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?