Once when teaching English, I had to explain to a class what child “progidies” were. I said, “They’re kids who do something a whole lot better than most adults”. And if you want to see some playing Classic Rock at local markets, you need look no further than Phuket’s OZONE Band, whose average age is just ten. They’ve already won the Gold Medal and 2nd Prize of the under-15s 2021 Valaya Alongkorn Music Competition.
Their manager Rungrod “Roger” Bouthong happens to be a good friend of mine, and he suggested I go see them. He’s a drum teacher at the Yamaha Music School, and manages the band. They had only been practicing then for three months, yet were confidently knocking out songs like Jump (Van Halen), Back in Black (AC/DC), Welcome to the Jungle (Guns n’ Roses) and For Whom the Bell Tolls (Metallica). But when I heard the opening bass for Highway Star (Deep Purple), I wondered if they were now going to mess up – it’s a fast and notoriously difficult song to perform. I was stunned when they played it faultlessly! So who are OZONE?
Praew, on vocals and guitar is, at 12, the oldest and already has a confident and commanding stage presence. She’s clearly the boss. Praew started her guitar and singing lessons when she was seven, then started her first busking show a year after.
JC on bass is an 11 years-old Filipino and is the quiet one. He wants to follow in his father’s footsteps. His father Boy is a popular, local, virtuoso bass player who I’ve played with a couple of times in the Bebop Bar in Phuket Town.
Khao Tang on keyboards is 11-years old and Thai and has only been learning piano for a year. While he can play some Beethoven and Mozart songs flawlessly, he clearly knows how to rock too! However, his favorite musician is Chopin rather than Jon Lord of Deep Purple.
Finally, Boon on drums, at just eight years old, is the tiny Thai baby of the band. He’s always smiling. He started learning drums with Roger a few years ago when still at Kindergarten. Boon loves playing Rock, and it is a little odd hearing the loud thump of his drums when you can only just see the very top of his head over the kit’s tom toms!
I went to see them rehearsing at Yamaha Music School to find out more about them. OZONE all started when Praew, JC and Boon joined the Band Course there. Praew encouraged Kao Tang to learn piano so he could join them. They played their first gig at the end of October last year when COVID restrictions were lifted.
As Praew is clearly the band’s driving force, I asked her why she wanted to do all this. She said, “I saw boys playing guitar, and I wanted to do it better than them….and I want to be a superstar one day.” Well, I thought she certainly had the grit and potential to do just that!
I asked them what it was like playing in OZONE. While they agreed it was a lot of fun and they had become close friends, Praew complained, “But there’s never enough time to sleep.” Well, I thought if she wants to be a true rock and rolling superstar, she’d better get used to that!
And as for OZONE’s future? Praew wants the band to stay together forever – let’s face it, she’s had to put in a lot of work to get things this far. However, while JC wants to be a musician, Kao Tang aspires to be a doctor. But she may have a far more difficult problem than that to deal with.
You see, if little Boon succeeds in his ambition. He could well be stuck on Mars for a few years – he wants to be an astronaut!
Andy Tong Dee (C)