebrations happening around the world this and every Saturday on World Music with Deirdre Saravia, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on KSTX 89.1 FM.

Deirdre as born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and her first paid work was at the age of 10 with the BBC as an actress on "Children's Hour." She continued to perform regularly on radio and stage for the next eight years, at which point she was informed by her parents that theater was not an option and she needed "real" work.