August-28th-2011, 05:43 PM
Making Bangkok The City of Jazz
Established this year at the initiative of Foundation Jazz NL in the Netherlands, the International Jazz Festival Alliance Foundation has Thailand's Santi Wongsawat as its chairman, and he's busy getting ready for "Bangkok City of Jazz", an international jazz conference and showcase that's taking place next month. It's an event that he hopes will lead to Thailand becoming one of the jazz hubs of Asia."There are just a handful of established jazz festivals in Southeast Asia. Indonesia's Java Jazz is the biggest because its promoter used to organise the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands so Indonesia has really benefitted from that. The Hong Kong International Jazz Festival is a major event and Japan is a very big jazz market with lots of festivals though none of them are internationally prominent," says Santi, who is also the director of Samui International Jazz Productions and the founder of the Samui International Jazz Festival.
"All that other countries know about Thailand, is that our Monarch is internationally acclaimed as the King of Jazz.
"Yet we do have a jazz scene in our country. We have a jazz curriculum and instruction at the universities, which have produced many excellent jazz students for more than seven years. Our jazz musicians compare favourably with foreign musicians. What we haven't done is to build up a network for our jazz musicians that allows them to get experience in the field outside the country. The best way to start supporting them is by hosting for this jazz conference. It provides a forum for those who are interested in music, jazz professionals and jazz promoters to share their thoughts and to work together," he adds.
Santi shrugs off the criticisms that Thailand's jazz festivals have featured mainly local pop and rock artists playing jazz as support acts to a few imported jazz acts.
"Sure, it's happened at the Hua Hin, Samui and Bangkok jazz festivals. Mostly that's because our event promoters put the emphasis on mainstream commercialism and the sponsors focus on large audiences.
"We had real jazz festivals a few years ago but we weren't getting the audience numbers we needed to make it pay. The truth is that we have a gap between jazz music and the audience. The years go by and the number of enthusiasts doesn't increase because we're not exposing listeners to different styles. And the media are not seriously interested in supporting the genre," Santi says.
"Bangkok City of Jazz" consists of two parts - a conference focusing on the business aspects of the industry and a jazz showcase with artists from 12 countries.
"Thailand has the capacity to be a jazz music centre in Southeast Asia. The foundation's goal is to build up a strong network, to promote jazz and to support young talent. We also aim to share experience of musical knowledge and performance with musicians or artists outside the country.
"For new talent, the foundation can help to subsidise their performances at music festivals in allied countries. A showcase stage is priced from Bt100,000 to Bt1 million. Our allied countries have their own organisations that support and subsidise new talents too. The foundation's members are event promoters, music label owners, recording studio managers and the media.
Taking place a the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, the conference opens on September 16 at 9am and covers 12 topics.
Speakers include Alexander Beets and Koert Ligtermoete from the Netherlands, Peter Lee from Hong Kong, Caroline Chia from Canada, Thomson Jazz from Singapore and Thailand Anant Lerpradit.
Organiser of the Amersfoort Jazz Fest Edward Dijxshoorn will also talk, as will Lodewijk Bouwens from Foundation JazzNL and Santi himself.
The showcase on September 17 will feature pianist Peter Beets from the Netherlands, the Irene Atman Trio from Canada, the Blazin Quartet from Netherlands, Ori Dakari from Israel, and the Changton Quartet and Aswin Quartet from Thailand.
"Due to our Thai hospitality and Bangkok's facilities and infrastructure, I'm confident that Bangkok has potential to be a jazz hub in Asia," says Santi. "The success of the foundation is based on real collaboration."
"Bangkok City of Jazz" takes place on September 16 and 17 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. Register at www.BangkokCityJazz.com.
On September 17 at 7pm, NTJAM Rosie from the Netherlands and Natalia Calderon from Spain will perform in the "Pathumwan Jazz Junction" charity concert in the Jamjuree Ballroom at the Pathumwan Princess Hotel. Tickets are Bt1,500 including food and beverages. Proceeds will go to the Cardiac Children's Foundation of Thailand. Call (02) 216 3700 extension 20642-6.