- Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band -
Bangkok-based DJ Maft Sai and his partner DJ Chris Menist set in motion a wave of interest in molam music with their Isan Dancehall nights in Bangkok at which they played old vinyl records of molam and luk thung (Thai country music) music from the golden era of the 1970s. The nights were wildly successful, and when Maft Sai opened his Zudrangma Record Store, a busy trade in second-hand molam vinyl began with orders coming in from across the planet.
To further promote the music, Maft Sai set up the Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band (PBMIB) to take the music to overseas audiences. The band features two molam musicians, master phin (three-stringed lute) player Kammao Perdthanon and khaen (bamboo mouth organ) player Sawai Kaewsombat, and two musicians from the veteran Thai indie rock band Apartment Khun Pa - bass player Piyanart ‘Pump’ Jotikashira and drummer Phusana Treeburut. Menist, who is now based in the UK plays percussion and Maft Sai plays Thai temple cymbals when the band tours.
The band released its debut album, 21st Century Molam, in November 2014 to great acclaim, garnering a number of awards, including Album of the Week on BBC Radio 6 and a Best Album Award on Gilles Peterson’s radio show on the BBC. In Bangkok, the band was recently awarded Best Instrumental Album at the Khom Chat Leuk Awards. In April, the band was nominated for a Best Band Award from the Asia Pacific region for the UK-based Songlines’ magazine World Music Awards – only the second band to be nominated from the regafter Indonesia’s Sambasunda.
What distinguishes PBMIB from local traditional and local molam bands is the band’s willingness to introduce new sounds into the mix. Nick Manasseh, who previously worked with the legendary Studio One producer Lee Perry, produced the debut album, adding a spacy. dub feel to some of the tracks. The band blends its roots of molam music with bits of rock and reggae that never overwhelm the music but rather take it on and stretch the boundaries of what is possible.
A new album was recorded last autumn and will be released later this year. ”It will,” says bass player Pump, “have more musical flavours, more of a soundscape this time.” Several guests have added to the expanded sound.
In the meantime, the band is busy preparing for a European summer tour, for the third year in a row. This time, the band has been invited to perform at the famous Glastonbury Festival in June in the UK and at the Field Day Festival in Victoria Park, London. Young European audiences have responded very positively to this ancient funky music and the band has played to packed crowds across the continent. The Paradise Bangkok Molam International band is flying the flag for molam. As phin player Kammao says: “The lam sound is a happy vibe and people like that.”
Words & Photo By John Clewely