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It’s a great time to buy guitars, even if you don’t play so well!

This is a great time to buy a new guitar – the design and craftsmanship now is so good and fierce competition keeps prices down. Not only that, the guitar is still prominent  in modern music, despite what they said in the 80s about keyboards taking over. They didn’t…entirely…

So here’s a shout out for Bangkok’s guitar suppliers! In the last 11 years, I’ve used Proplugin, CT Music, Music Boulevard, Boosey, Tone City, Bangkok Music Exchange, Theera and Music City. They’ve all been great. (OK I like to try and buy local, but they only just order from these places anyway.)

And particular thanks today is due for Music Collection who just sold me this (Indonesian) Squire Standard Tele for a mere 9,400 baht. It’s reduced to about the same price as a Squire Affinity as it’s being discontinued, so I thought I’d best hurry up and get one. (I checked three shops before this one, but they had all sold out).

No scratches, clean and the action, truss rod, pickups and intonation are perfectly set up. It’s a fine guitar with terrific playability and sound. But why did I just get a mere Squire Standard?

 1. Is a Squire Classic Vibe Tele really worth 7,000 baht more? 13,000 extra maybe for a Mexican Fender Standard? Or 18,000 more for a Fender Player? Frankly, I can’t see much difference apart from the word “Fender” on the head stock. Maybe that’s why it’s being discontinued. Such bargain guitars are maybe discouraging people from buying more expensive ones.

2.  At 3.2 kg of agathis,  it’s a whole lot lighter than my mahogany 4.3 kg Les Paul (oof!) and nearly half my 6 kg solid ash Chinese tele copy (phew!). It’s a good choice for a smaller or aging  guitarist, shall we say, as wood is not a big factor in electric guitar tone.

3. No one expects lightening, shredding guitar solos from anyone playing one of these kinda guitars. That suits me fine because I don’t want to!

I think that guitars are like clothes. Yes, they need to be functional, but you also need to feel comfortable with them. They need to look and feel right for you. This guitar does that for me, but maybe not for you. Natural wood or antique burst is my thing, maybe electric blue is yours. It’s a great subject for a friendly discussion, especially when amps and pedals get involved.

So if a Squire Standard Telecaster does ring your bells, get online and order one fast while they’re still available…or  (argh!) a Squire Standard Strat if you really must.

We’d best leave THAT conversation for another day!

Andy Tong Dee

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Hats off for Don Mangiameli!

A few weeks ago, I was asked by a local agent I know to fix up a venue for a gig by legendary Bangkok Blues guitarist and singer Yamin. He was playing at a festival in Hua Hin and he wanted to play one gig in Phuket soon after. I had first seen Yamin play in Bangkok many years ago and so I knew of his great talent. He last played here five years ago when he did three gigs, including one on the Lad Yai walking street. I guess he felt he needed to show his face after all that time.

So I contacted Don at Michelangelo’s bar in Phuket Town, and he jumped at the chance to host the event. I just knew he would – he’s just so positive and wants to see things happening, so he was first choice, despite the venue being tiny. I knew it would be a struggle with any other larger Falang – focused bar – there would inevitably be less interest from owners. As for Blue Tree? The arena is far to big and it might well rain. Forget that!

I also made sure to link Yamin up with my friends Roger and Kaely from Gypsy Sun on drums and bass. (I knew they played with him five years ago.) OK, I get a free ticket, but there’s no money in this for me and not much for Don, just HUGE satisfaction for us both when it all comes off. It’s extremely rare to see visiting acts in expat bars here.

However, Thai Bangkok bands regularly play at Plernchit and Ther bars on the Seahorse (Nimit) Traffic Circle. They are smallish too, but they are always packed on such occasions. I am trying my best to market Yamin’s gig to Thais and expats which I hope will be similarly well-supported. Don is taking something of a risk.

And we need people running bars catering for falang like Don to take such risks, to entice bands and musos down now and then and make them feel welcome. Such acts help to break the monotony and help enrich live music here.

So hat’s off everyone – here’s a shout out for Don for making this happen.

And be there, don’t be square!

ATD

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It’s as much a project as a band…

TONG DEE began in January 2022 when Kru “Roger” Rungould Bouthong started practicing with me regularly and working on original songs, some about Thailand. These songs presently cover subjects such as gun control, deforestation, cyber-bullying, road death, and war. However, I have written a couple of lighter ones to balance things out and keep the wife happy!

Thai pop and rock music is quite fantastic, but it’s not so well known outside Thailand. Our intention is to help Thai bands to write and perform their Thai original songs in English. We believe this will help to make these songs more accessible and appreciated by an international audience.

My wife and I have run a small translation company for ten years now so we can easily get Thai lyrics translated into English if needed. I’m a retired English teacher and I have teacher friends who are willing to help train Thai singers to pronounce English words properly.

Roger is a professional drum teacher from Suratani, and he works for Yamaha Music School. He manages the Ozone kids band and plays with Phuket bands Gypsy Sun and the Moody Band. I taught Roger English for three months before we started this project. He’s Thai liaison.

We are already playing low-key in Thai venues, but we hope to perform together at Thai music festivals and events at some point in the future. We may invite some Thai musician friends to help us out when we do.

Oh,…. we have a Facebook page ทองดี, but… sorry…it’s all in Thai!

Best wishes

Andy Tong Dee

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Rock is not dead (yet…)

I bet you are wondering who this is with the blue hair and boating jacket. In fact he’s a well known rock musician called Jack White, a man famous and loved for his quirky creativity with bands such as The White Stripes and The Raconteurs. He doesn’t usually look like this.

Jack, like David Bowie, seems to morph now and then. He started out as a lover of early blues and country, playing a lot of acoustic, wearing denim and looking scruffy, became quite punk, did some suave crooning for a while and then… went to sleep after his last album came out in 2018.

I had quite forgotten about him when suddenly I stumbled upon this amazing new video while researching material on You Tube. I didn’t recognise Jack in it to begin with, the dominant color being blue rather than Jack’s traditional red (and white).

But this is far more than a change of image and color scheme. While guitar is still his weapon of choice, Jack is going more techno musically and it is wonderful to see. We had a glimpse of what was to come perhaps with his song Sunday Driver, released in 2018. And Jack hasn’t been idle the last four years. He has two new albums out soon, Fear of the Dawn on April 8th and Entering Heaven Alive on July 22nd, and he is soon on tour again. I can’t wait!

Thank God…if there is one. You see, people are always saying that Rock is dead or at least dying as a musical genre. They say it’s all been done before. The contemporary band Airborne sounds just like AC/DC and Greta Van Fleet just like Led Zeppelin. Here in Phuket we keep hearing the same old tired songs from 40 years ago. I cringe now every time I hear the opening chords of Smoke on the Water or Zombie. Jack does things not done before.

The fact is, Rock will die without bold, imaginative and perhaps quirky songwriters like Jack White who will take a risk and try something different, saying “Damn the crowd!”.

Love him or hate him, laugh at him or take him seriously, Rock needs people like him to survive.

And if you love Rock and are concerned for its future, you do too.

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Musos be proud!

My Thai friend Jack runs the Pastel bar in Phuket Town. He named the bar after the word for a mix of colours – pastel. But why? Because he wanted his bar to be a meeting place for musicians of different races and nationalities. I recall playing in a jam there during an open mic night I’d organised and the five of us were all from different countries, so Jack had succeeded in his aim.

Modern popular music has a long, proud tradition of inclusivity and hospitality. Bob Dylan’s idol Woody Guthrie and black early bluesman Leadbelly were great friends in 1930s USA, which was highly unusual there at that time. Other early bluesmen such as Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and Son House were surprised to be shown great respect and kindness when they visited Europe in the 60s. Likewise, visiting British bands like the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and the Beatles were treated like royalty in the USA . Finally, the Aussie band AC/DC went down a storm after they arrived in the UK in 1977 to make a name for themselves, an event I have fond memories of!

I also recall a time post-punk in the UK when the Two-Tone craze took off, led by bands such as The Specials, The Selecter and The Beat, with bands featuring a mix of black and white musicians. The Bhundu Boys were to receive a rapturous welcome in the UK in 1986 when they arrived from Zimbabwe. Bob Marley too was contributing to an overall feeling of human unity and togetherness through the positive “One Love” message of his songs.

I hope you can see from all this that musicians have helped achieve something truly wonderful quite unthinkingly – race and nationality have long been irrelevant and meaningless when it comes to popular music. And it should always of course be so!

There is no more visible way such unity can be seen than a bunch of musicians of different races having fun together on stage. Musos have gently helped in this way to break down the mental walls of racism and xenophobia that divide our societies. They should be applauded for this as much as for their music.

So Musos of Phuket – hold your heads high! If politics etc divides people, music can unite them! You too have done great things in bringing people of different races and nationalities closer together, whether you realise it or not. I hope you can see yourselves as part of the long and noble tradition I have just described that continues to this day and which will surely continue long into the future.

So stand proud and take a bow guys and gals. You’re all stars!

Andy Tong Dee