I love southeast Asia

I live in Thailand. I love it. Thing is: there’s no Improvised Music scene here or anywhere else in southeast Asia. At least no evidence of anything that I would recognize as Improvised Music as we define it in the west. Why is this? Well, i’m no authority on the culture of this region so I don’t have a qualified answer to that question.

I do have an opinion about Improvisation here.

One thing that I can say is that art is a reflection of a culture. Free Jazz (and all of the improvised music forms that evolved from it) has the Black American experience of the mid-twentieth century at it’s root. The birth of Free Jazz was a political statement more than anything else. Given the nature of the people and their socio-economic circumstances, Free Jazz could only have happened where and when it did.

Thailand is a beautiful country. Politically, it is non-aligned making it a “third world country”. (The designation “third world country” doesn’t mean “impoverished” it means that the country politically is neither aligned with the “1st world” – the capitalist NATO countries nor the “2nd world” communist countries and the Soviet Union. It’s an old Cold War term.) People live very freely here. There’s no government in everyone’s business telling them how to live. There’s tons of music. Thailand is historically a very music rich country. Most Thais are proficient in some musical instrument and nearly everyone sings and dances.

kSo why no Free Jazz? Why no Improvised Music?

Probably because the people don’t feel repressed. The conditions that inspired and motivated the progenitors of Improvised Music in America just don’t exist here. Looking at this society objectively, one sees an impressively laid-back scene. No one appears to be highly concerned about anything. For good reason. Thailand is blessed with a wonderful climate and is very fertile. The population isn’t beyond the means of the land and the economy is comfortably stable and has been for a long time.

Ok, I didn’t grow up poor and Black in Chicago and I play Free Jazz. I do so because I hold the values that originally fueled the music sacred. I believe that the propagation of this music is the propagation of a belief system and its ideals. I believe these mores to be vital to surviving in the industrial west. These resources are not at all necessary in southeast Asia.

Which is totally ok with me. What do you think?



3 thoughts on “I love southeast Asia

  1. Have you noticed any street musicainas rocking out? That is where you would find any kind of improv music. As far as people feeling repressed, are you sure? Whats up with all this blue or red shirt or whatever shirt stuff, all of that stems from feelings of oppression,repression, ect… people not to long ago occupied the major airports out of protest ,I dont think that was because they were content. It also does not mean that they are playing “southest asian improv free jazz”
    I am sure thailand is fun,keep it up!


    • Theo, thanks for piping in on the discussion here. There is a lot of traditional Thai music to be heard here and it’s awesome! It’s true that there is improvisation in that music. The improvisation that I’m talking about is “Improvisation” with a capital ‘i’ which is a way of making music rather than an element of a style of music.

      As for the politics here, that’s a subject I’d rather not get into in this blog. We can talk about it when I see you next spring. (Tobias and I are planning some 3 Banditos dates for March. Hint, hint.) Like any other modern society, Thailand has its fair share of political issues. My point was that the players and parameters are different than the US at the time of the birth of the Free Jazz movement and the resulting counter-culture in America specifically – and the west in general – is very unique to our society.



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