Hua Hin Artist Profile: Samrong Junthong

This is the first in our profiles of Hua Hin artists and performers. Over time, this will become a complete ‘directory’ of arts people in the area.

Samrong Junthong (or Sam) is one of the brightest stars among Hua Hin painters. Just 44 years old, he is a founding member of the Hua Hin Artists Group and a principle of the Unity Gallery at 13/1 Naresdamri Rd, just downhill from the Hilton Hotel on the Hua Hin waterfront.

Name: Samrong Junthong

Date and Place of Birth: 10 January 1966, Ubon Ratchathani

Nationality: Thai

Education: Porchang Art College

Studio: Unity Art Gallery, Hua Hin

Associations: Hua Hin Artist Group

Contact: tel. 081 006 1612 email. unity_artgallery@yahoo.com

'Temple' by Samrong Junthong, 2008 Oil on Canvas 120x120 cm

'Temple' by Samrong Jungthong 2008 Oil on Canvas 100x140cm

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Overview of the Hua Hin Music Scene

Monday night jam at Ray's Place restaurant

With articles already posted on different music scenes in Hua Hin and Cha-Am, it’s time to get a view of the live music scene here as a whole. 

Jazz Jam Scene

Hua Hin is now well-known for it high-season jam scene. Starting early November, a few restaurants and clubs in central Hua Hin and in Cha-Am host weekly evening open jams. The original jam started around 2004 (none of us can remember exactly) with Monday night jams at Ray’s Place, one block South of the Night Market in Hua Hin. Over the years, these have become massively popular. To catch the overflow, Ray’s adds Thursday nights during the peak weeks. On Wednesday nights, jams occur at Chez LouLou, next to the 7-11 store by the railway station. Sunday nights belong to Baan Chang, Soi 8 North in Cha-Am. That’s up to 4 open jam sessions every week in high season. But come April, it all packs up and dies off until the next year. Enjoy while you can.

Besides the open jams, Coco 51 restaurant features light jazz with dinner throughout the year. In high season, Baan Chang features piano-based jazz and pop by owner Nissa Nyberget and his house band. And of course, we have the Hua Hin International Jazz Festival to look forward to once each year. 

The Festival Scene

Partly because of its location in easy range of Bangkok, Hua Hin is a popular place for music festivals and special concerts, including the prestigious Hua Hin International Jazz Festival each June. 

In the last 3 seasons, Honda Summer Festival in April has drawn huge crowds to Khao Takiab (and snarling traffic everywhere else). Cha-Am is now in the action with Reggae On The Rock, the second of which occurs July 31. Both festivals feature top bands from Thailand’s active Reggae and Ska genres. 

A couple of times a year, typically, we around Hua Hin/Cha-Am are also treated to special concerts, usually staged at  one of the large resorts. This past season, our most notable such show was held at the Springfield Resort with headliners Tokyo Spa Paradise Orchestra, The Cat Empire from Australia, and additional artists from Japan and Peru. 

In January and Febuary of 2010, Hua Hin got a shot in the arm when Patravadi’s Fringe Festival Hua Hin opened her brand-new Vic Hua Hin Theatre. Unlike the one-day or weekend-long jazz and reggae festivals, the Fringe Festival takes place over 5 successive weekends, and also unlike those festivals, it isn’t free. But tickets are sensibly priced and the festival sets a new benchmark for originality and eclecticism in Hua Hin, with world-class performances in cutting-edge theatre, dance, and music in a wonderful performance space. Watch for it again in 2011. 

Besides these large festivals and commercial concerts, Hua Hin has a regular schedule of local and muncipal shows and festivals throughout the year, including live music and picnicking every Friday night at The Queen’s Garden park, next to the 19 Rai fairgrounds. Three or four times a year, sizable weeklong festivals are held at the 19 Rai or other locations. These feature nightly Thai popular entertainment, but these are of variable quality. The Thai Culture Festival in December is notable as well. 

Classical, Original, and Eclectic Music Scenes

Western classical music is a vanishingly small presence in Hua Hin, with one big exception. Each April, Silapakorn University  Music Faculty stages its very prestigious Summer Music School at its Hua Hin campus. Attendees are full-time students, practising professional players, and serious non-pros, auditioning competitively for just 80 slots. Reportedly, over 1,000 persons apply, so the caliber of those who make it is very high. This elite group spends a full week in rehearsal for a series of free concerts at the Dusit Thani Resort in Hua Hin, and then again in Bangkok. 2010 saw two evenings of really high caliber chamber, symphonic, and choral music at the Dusit. The symphonic and choral performance that I saw was massive and wonderfully performed. Very notable was 12-year old piano soloist Gun Chaikittiwatana. Young Gun is a remarkable talent and already impressively accomplished. Here’s video of a part of the Bangkok performance of the showcase piece I heard at the Dusit. 

Unfortunately for the rest of the year, live western classical music is confined to very occasional events and a few hotel lobby acts with a partly classical repertoire.  Thai classical music can be found throughout the year, but often as background music. Performances at the Sasi Dinner Theatre include live classical music, and the shows produced at Patravadi’s Vic Hua Hin often have music scores based on Thai classical. Often these are quite experimental, combining the music with other genres. The annual Thai Culture Festival is another opportunity to hear the music presented in a serious fashion. 

Original compositions, whether popular or classical, are still a rarity. the big exception is the music performed in conjunction with the theatrical productions at the Vic Hua Hin. The shows always have an original score, often quite innovative. Some productions to date (notable Eclipse and Phra Lor) have made music a principle focus.  During the Fringe Festival, there are additional original performances by in-house and guest performers and groups. 

Hua Hin’s “eclectic” music scene currently consists of just one performing unit, the Hua Hin Sound Cloud Project. The project is a collaborative cross-genre unit that delves into electronica, new-age, ragtime, Chinese opera, Thai pop, etc. performed with electronic piano, accordion, and laptop computer. The project group frequently performs at Baan Sillapin Artist Village and at  Vic Hua Hin

Thai Popular Music

There are many places to hear Thai popular music of one sort or another in Hua Hin. As an extremely popular weekend resort, Hua Hin’s Thai restaurants, pubs, and nightclubs serve a local and Bangkok visiting audience with diverse tastes and experienced ears. Without going into detail about the many genres of Thai popular music, the shows in Hua Hin’s venues divide up between loud/soft and new/old. ‘Acoustic’ Thai pop, often referred to as Folk, is very prevalent in restaurants, small pubs, and as warmup in larger Thai music clubs. Much louder electric music predominates in a relative handful of active music clubs. Vintage styles such as Luk Tung  (Thai Country) and Peau Chiwit (Songs for Life) predominate in Hua Hin’s older clubs, such as Luk Nam and Smorieng. More contemporary styles, such as Thai Bossa and Ska, can be found at an increasing number of venues that cater to Bangkok weekend crowd, including Absorba, Hi4, and the new Thonglor Pub

Western Popular Music

Western popular music is found mostly in clubs catering to foreigners, but also at times in venues with mainly Thai clientele. For Classic Rock, head for El Murphy’s. For lounge type standards, the new Leelawadee Club is a good bet. Other venues include hotel lounges (Hilton, Centara). In high season, other venues become active to serve the much large number of Westerners on hand.

Hua Hin Artist Group

'Elephant Abstract 3' original oil by Suphasuta Moonbunjong. Image courtesy of the artist and Happy Gallery

 The Hua Hin Artists Group was established in 2004 with the purpose of promoting the interests of Hua Hin Artists and of encouraging them to grow in skill and originality. Since that time, the group has conducted numerous exhibitions, projects, and other work. Currently, there are 19 members.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Aod Intarasaard

tel. (0)3 253 4830, (0)85 701 1449

 
 
 
 
 

Chawat Muiyabua

tel. (0)84 721 6330

 
 
 
 
 

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Hua Hin’s Painting and Sculpture

'Buddha Face in Gold & Black' by Wiroj Nakharat. Oil 70x90 cm (image courtesy of the artist and Happy Gallery

Hua Hin has long enjoyed a very active community of painters and sculptors. There are at least 18 commercial art galleries in the town and surrounding area.

Most notable of these is Baan Sillapin Artist Village, the home of the Hua Hin Artists Group, active in promoting the interests of artists  and encouraging the development of quality and originality
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Guide to Hua Hin Art Galleries

Alisa Art Gallery

Naresdamri Rd next to the Hilton Hotel, Hua Hin tel. (0)3 253 3385

Aourd Art Gallery

74 Poolsuk Rd., Hua Hint tel. (0)84 862 3994 email: aourd_artgallery@yahoo.co.uk

Arkom Gallery

Dechanuchit Rd., Hua Hin tel. (0)85 292 1359

 
 

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Video: Kyle Dillingham and Tik Shiro at Nakarin Theatre, Bangkok

 
 
 

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Venue Profile: Coco 51 Restaurant

This is the first in our series of profiles of arts and music venues. As they are published these profiles will also be permanently stored under the (In)complete Guide menu. With time, we will have a complete reference listing everywhere you can go in Hua Hin to hear music, see a show, or enjoy fine art. We are off and running!

Coco 51 is a fine mid-upper scale restaurant with live jazz every night. Before we get to the music, you should know that the food is excellent, the service impeccable, and the atmosphere lovely with a wonderful seaside location. The facility is one of Hua Hin’s original upscale beach homes from the 20’s and 30’s, when the town was the darling of the Bangkok elite. The garden overlooking the sea is the principle dining location, but inside dinine is available when weather is inclement (or you want to watch a game on the big screen). The food at Coco is a mix of Thai and Western food, with entrees ranging from 120 baht to a high of 799 baht, with most selections between 220 and 35o baht. You can take a look at the menu (sans prices) here. More

Music in Hua Hin: Where to Hear and Buy Jazz Recordings

Previously, we reviewed the opportunities to hear live jazz performance in and around Hua Hin. But how about jazz recordings? The whole history of jazz is captured in the many hundreds of historic recordings by all the greats down through the years. So, where can you go in Hua Hin for records by the likes of Sonny Rollins, Art Tatum, or Ahmad Jamal? You won’t find much of this in the Night Market stalls, Market Village, or the Thai music shops

Luckily, once again our little town is blessed by resources beyond its size. There are two small, but very nice shops where you can go to browse (and purchase) records by the many greats of jazz. Very nicely, each is a place where you can relax and enjoy good conversation and/or a cup of coffee.

First, there is the Blue Note Coffee at 144/2 Chomsin Road (Chomsin is the road that heads from the more northerly of our two downtown traffic lights). From Petchkasem Rd. turn towards the beach and look for the Blue Note in the middle of the first block, on the left. Formerly called Cups & Comp, the Blue Note is the baby of Mr. Wong, a Thai entrepreneur who has been operating internet cafes and computer services here for a number of years. He’s also a sincere lover of jazz and of old vinyl records, which he has been buying and selling on the Internet for quite a while. He’s combined his passions in the Blue Note, a coffee shop and internet cafe with a music focus.

When you enter the Blue Note, you’ll see a display of old-style vinyl records right in front of you. To the right is a turntable and speakers. That’s correct, Blue Note deals only with vinyl records, Mr. Wong being among those who do not feel that CDs and DVDs equal the warmth and character of the original medium. If the owner himself is in the house, there will almost certainly be music filling the air. If he’s not on hand, you might have to ask the staff (politely) before listening. The records are for sale (mostly), and if you have a turntable in your home system, you can stock up. It’s a very good selection!

Just off of Naebkehardt Road on Soi 56 is a little book and music shop called Rhythm & Books, the brainchild of Mr. Bhuna, a Thai gentleman of international extraction and orientation. Rhythm & Books (or ‘R&B’) is the friendliest book and music store in town, with a comfortable table and chairs where you can relax and enjoy music, books, coffee, photos and art on the walls, and wonderful conversation with Bhuna (He loves a good conversation and speaks English extremely well) and other customers. Fro music, R&B stocks  both CDs and vinyl records. The selections is not huge, but extremely tasty. The owner loves to listen, so don’t hesitate to ask to play any record you find there. The book selection is eclectic, in both Thai and English, with mostly the kinds of books you won’t find in any other bookstore in town. R&B is a lovely place to while away the time, and you can bring home a lot of great listening and reading.

To find Rhythm & Books, proceed North on Naebkehardt (That’s the road that parallels Petchkasem starting at the Clock Tower and ending by the King’s Palace). After passing the large Soi 51 (Soi Coco’s), starting looking for the sign to Rhythm & Books at Soi 56. Turn into the soi and R&B is in the 2nd shophouse on the left. Park and go in. R&B is open every day except Tuesday and Wednesday, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. It’s a one-man show, so occasionally the owner has to keep an appointment elsewhere. If you find the shope closed, well, just come back. You’ll be very happy that you did!

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