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Dave Toussaint (Harmonica), John Adda (bass), Warren Simpson
Salsa Kitchen, Soy 2, Thanon Ratchawithi, Chiang Mai, Thailand - 24th
Our man in Thailand Dave Toussant gives
us the lowdown on the state of the blues in Chang Mai in the North...
The Thai's love all sorts of music, although sorry to say blues isn't
massive here though. They have their own music's like "Lam Tad",
"Bong Lang" & "Mor Lam". These styles have a heavy
bass like dub reggae but with more of a cha-cha-cha beat. I think most
blues fans would like it! They are often blasting out of their small motorbike
taxis or "Tuk-Tuks". The other day I was pleasantly surprised
to hear Muddy Waters "Hoochie Coochie Man" booming out of a
Tuk-Tuk at full volume as I walked down LoiKroh Street (a long street
full of bars etc. on the way from the tourist landmark "Tha Pae Gate"
to the famous Night Bazaar here in Chiang Mai).
OK- "Blues in Thailand"- There aint much! Chiang Mai I know
well so here's the lowdown. There is a bar called "The Blues Bar".
It has NO live bands. However the owner is a Thai man who loves blues.
He has a great collection of blues music, mostly on tape. He plays nothing
else and is a good place to chill out in the evening. It's not far from
Tha Pae Gate in Moon Muang road and near The Top North Hotel, on eastern
side and inside the moat which surrounds the old city. It is a tiny bar
and there is only room for about 8 people inside and another 20 outside.
A few doors away is the Sax Music Bar. Until recently this was a good
jam place every Wednesday and Saturday. Mostly Jazz but it depended who
turned up. It was often a blues jam when I was there. They also have a
great CD collection but it is not all blues. Unfortunately Rudi, the artist/drummer/keyboards
player who was the owner has split with his missus and she is still there
but no jams going on. The police have come down a bit heavy lately on
"farangs" earning money by playing in bars! I have to be careful.
I hope they don't read this!
past the Sax Bar and Top North Hotel you come to Rachadamnoen, also known
as Sunday Walking street as on that day the street is closed to traffic
and becomes a night market from about 6-12pm. There are lots of small
bars and restaurants there. About 2/3rds of the way down past two temples
and after the cross-roads there is a row of bar/restaurants. The first
one of interest is the Writers' Bar. This is mainly a restaurant and meeting
place for the Farang literary community. Songwriters are welcome too.
There is a resident duo of two girls who sing and play fiddle and guitar
respectively. They tend to do folk-jazz and old show tunes but have got
a bit of a blues repertoire too. There are all sorts of other musicians
who turn up from time to time. I have heard blues music played there and
they have some blues CDs which you might persuade them to put on between
live acts. A few doors along from there is a favourite dive of mine-"The
Hug Bar". The owner, a well-respected Thai musician named "Ae"
plays both Thai and western music. He is a great singer and excellent
guitarist. He can also play percussion, keyboards and bass and is a fantastic
spoons player. I believe he learnt this from an itinerant Irish musician
who stopped there a while. Although he doesn't do much blues as such he
can and just needs a bit more encouragement in that direction. Regulars
include Scott Jones, an American keyboards wizard and singer-songwriter
who has some bluesy numbers, Graham, an English Jazz keyboard player who
can do some jazz-blues and Warren who I usually play with. He also plays
with Scott and Ae and anyone else who wants to do acoustic blues stuff.
Across the street there is a clothes shop run by "Bird". She
has a big collection of Blues, Jazz, African and Reggae music for sale.
I picked up some unusual stuff there and some rare Blind Blake etc.
Chiang Mai University recently put on a show-"Chiang Mai Blues".
Headlining was an Aussie apparently calling himself "Mojo".
He is based in the nearby town of Pai, but gets around a bit, so I'm told.
He was a very talented all-rounder with a fine, powerful and sincere blues
voice. He has great stage presence and electrified the audience with his
performance. He played acoustic and 12 string before switching to slide.
This was followed by some blistering rocking blues on electric guitar.
Some of the numbers I had never heard before.They sounded like the real
thing although they may have been originals. He then introduced a Thai
guitarist while he switched to blues harp and bullet mic which he played
in a straightforward but authoritative way with the familiar chicago/west
coast type of sound.
Before we were fully recovered from this he finally blew us away with
some great jazzy tenor sax playing before going on to more electric guitar.
I hope to go to Pai before I leave Thailand. It is only four hours from
Chiang Mai. I understand that Mojo is a regular of the Bebop Bar there
and I will certainly look him up.
However,staying with Chiang Mai for the moment I must mention Took
again. He must be the best blues guitarist in Thailand. I have played
with him a few times now and he is one of the most sensitive and expressive
players I have heard anywhere. Oh,yes-and he can really rock! Great singer
too. More information on him here: http://www.geocities.com/~johni32/page27.html
The Guitar Man Bar in Loi Kroh had some good acts. Some of them don't
want me to mention their names though as there have been a few police
and immigration raids lately and some got busted while others are lying
So, Thailand and blues. Well yes, there is some... there is a need for
Bangkok reportedly has a small but thriving blues scene. Patumtannee and
Koh Samui also have a few venues. I didn't see any in Nong Kai or Udon
Thani but they may well exist.
That's it for now.
Breaking the news on the blues,
about Dave Toussant on his website: www.harmonicaboom.com