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Meet the next big band

Thai talents are tuning up for the Global Battle of the Bands, with massive prizes waiting

The reality-TV contests for individual musical talents can just take a seat for a little while to let pop and rock groups vie for big prizes. The Global Battle of the Bands is on the air every Saturday afternoon, and the Thai winners - to be chosen in June - will compete in front of rock-star judges in the finals overseas.

Battle commenced in Britain in 2004 and has since drawn in more than 40 countries and hundreds of groups of all ages, genres and professional standings.

"This is a very refreshing and interesting concept because it's all about bands," says Morten Martisen, whose company, Sierra Nevada, owns the franchise in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

"All the TV shows and other competitions you have are all about individuals, but this is all about bands. It's about a group of people getting together, and what is unique in our concept is that they have to produce their own music - no cover songs. And they have to perform it live. It's about the dynamic of a group, not just one person."

Each band - it could be just a duo or have up to eight members - submits a sample of its music via YouTube or Facebook. If it clears the initial screening, the Thailand Regional Rounds - warm-ups for the global showdown - take place in Phuket, Pattaya, Chiang Mai and Bangkok next month. The victors in each region get Bt25,000 worth of music equipment.

The National Finals are scheduled for June 8 at Bangkok's CentralWorld Plaza, with the winners set to receive Bt100,000 worth of gear, Bt100,000 in cash and two days at Karma Sound Studio.

The Thai champs will compete in the ninth World Finals at the end of the year, alongside those of more than 25 other countries. The world champions walk away with a US$100,000 (Bt3-million) "band-development package" - and a lot of crucial attention.

Judges haven't been named yet for this year's finals, but previous contests have seen the likes of Rick Wakeman from Yes, Kee Marcello of the band Europe, original Sex Pistol Glen Matlock, and Steve Littywhite, who produced records for U2 and the Rolling Stones.

That sounds like a solid bunch of rockers, but any kind of music is welcome - including folk, ethnic and instruments-only. Song lyrics, if you have them, can be any language as long as they're original.

The Thailand judging panel will be announced soon, but Chris Cracker, a Grammy-nominated performer, composer and producer, will be in charge.

"The competition is ever-expanding," Mathisen says. "The first year there were only 16 countries and last year we had thousands of musicians from 20 countries and territories.

"Thailand has quite a few similar competitions organised by alcohol brands, but they're all local in scale. GBOB is on a big, global scale."

The Battle was established to inspire musicians to move forward in their careers. The inaugural winner, a Spanish outfit called Second, toured Europe with Shakira and Depeche Mode.

Irish group Kopek, winners in 2005, had a Top 10 single in North America and a track from their debut album in the feature film "Saw 3D". A Faroe Islands group called simply Boys in a Band won in 2007 and now appears regularly at major music festivals like Roskilde and Eurosonic.

And reggae collective Dubtonic Kru from Jamaica, winners in 2010, also earned a Simba Award from the Coalition to Preserve Reggae before touring the US.

"We don't guarantee the winners a record deal or an album," Mathisen says. "We're not a record label recruiting for new products. We're showing them off, letting them shine and exposing them to the scouts who are likely to be watching."



Get plugged in



Watch "GBOB" on TGN (Thai TV Global Network) every Saturday at 2pm starting tomorrow.

Get the details at http://gbob.com/thailand (down for maintenance at press time).




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