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.

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