Solid Isan grooves

Paradise Bangkok International Molam Band to make debut later this month

Bangkok Paradise, the live show and DJ event set up by local DJ Maft Sai and his UK-based partner DJ Chris Menist, returns later this month with another night of molam-inspired music. Those lucky enough to have caught the last event, a reunion of Wong Dontri Molam Theppabutr _ one of the greatest molam bands of all time _ supported by singers Pimpa Petchpalangchai and Isan luk thung legend Saksiam Petchchompu, will want to check out the new event, which will feature the debut live performance of a new molam band put together by Maft, The Paradise Bangkok International Molam Band.

Phin player Khammao Perdthanon.

One of the reasons why Maft wanted to see the Theppabutr band perform was to see if the band really was as good as the solid groove it produced during the golden years of vinyl recordings in the 1970s. It was and then some; the Theppabutr gig was certainly one of the best shows I've seen this year.

Maft's record label, Zudrangma Records, then released an international CD compilation of Theppabutr's work on Theppabutr Productions _ The Man Behind the Modern Molam Sound 1972-75, which has been selling well both here and overseas (a vinyl version, with two new tracks, will arrive here later this month).

DJ Maft has now taken the next step and moved into production to create his own molam band, The Paradise Bangkok International Molam Band, based around the wonderful phin (three-stringed lute) playing of Khammao Perdthanon (with his son on drums) and supported by bass and percussion from members of local rock band Apartment Khun Pa.

Khammao was one of the standout players at the Theppabutr show, and he is also regarded as one of the finest phin players in the country. His knowledge and vast repertoire of tunes and songs forms the bedrock of the band. Maft says that more instruments and singers will be added as the band develops.

When I last spoke to Khammao he showed me a brass phin pendant hanging round his neck. He told me that he wanted to get more made so that he could sell them and help poor musicians. Since then, he's had several hundred made, which he took to Wat Pa Mahachai to be blessed by a monk in a special three-hour ceremony that included Khammao playing softly in the background as the monk chanted.

Interestingly, unlike the real one Khammo plays, the phin pendants have only one string, which "is symbolic and encourages people to walk the middle way," according to Maft. If you want one of these auspicious objects, get to the show early as they are likely to sell out quickly.

The original DJ line-up for Bangkok Paradise, Maft and Chris Menist, will be spinning molam, luk thung and reggae, as well as African numbers. Chris is making a welcome return after relocating to the UK and he will be bringing Bangkok Paradise's third 7-inch vinyl single release with him, which will also be available on the night. This one features Sroeng Santi's rock-based Pai Na Pai on the A-side and an early molam instrumental from the famous Double Chicken label on the B-side. You can get your copy on the night before the single is released internationally. The previous limited edition vinyl reissues have all sold out.

So, if you're hankering for a night of solid molam grooves and want to support a new band, get down to Cosmic Cafe (RCA Zone C) on Nov 30 for the latest installment of the Paradise Bangkok story. More information from

Southeast Asia's leading roots rock band, The Cambodian Space Project, will celebrate its third anniversary with a show at the FCC in Phnom Penh at 9pm on Dec 7. Good chance to catch the band before they head off for more international shows.

This column can be contacted at:

About the author

Writer: John Clewley
Position: Reporter