Lighting up the North
A roster of performers from all over bring their culture and cuisine to Chiang Mai
A popular event full of local and foreign colours, the Chiang Mai Festival returns for a third edition next month, with three days of fun, food and sound.
This year, there's an added bonus with musicians from Indonesia joining other foreign artists, showing that Chiang Mai is getting in the spirit of the Asean Economic Community in 2015.
"Many musicians from several countries will be joining this festival to showcase their cultures and their food. The event promotes cultural exchanges and good relationships as well as promoting tourism in our country and especially in Chiang Mai," says Noppadol Pakprot of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
"We are following the policy of the Asean Economic Community," adds Yut Wanichanon of organiser Earth Wind and Fire. He's also behind Bangkok's Living Arts Festival. "I think we should start learning more about our Asean neighbours.
"Next year, we would hope to see more countries in Asean attending our festival. But for now, I'm satisfied we are moving in the right direction, as the Chiang Mai festival already has unique characteristics that make it stand out from other music festivals in Thailand. I hope foreign tourists will come to Thailand for this music event. Last year, some tourists told us that they had come to Chiang Mai specifically to attend the festival. That was a real shot in the arm for us," he adds.
The concept this year is "International Music and Heritage" with artists from Japan, France, the US, the Netherlands and Africa, along with 21 booths from 18 countries, including Australia, Spain, Germany, Belgium, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia.
"Our intention is to make this festival more international," says Yut. "The musicians will be representing their cultures and their countries. Many will wear their national costumes and demonstrate their national dishes. Indonesia will be promoting the Javanese bamboo instrument known as the angklung. We have the angklung here too but it's become a forgotten instrument. When I was young, I remember hearing many performers. Today it's all but disappeared from society. So showcasing Indonesia's angklung performance at this festival might encourage Thai people to dust off their angklung and possibly bring the art to life again."
The anklung group from Indonesia features 45 female musicians, who also play Western musical instruments. They'll perform both traditional and international music.
The festival also features Drums United from the Netherlands, an explosive and exciting percussion group featuring eight musicians from Bangladesh, Senegal, Germany, the Netherlands, Surinam and Venezuela.
Other acts will include US singer-songwriter Emily Elbert, French harmonica player Rachelle Plas, Los Ladrones from Spain, Bamako Express, a group of four musicians from four nations, and Japan's Yurai.
"Drums United is very popular and interesting. Rachelle Plas is one of the leading female mouth organ players in France. I think that Thai people have very few chances to hear the mouth organ these days, so I think they will really appreciate her performance. Emily sings pop and jazz and plays guitar very well. She is also a culture ambassador of America.
"Bamako Express's four members include a Thai and they'll be presenting African music and also singing in Khmer. It is quite exciting," explains Yut.
"We don't focus on our country's music market these days but on people who really love art and music."
Joining the international line-up will be Thai artists, Polkrit "Art" Thomya and Somart "Bob" Bunyaratavej, former bassist with Moderndog to share the stage. Art joined up such well known Thai artists and musicians as Sarun "Mc" Wongnoi, Seksun "Oh" Panprateep and Bob to produce the song "Miracle Thailand" to promote Thai tourism as part of the national "Miracle Year of Amazing Thailand 2012" campaign. The song was released in Thai and English, and in four different musical versions.
"Art is a presenter for the Tourism Authority of Thailand this year and writing songs to promote tourism. He always sings about Thai culture," Yut says.
The Chiang Mai Festival runs from March 8 to 10 at the Three Kings Monument, with daily activities from 5 to 11pm.
Admission is free.
Find out more by visiting www.ChiangMaiFest.com.