Music has been a passion of mine since I was young. I wasn’t very good in school, and I was a bit of a social reject, so music became my escape—a tool for communication and self expression. It was also a way for me to establish a form of respect from my peers. I had a craft, something I was good at, and no one could question that.
So naturally, once I learned we’d be spending a few nights in Bangkok, I wanted to dive into their nightlife, and especially their music scene.
I got the chance to meet and chat with two independent Thai singers—Pure, who gained national recognition for appearing on Thailand’s version of The Voice, and Jack from Jack & Co., a bluesy band that plays regularly in Bangkok’s Old Town. But from old Bangkok’s grungy indie scene to new Bangkok’s city skyscrapers and swanky jazz bars, I was surprised at Thai music culture—these guys were singing pop songs in English. Why?
Jack and Pure told me that this part of Thai music culture is heavily influenced by western music. From blues, pop, rock and jazz, Thai artists have adopted it and molded it to their own. It’s interesting—sometimes their renditions of our known American hits way better! And other times, you can barely tell it was an American song to begin with, because of the artist’s personal touch and swing on things.
So why don’t more artists sing traditional Thai music in downtown Bangkok? The answer I got was simple.
Traditional Thai music, I was told, is just too sad. During the Second World War, that kind of music was actually often used as funeral music. Music people mourned to it; they didn’t dance to it; and from what Jack and Pure told me, it’s stayed that way for generations.
This isn’t to say no artists are performing in Thai. There are Thai pop songs and other artists bringing back the country’s traditional tunes. But when it comes to the country’s nightlife, it’s all about English. But it isn’t exactly the same—they might just do it better than us, and with bigger smiles on their faces.