Soundistan is a brand new event organizer in Bangkok and they’ve started with a bang, organizing 3 great gigs over the last few weeks. I know it sounds like a stretch for me to say an event organizer is one of my favorites after just attending one of their gigs, but they are and there’s a reason for this.
Over the last 2 years I’ve spoken with or interviewed countless musicians, and almost without fail I’m told that one of the biggest dreams they have is to tour, to share their music with new audiences and to experience new places while doing music. Soundistan is all about making that dream a reality for musicians in the region, about creating an exchange for local music scenes. They want to bring great talents from around the region to Bangkok and also bring Bangkok-based talent around the region.
For their first event, they brought in Indonesia-based singer-songwriter Sandrayati Fay to play alongside one of our favorite local soul outfits Supergoods at Soulbar, followed by another gig at 12×12, also with Sandrayati Fay but alongside the excellent funk masters The Lowdowns and electronic-lofi act YUU. Then a week later they showcased some of the region’s best electronica at De Commune, with Cee from Malaysia, Arrio and Harvey from Indonesia and DOTT and Bang Sue Electrix from Thailand all on the bill.
Over the last 2 years I’ve spoken with or interviewed countless musicians, and almost without fail I’m told that one of the biggest dreams they have is to tour, to share their music with new audiences and to experience new places while doing music. Soundistan is all about making that dream a reality for musicians in the region.
We attended their first gig at Soulbar and it was an absolute experience. I missed Supergoods’ set but I’m 100% sure they were as brilliant as they always are. The band’s lead singer is a perfect example of a vocalist who gives her all to every performance she does and they sport a rich setlist of classic soul and blues covers. The last time I went to Soulbar specifically to see them play live I noticed the regulars in the room bringing their significant others for a night of music, clearly there for something they trust is quality, that their partner would feel was fun and romantic.
Between the sets there was a good DJ set and the general social exchanges that Soulbar is well-known for, with the musicians mixing with the audience. The breaks between sets were long and I was feeling a good amount of anticipation as Sandrayati Fay began her set. What followed was one of the most poignant acoustic performances I’ve yet to experience. A key to the music was Sandrayati’s bassist, who painted a wide canvas of music with his effect-driven bass used in an assortment of ways, which really set a mood and pulled the audience in. Sandrayati’s first song “Intro” almost felt like stand up poetry, followed by her second song “Ephermeral” which more clearly showed her singer-songwriter style and rich vocals. You could tell the audience was fully immersed, waiting for the end of songs before clapping, not wanted to upset the balance of the room.
… what followed was one of the most poignant acoustic performances I’ve yet to experience.
After introducing her duo as being from Indonesia, but also stating that she was from “a mix of places”, she followed with a Bahasa song, joyful, clearly enjoying the performance and the energy of the space, smiling between stanzas, with the song ending with solid applause. Next up was “Empty Space”, a really solid and beautiful song with delicate instrument bits, followed by “Shine”, one of the numerous tracks from her 9 track album “Bahasa Hati” that she sang. After that, a truly unique and powerful cover of The Cranberries “Zombie”, designed to build slowly in intensity, with the crowd cheering towards the end. She sang “Rice Warrior” next, which she described was “about resistance” as “it takes a lot to exist in this world and that in itself is resistance”.
There was a long break between sets till the band returned with 2 more originals and then “Creation Starter”, a cover of a friend’s song. There was a real flow from one song to the next, as if every song was connected. They followed this with 2 more originals, each performed with as much energy as the last, and ended with an Indonesian song. It had been a fantastic performance and the crowd didn’t want them to leave just yet, demanding one more. Sandrayati looked nervous, but gave a muted thank you and obliged, deciding to play a new song. “The only thing running through my head is this new song that I’ve never played live”. The song made a perfect ending to the evening, impromptu but fantastic, the end met with loud applause.
It was a great, unique performance, the type you will probably only see once, a snapshot of a young musician doing something for the very first time. Soundistan has set with the goal of giving musicians this opportunity, to tour for perhaps the first time and experience new people and places with music, and this gig was a case where you could see the goal and the result so clearly that it stood out.
You could tell the audience was fully immersed, waiting for the end of songs before clapping, not wanted to upset the balance of the room.
So why does Soundistan stand out to me as one of my favorite new gig organizers? Well, I feel that Bangkok needs more of 3 key things when it comes to live music events – taste-setters, communities and communication. There are a lot of things to do in Bangkok and for the mass majority deciding to come to indie gigs over other options can be difficult to do. What helps people are knowing of taste-setters that they know always have high quality acts, seeing that a gig is at a venue they know has a solid community where they can meet people they know or interesting new people, and all this to be communicated through good event promotion which clearly shows the value and hypes the event correctly.
Soundistan hits these 3 areas very well. They are bringing in solid regional acts and coupling them with trusted local acts. They are organizing their events are some of the best small venues in the city which have lovely communities built around them. And they are promoting their events well with good visuals, posts and links to the music so you know what to expect. It’s a simple formula really, but still one that should be celebrated, as this is what is needed more to bring in more viewers and grow the scene. And at the end of the day, that’s what matters.
Written by Abner Olivieri
Image credits – Sandrayati Fay Instagram