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In search of inimitability

Giving young musicians the opportunity to create their own styles

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After 15 years of absence, "Coke Music Awards" (CMA) has returned with nearly 6,000 young applicants, who posted around 1,500 clips on the internet in the preliminary selection. Thai music gurus said the contest uncovers a considerable number of highly qualified young musicians. At the same time, they urged student-artists to establish their own unique styles to stay firmly in the industry. 

Songpol Juprasert conducts a guitar workshop for Coke Music Awards contestants at Karma Sound Studios in Chon Buri. COURTESY OF COCA-COLA

Prart Aroonrungsi, the pioneer and co-founder of Overdrive Music Institute and a member of the CMA panel of judges, said that the latest batch of participants tend to be more expressive, are more self-confident, and show a clear understanding of the style of music that they choose to play.

These characteristics are due partly to the existence of the internet, which provides myriad resources for youngsters to learn from including, for example, video clips of their favourite artists and online lessons, said Mr Prart at the CMA workshop organised last month at Karma Sound Studios in Chon Buri province, which aimed to polish the skills of 20 solo singers and 20 band finalists.

However, Mr Prart suggested, youngsters who want to be really good artists need to find their individual styles. He said that such future artists need to tell themselves, "I'm so happy when I play this. I was born to play and be associated with this genre of music. Now, what can I do to distinguish myself from my idol?"

Mr Prart was pleased that many participants tried to come up with their own ideas through various means, such as shaping their own voices and using a unique combination of musical instrument. "They realise that they need to be different to stand out," he said.

Kanet Paktrakasetrin, a singer and songwriter and the voice master at the CMA workshop, agreed that the final 20 vocalists are very competitive. At the same time, he emphasized that many of the participants need to develop their signature voices and characters.

"If the participants want to be artists in the future, [they have to resolve] one thing that might be a problem for some of them, [which] is that, right now, they have no distinctive characteristics of their own. Many of them still copy the characteristics and voices of their idols," Mr Kanet opined.

At this stage, it is vital that youngsters need to build a solid foundation for their musical skills before starting to develop their own styles, recommended Songpol Juprasert, a guitarist in the Silly Fools band and the guitar master at the workshop. "Many people tend to talk about trees (styles) although they are still seeds (at the basic level)," commented Mr Songpol metaphorically. "Sometimes, [trying to play] stylistic music is an excuse for those who don't want to practise," he added.

All in all, Mr Songpol was very happy with the quality of the guitarists in his class. "I couldn't play this well when I was their age," he quipped.

Becoming unique superstars might take some time for CMA contestants. An important benefit that they obtain from the event is hands-on experience in playing and improvising, given that most of the participants are high school and university students. Natha Boonprasit, public relations manager at Coca-Cola (Thailand), said that the core idea of the contest is to enable youngsters to gain musical experience by giving them the opportunity to perform before, and hear comments from, professional artists and their fans, and the opportunity of participating in an intensive five-day workshop.

"We hope that this year's contest will serve as a stage that helps shape good artists, just as it did in the past," Ms Natha said.

Sarocha Senarat, a music student at Thaksin University and a solo-singer entrant wants to be an artist and voice teacher and also wishes to gain experience from this competition and pass it on to other people in the future.

"We never thought that veteran musicians like Ajarn (teacher) Prart would comment on our work," said Pongsakorn Konbang, a business student at Bangkok University and one of the members of the Tao Kanong group, when asked for his comments. "We've learned how artists live and think, and how they design their music and marketing plans. We've realised that being an artist doesn't mean just knowing how to play music but that we need to know our audience as well," added Thaweepong Kultanapanich, an engineering student from Kasetsart University and also a Tao Kanong member.

The current CMA has come to its halfway mark, as the number of participants has been shortlisted to five finalist teams and five finalist vocal soloists. Sarocha and Tao Kanong are among the finalists. All the finalists started on a nationwide concert tour late last month. The contest will culminate in a grand final concert at PTT Motor Sports Land in Bangkok on Dec 25, where only one solo singer and one band will be declared the winners in the competition.

Visit for more information on the competition.

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