The Hua Hin Music Scene (Part 1: Original and Classical Music)

You can enjoy live music any night of the week in Hua Hin, though the range of selection varies quite a bit depending on the time of year and the night of the week. There’s generally more to hear when the high-season crowds come, from November through March, and weekends are livelier than weekdays. Your very best options arrive during one of our major music fests or when there’s a special concert event. Here’s a rundown, organized (more or less) by genre.

Hua Hin’s Original Music

Still a bit of a rarity in our fair city (we’re working on it). Currently, the best chance to hear original music with any regularity is to attend the theatrical performances at the Vic Hua Hin Theatre each Saturday night. The shows are great, truly innovative, and nearly always accompanied by an original score performed live. Some productions have featured high-end and well-known performers and composers, both Thai and international. For example, Anant Narkkong (composer, Thailand) and Kyle Dillingham  (violin, US) were featured in Phra Lor in the Fringe Festival Hua Hin in February 2010.  Other productions have less well-known but equally remarkable music teams. Eclipse, presented in March and April of the same year featured an amazing (and thunderous) team of percussionists from the Baan Din Arts Center in Ratchaburi, and soprano Zion Daoratana from the Bangkok Opera. Great stuff, both as theatre and as music.

The shows at the Vic are often preceded by warmup acts in the Dome Dokmai, sometimes featuring The Hua Hin Sound Cloud Project performing original ambient and electronic music in full 4-channel surround sound. Absolutely unique in our neck of the woods. The Sound Cloud Project can also sometimes be seen performing on Sunday afternoons at Baan Sillapin Artists Village.

Apart from the Vic and Baan Sillapin, your best chances to hear original music come during our two major festivals, the Hua Hin International Jazz Festival in June every year, featuring high-end Thai and international acts with headliners such as Lee Ritenour (US) and Incognito (UK). The Honda Summer Fest in late April or early May also presents a solid lineup of Thai groups, mostly in the ska and reggae genre. Many of these groups have genuinely interesting music, and festival regulars T-Bone, who played this year, are a revelation.

Besides our regularly scheduled festivals, special concerts crop of through the year, featuring worthy international artists. In 2010 (so far), we’ve been regaled by the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, Australia’s The Cat Empire (great band!) and others at the Springfield Resort in April. Valentines’ Day saw a special show with Britain’s Puppini Sisters at the Prime Nature Villa resort. These shows come up at irregular intervals, and sometimes are not publicized locally. Watch this website and the Bangkok Post to avoid missing out on some great shows.

(Western) Classical Music

Western classical music is not much in evidence in Hua Hin. In recent years an important exception has been classical guitar genius Ricardo Dioso, who holds forth in the high season every night of the week at either The Duke’s Restaurant or the lobby lounge at the Marriott Hotel. At this writing (June 2010) Mr. Dioso is back in his native Hawaii. We certainly hope we can enjoy his presence once more when the high season returns. He is a wonderful player!

A little-known, but absolutely terrific, opportunity to enjoy high-end chamber, orchestral, and choral music comes each April when the Silpakorn University Music Faculty brings its Summer Music School to the university’s Hua Hin campus. This is a prestige program, with up to 1,000 musicians auditioning for 80 seats. This selects group spends a week at the campus, rehearsing with international conductors and concert meisters (the 2010 program had conductor Hikotaro Yazaki of Japan, violinist Leo Phillips of US, and choral master Pawasut Piriyapongrat of Thailand). The program culminates in two (or more) days of free concerts at the Dusit Resort. Usually, the first day is dedicated to variety of chamber ensembles and the second day is massive orchestral and choral concert. In 2010, there were well over 100 performers in this show, including 12-year old Thai piano prodigy Gun Chaikittiwatana and the Chulalongkorn University Concert Choir. Fantastic. This is the kind of show that costs big-bucks anywhere else, and we can have it absolutely for free!

There are occasional chamber music and classical piano performances at some of the hotels and other venues, but these are irregular. The Arts Guide promises to try to keep you apprised, but it’s not always easy.

Thai Classical Music

Thai classical music is performed during the Thai Cultural Association Festival in December, and at various locations on special days such as New Years, Songkran, and Loy Kratong. It also features in the performances at the Sasi Dinner Theatre. It is also a major influence in the many of the original scores for the productions at the Vic Hua Hin, and is frequently featured in pre-show performances on Saturday evenings.

Some form of Thai classical is often performed in the lobbies of high-end hotels (Hilton, Centara, etc). These range from a single (inevitably female) performer on the kim (Thai hammered dulcimer) to a small ensemble.

Other Classical Music in Hua Hin

Finally, once or twice a year the Mulaniti Hua Hin (Chinese Community Center) brings in a classical Chinese Opera group to perform in front of their main building. These performances are not announced in advanced or publicized outside the Chinese community, so you’ll probably only know about it when you see an outdoor stage set up  in the courtyard of the building, which is located one block North of the downtown Night Market, in the cul-de-sac where Sra Song Road crosses Soi 70 (the road that leads from the traffic light to the railway crossing). We’ll try to give a heads up, but it’s not easy!

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