This story began with a blind, bull elephant called Pla-Ra.
Paul Barton took his piano to ElephantsWorld, a Sanctuary on the banks of the River Kwai in Thailand and began playing to the elephants while they were eating.
“They were all having Barna Grass and it was that time of the day when the elephants get to eat a lot and they don’t waste a moment because they know that moment won’t last forever,” Paul recalls. “Pla-Ra was behind the piano with a mouthful of barna grass and I started to play Beethoven. Pla-Ra was chewing, and as soon as I played the first chords, he stopped eating with stalks of Barna grass protruding from each side of his mouth, and that’s the way he stayed until the end of the piece.”
“Each time I played music for Pla-Ra, whether flute or piano, there was an identical reaction. Pla-Ra would stand for a while, and then he would curl his trunk and hold his trunk in his mouth until the piece was over. No matter how long that piece was, he would stay like that."
Since that extraordinary day, Paul has played piano to many different elephants with extraordinary results.
Paul Barton plays most of his music for elephants at ElephantsWorld, a sanctuary for old injured and distressed elephants on the banks of the River Kwai near Kanchanaburi, in Northern Thailand. The sanctuary was set up 5 years ago and is now home to around 10 elephants. The sanctuary is run almost entirely by volunteers and relies on charitable donations to feed and care for the elephants.
The other musical elephants, Peter and Soi, are residents of Elephant Stay at the Royal Elephant Kraal in the ancient Thai capital city of Ayutthaya.