The synth-pop quintet continues to conquer Asia! Gym and Swim will be kicking off 2019 Asian tour this week following the sweet success of their legs during 2016-2018 in some Asian cities including Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, Busan, Taipei, Chiayi, and Hong Kong.
The group is actually an ultimate collaboration of Thai indie powers that evolved from a side project in 2013 consisting of five members of five different emerging indie bands: ‘Chalerm’ from Seal Pillow, ‘Pokpong’ from Plastic Plastic, ‘Turk’ from The Leprosy, ‘Hob’ from Detail, and ‘Mad-Mee’ from Merry Go Round. The alliance was intended for the ‘Bed Room Studio Project’ – a music competition organized by ‘Fat Radio,’ – a renowned local indie radio station. Ever since then, the fivesome’s side project has always been lined up on many music festivals in Thailand.
The international rise of this Bangkok-based band has gradually increased since the release of ‘Seasick’ in 2016. With the striking David Hockney-inspired album cover, the band’s debut full-length album filled with upbeat surf-pop tunes captured the attention of music lovers all over Asia. Those playful groovy tracks were eventually performed live at Clockenflap – an annual music and arts festival in Hong Kong as well as one of the best music festivals in Asia – with Gym and Swim being the only Thai band performing at Clockenflap 2017.
To date, their colourful melodies are still having a moment in Asia, especially in Taiwan. Apart from an upcoming concert in Taipei this 2nd June, Gym and Swim recently released ‘Don’t Leave Me Behind’ – a brand-new single featuring Taiwan’s 落日飛車 Sunset Rollercoaster. Filled with wistful tone and an accompaniment of a saxophone solo, this track taken from their new EP ‘Amazing Pingpong Show,’ is truly an emblem of the band’s invasion of Taiwan’s music scene.
Formally known as Najwa Mahiaddin, the Malaysian songbird was reborn as NJWA last year with the plan to embark the world with her new music direction.
Growing up influenced by Miss Jill Scott, Erykah Badu and Billie Holiday, the 33-year-old multiple award-winning singer-songwriter’s early music experience was when she started learning piano at age 3 and the first vocal lesson at the age of 9. Later, she spent 3 years pursuing her music degree at Berklee College of Music.
The three-song self-titled EP launched in early 2018 was not the declaration of her departure from R&B and neo-soul direction, but it was an infusion from her 8-year music journey. Before the NJWA era, Najwa released two vintage R&B albums with one exciting music venture as the vocalist of ‘Mostacho Xprmnt’ – a New York-based R&B fusion band she formed with four Berklee grads.
The mixture of electronica, traditional elements from Malaysian and Chinese roots with sultry vocals in the 2018 EP ‘NJWA’ has confirmed her late musical adoration for the likes of Little Dragon, Moses Sumney and James Blake. ‘Togok’ is a perfect blend between traditional folk sounds and modern lyrics, and you cannot miss ‘In The Name of Love’ if you want to know how a song recorded in the Malaysian jungle sounds like.
Recently, NJWA released a new single ‘Take Love Back’ this past April – a mark that reminds us to not take our eyes off of Malaysian modern R&B music.
Do you like live music?
Are you planning to visit Bangkok? Does the idea of exploring the local underground music scene that even the locals don’t know about excite you?
Here are 7 reasons why Bangkok should be your next music destination!
1. Venues, Venues Everywhere
Lacking clear zoning regulations, Bangkok is scattered with live music venues, giving it a charm unique from other Music Cities. You can find them in the city center, the old town area, and even in residential areas. Some are like hidden gems – tucked away deep in the ‘ซอย’ (‘soi’ = alleyways) away from the main roads.
If you ever came to Thailand and partied with the locals, you may notice that there are a lot of establishments that have live music; however, most of them would have house bands playing popular Western and Thai cover songs. But we’re talking about venues with original music played by local indie artists that even the locals don’t know about.
Check out the map below to see examples of venues where local original bands normally perform.
2. Genres, Sub-genres, and More
Bangkok is a city with a population of more than 8.2 million people – 14.5 million if you include the whole metropolitan area. It is a melting pot of different races, cultural backgrounds and lifestyles, making it a rainforest of musical diversity.
Fungjai.com is a local music streaming service, streaming virtually every musical genre available in Thailand, by artists who are mostly from local indie labels or are DIY artists. Fungjai doesn’t have an English-version of the website yet, but it’s pretty simple to guess and click around.
3. Friendly Music Communities
Local music gigs are organized by several promoters, indie labels and musician communities who reside in Bangkok. Some promoters are more dedicated to specific genres, like MELA (techno & electronic) and Thailand GRIND FEST (grind core), while many would crossover between several genres, for example Conflakes, DOOD and Scene Seen Space.
There are also expat communities who organize their own gigs while also collaborating with Thai communities, for example the Japanese musician community led by hardcore punk band, LowFat; and Japanese-Thai record label, dessin the world. Western expat musician groups have also been very active, frequently hanging out and performing at Fatty’s Bar & Diner, and helping out Sofar Sounds Bangkok – a branch of a global network of artists and music lovers.
Music festivals and markets are especially popular during the winter/dry season between November and February, when the sky is clear and the weather is a bit cooler than usual. You can find several music festivals in Bangkok almost every weekend during this time of year, and many more located not so far from the city.
To summarize why Bangkok should be your next music destination, Ben Edwards – an Australian musician who now resides in Bangkok – says it best:
“Bangkok is a city of chaos, contradictions and constant change—just the sort of environment that encourages a lively, exciting and ever-changing underground music scene. It’s a friendly scene that includes many different genres and an international cast of musicians, artists and music fans. While many great small venues have come and gone over the past few years, musically the scene seems to be growing more diverse, interesting and energetic.”