End on a high

End on a high

There's been a lot of live music to close out the decade

End on a high
All-Thidsa Molam Band. (Photos: John Clewley)

The entertainment business is in full swing as we come to the end of 2019 with lots of concerts and end-of-year parties not only in Bangkok but also around the country. Word Beat has been out and about to join in the fun. Here are some recent highlights.

All-Thidsa Molam Band from Maha Sarakham gave a couple of rare performances in Bangkok a week or so ago. The band did a couple of sets at Soul Bar in FooJohn building on the 18th; I had not been to the bar before (it's at the opening Chareon Krung 31) and they do seem to have an eclectic array of bands and styles on offer for music fans. It's small space that the band had no difficulty in filling. All-Thidsa, perhaps best known for their work as the house band with the Jim Thompson Molam Bus Project, have recently signed up to play the Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak, Malaysia, next July and World Beat will be going along with them for the ride; they join Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band as one of the few Thai bands to have made this high profile music festival.

The band was in town to join a night of molam, in various styles, and Peruvian food on Dec 19 organised by Jorge Echevarria at Noma BKK, a recently opened bar and stage on Phahon Yothin Road. Joining All-Thidsa was the Dutch-Isan collective, Apichat Pakwan, who are currently on tour here in Bangkok to promote their debut album, Esantronics, which was released in October.

Apichat Pakwan band. John Clewley

As the pisco sours (a Peruvian cocktail made from pisco liquor) and ceviche (a delicious Latin American dish of spicy raw fish, often served as an appetiser) made their rounds, the two bands kicked off what would turn out to be a great party for dancing and having a good time. All-Thidsa (the leader Arthid Khamhongsa refers to the band's music as "post-molam") jumped through a solid set of numbers that got the packed bar going. They were up first as the members had to drive back to Maha Sarakham to teach classes at university the next day.

Apichat Pakwan performed a set that featured their unique style of molam, one that mixes dub and computer-driven electronic sounds with traditional Isan instruments and molam-style singing. They played songs from the new album as well as one or two new ones and from my first view of the band I was taken with their version of the traditional Lam Saravan and some of their original compositions. I really enjoyed the singing, too.

Prior to the party I had the great fortune to see National Artist Kwanjit Sriprachan and her troupe of master folk musicians perform central Thai folk music, Surin "Headman" and veteran singer Chalermphol Malaikham, and the exciting and fast-rising Isan indie/molam outfit Junlaholaan Band at a festival.

Then it was time for the annual Jim Thompson Farm party and the mad dash up to Pak Thong Chai district in Nakhon Ratchasima province with an interesting mix of journalists and artists. This year's art installation at the farm, under the name "Tam Hook Tam Pa" (Isan Memories In Textiles) created by Pinaree Sanpitak and Mitr Jai-in, featured the story of Pa Pawet.

All-Thidsa Molam Band. John Clewley

This year's party was also held to celebrate the birthday of the legendary Isan composer/song writer Surin Paksiri. Paksiri is credited with creating the first luk thung Isan song on record, Isan Lam Ploen by Aungkanang Kunchai. Paksiri brought with him several famous singers from the golden years of pleng luk thung in the 1960s and 1970s and so we were treated to songs from Sanya Pornnarai, Rakchart Surichai and Sontaya Kalasin before the main attraction of the evening, Bow Dam Lam Sing (from Maha Sarakham). Bow Dam was in fine form, as were the hang krueang (chorus line). She was ably supported by various molam, a hip-swivelling khaen player and a young singer, Poopay Manliga, who I have dubbed "Lamyai Noi" as she bears an uncanny resemblance to the huge luk thung star with her fruity nickname. She has her own band and once she has graduated from Mahasarakham University is likely to become a lot more famous -- she has a great stage presence and a good voice.

But she has a long way to go to reach the level of Bow Dam. Bow Dam is a great entertainer -- she moves easily from solo singer with just a khaen accompaniment to dancing with her chorus line to comedy skits. It was a great show that had everyone dancing until the wee small hours. It was a great way to celebrate Surin Paksiri's birthday.

To all music lovers, World Beat wishes you all the best for this festive season and for a happy and healthy 2020.

Birthday respects for Surin Paksiri. John Clewley

Apichat Pakwan will perform at Studio Lam on Jan 8. I will DJ to open for the band. From 9pm until late. See Studio Lam's Facebook page for more details.

John Clewley can be contacted at clewley.john@gmail.com.

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