Venue of the Week: Vic Hua Hin Theatre

The Vic Hua Hin Theatre and Performing Arts Center opened in January 2010, a project of Patravadi Mejudhon of Patravadi Theatre in Bangkok. It is a large (30 rai or 12 acres) and impressive complex located approximately 4 km South of downtown Hua Hin.

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The Vic Hua Hin complex includes:

1. The Vic Hua Hin Theatre, a state-of-the-art facility with 320 seats and standing capacity up to about 400 persons.

2. The ‘Flower Dome’ (Dome Dokmai) outdoor performance space, with full theatrical lighting and a 4-channel sound system.

3. The Arts Camp, a unique sculptured residence area with single and double bungalows plus a sizable group-stay space.

4. Classrooms, shops, dormitories, libraries, studios, offices, and so forth.



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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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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!

Hua Hin Music Scene, Part 3: Thai Popular Music

Hua Hin has a substantial scene of Thai popular music. There are a number of live music clubs that serve the local population and visitors from Bangkok (of which there are more and more all the time). In addition, we have one festival (Honda Summer Fest) that features major name bands from the Bangkok music machine, plus several multi-day local fair-type events that feature more or less name entertainment each night. Plus, most of the major Thai music clubs host concerts a few times a year with big name band (big to a Thai audience at least). And, oh yes, there’s an outdoor show at the beach every Friday. If you enjoy Thai pop, you won’t go wanting.

If You Like That Sort of Thing….

Of course, if you’re reading this in English you may be wondering why you would care about Thai popular music at all. Most visitors hear bits and pieces of Thai pop on the stereo, etc., and often don’t form an immediate affection for it. Of course there’s the language barrier. Like most Western pop music (outside of dance music), Thai songs invest their meaning and popularity in the way that words and music work together. “Wonderful Tonight”, for example, would just not be wonderful if you had not idea what the lyrics were saying. Nor would there be much of appeal in a recitation of the lyric by itself. Pop music anywhere is a combination. When half of it is opaque to you, well, it’s just harder to get into it.

Also, much of the music heard on radio and TV (and in karaoke bars) comes from some very formulaic genres within the broader world of Thai popular music, and not very impressive as a first listening experience. Not to mention the silly dance routines that accompany so many pop tunes on TV shows. All in all, the initial experience of most farang with Thai pop is likely to be less that salubrious.

All we can say to that is: There’s a lot more going on in Thai music today (and in past) than you may be aware of. There are lots of different genres in Thai music, and many wonderful songs. Plus, it you like to hear a good band playing there hearts out, many of the best musicians in Hua Hin are playing in Thai club bands.

So our suggestion is: Get out there and give it a try. You might find a whole new world. Or at least some additional options in your live music diet here.

The Hua Hin Music Scene, Part 2: Jazz Music in Hua Hin

In Thailand, Hua Hin is sometimes called “Jazz City”, principally because of the annual Hua Hin International Jazz Festival and also because of the residence in Hua Hin of King Bhumipol Adulyadej, the worlds only jazz-musician/monarch. At the time the Jazz City title was bestowed it was a bit ironic, as outside of the 3 days of the festival it was actually quite hard to find jazz anywhere in Hua Hin. Even with a flashlight!

All that has changed. Hua Hin still cannot be compared to New York, Chicago, Copenhagen or any of the major jazz centers in the West, but it does boast a lively and growing scene of local Thai and international players of jazz and jazz-flavored music.

The Hua Hin Jam Scene

The most unusual aspect of Hua Hin’s jazz music scene is the public open-jam sessions that enliven the high season. From December until early April, Hua Hin enjoys a major influx of seasonal residents from the countries of Northern Europe, particularly Scandinavia. These ‘snowbird’ include a number of professional and non-professional musicians, many of them quite skilled.

The custom has been established for certain restaurants and clubs to invite both resident and seasonal musicians to join together on a particular night of the week to enjoy with each other and to entertain the audience. These sessions have become immensely popular, to the point that people must arrive early get a seat. However, the scene is quite seasonal. When the warmer weather arrives in Europe (and Hua Hin get too hot and steamy), most of the musicians and the audience hightail it to their home countries and we have to make do here until the winter brings them all flocking back.

The granddaddy of these jam venues is Ray’s Place Restaurant, located on the corned of Sra Song Road and Amnuaysin Road, one block South of the central Night Market and one block West of Petchkasem Road. In high season, Ray’s hosts jam sessions twice a week to accomodate the crowds. Monday night is the ‘anchor’ session. When things get really busy, Thursday nights are added to catch the spillover. The Thursday night sessions are also traditionally a little more relaxed and afford a for the players to stretch out. Music begins around 8pm and goes to 11pm. In mid-season, you will want to reserve a table and/or come early.

This past year, one of the musicians from the Ray’s jams opened his own place. Chez LouLou has jams on Wednesday nights (in high season). Chez LouLou is located near the train station, next to the 7-11 store. On jam nights you can’t miss it, as the session is held in the parking area.

In Cha-Am, Baan Chang, owned by prominent Norwegian pianist Nissa Nyberget, offers shows every night. Sunday night is jam night at Baan Chang, drawing an audience and roster of musicians that is heavily Scandinavian. These seasons are very lively, with Mr. Nissa encouraging musician and listener alike. Good stuff! Baan Chang is located on Soi 8 North in Cha-Am, just off the beach.

The Jazz Train

Besides our jazz jams, Hua Hin also a very unusual excursion called the Jazz Train. At frequent (but irregular)times in the high season, Ray of Ray’s Place charters an entire car on the southbound train from Bangkok. Boarding at Hua Hin station, the train travels for about 3 hours South with a live band playing onboard. On arrival at destinations such as Thap Sakae or Ban Krut, the audience checks into a commissioned resort and enjoys an evening party on the beach with dinner and a live show that runs into the night. It’s highly unusual and a great experience. For information of the Jazz Train schedule, check with Mr. Ray at Ray’s Place.

Apart from the high-season jams, the only venue that presents nightly jazz year-round is the Coco 51 Restaurant on the beach at Soi 51. The music here is deliberately soft to serve as a backing for dinner and conversation. When pay attention, though, the playing is usually quite good. At this time (July 2010), the entertainment at Coco 51 consists of a very good female vocalist accompanied by an excellent jazz guitarist. Coco’s is also an excellent place to eat, with very good food, excellent service, and an atmospheric location overlooking the sea.

In high season, add Baan Chang in Cha-Am as a nightly venue for jazz music. See Jam Scene above.

Hua Hin has one local band, made up entirely of local Thai musicians, that plays jazz exclusively. The Hua Hin Ensemble are often heard around town and definitely are worth taking a listen to. The band consists of Khun Ob on guitar, Mr. Oat on bass, Khun Uan on drums, and Jawt on alto saxophone. In their performances, the band is frequently joined by guest artists. The Hua Hin Ensemble is also an anchor of the jams at Ray’s Place. At this low-season writing, it’s unknown where they will be seen next. But keep an eye out for them. They are very, very good.

Now, about that Jazz Festival… The Hua Hin International Jazz Festival, now approaching it’s 10th year, has had its ups and downs. At this point, the program seems to have settled in a good spot as a very credible, though not large (3 nights, 2 stages, maybe 24 bands) festival that is a credit to Hua Hin’s reputation as a sophisticated resort destination. Boasting a nicely balanced roster of major international acts, Thai jazz stalwarts such as The Infinity Band, and talented artists from other Southeast Asian countries. This year’s festival was headlined by guitar-whiz Lee Ritenour (US), Acid-Jazz pioneers Incognito (UK) and the Contemporary Jazz Super Band (Jeff Lorber, Eric Marienthal, Jimmy Haslip, and Joel Taylor. The stage locations were altered to add a 2nd beach stage at the Intercontinental Hotel, which out very well and relieved overcrowding of previous years at the Sofitel Stage. The Hua Hin International Jazz Festival is held every year in June.

Next Post: Live Music Clubs in Hua Hin

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