Yes, I was so sad to hear that the Coconut Rawai open mic nights (OMNs) are over…or taking a break maybe, for various reasons. I’m aware some oppose such OMNs and will not be sad. I am not one of them. I have run a few some time ago now, I have played at OMNs when I can get a band together, and I have supported the Coconut Rawai OMNs as best as I could. So I feel a keen sense of loss, particularly as I heard a lot of great songs not on the Patong Playlist there and some fine original songs too..
OMNs, like kareokes, are a regular feature of performance music in the UK. They provide amateur musicians a platform so a community can have a little fun. The professional musicians don’t get upset; they just get on with their lives and jobs. They are not so insecure as to see them as competition or feel their livelihoods are threatened. I fail to see why Phuket should be any different.
After all, there is one 20 year old Phuket Town live music venue here that regularly involves enthusiastic amateurs that never gets criticism. Or kareokes or the now defunct 18 year old Music Matters jazz jam for that matter. No one has complained about them, nor have they had any problems with the authorities during all that time. OMNs are much the same.
The main problem is that the legal definition of work here is “anything involving physical or mental effort.” So voluntary work for a charity, picking up litter on the beach, cleaning your car, feeding your cat, painting your house or thinking about your tax return are all defined legally as ‘work’ in Thailand, thus requiring a work permit. Pay doesn’t enter into it. It’s nuts.
This definition is so ridiculous that the authorities have traditionally turned a blind eye where they can to save themselves embarrassment, just so long as things are done low key. Things won’t change legally any time soon. Such expat issues come well down the list of priorities here.
However, amateur musicians should not have to live in fear or be compelled to hide their gifts and talents under a stone. Self-expression is surely a human right and I fail to see why musical expression should not be included. Until the law is changed, we just have to live with it.
But the time to try to get something formally agreed with Phuket’s Labor Office is long overdue. We need greater clarity and certainty.
But any efforts to do that (which legally = work) must stay under the radar too for now…. unless someone gets a work permit to do it!