City Guide: Paradise Bangkok presents Bangkok

paradise bangkok
Whilst Paradise Bangkok is now synonymous with a colourful record label and a band bearing the same name, its humble beginnings can be located in the midst of the buzzing Thai capital back in 2009. Looking to showcase their vintage collection of luk thung and molam (music styles from the rural parts of Thailand), DJs Maft Sai and Chris Menist pooled together their Thai vinyl to put on the very first Paradise Bangkok party; a place to drink, dance and enjoy the natural musical links between sounds from across the globe.

Since then the duo hurdled onwards, playing shows in Japan, Vietnam, Germany, London, Switzerland, Austria and France. Aside from their spectacularly refreshing DJ sets, they also co-compiled the two volumes of Sound of Siam for Soundway Records, as well as Thai? Dai! for Finders Keepers. Chris is now back in London, working as a musician and writer, whilst Maft runs the Zud RangMa HQ record store and label in Bangkok, as well as the Studio Lam bar just next door.

Ahead of their 1st ever gig in the UK at this summer’s Farmfest, we caught up with duo to pick their brains about their favourite secret hide-outs and hotspots in the capital. Alongside the interactive annotated Google Map the duo have also provided a 100% Thai mix, all sourced through scouring old record stores and private collections. As well as being great bits of music in their own right, they’re associated with a lot of happy memories and great evenings as the project enters its 6th year.

Catch The Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band at this year’s Farmfest. Tickets available here.  

Below you can find an annotated Google Map of Paradise Bangkok’s guide to Bangkok, accompanied by detailed explanations below of every place pinned.

Favourite places to buy records?
Zud Rangma HQ, Sukhumvit 51 should be your first port of call – bespoke selection of Thai vinyl as well as choice discs from India, Malaysia and Indonesia too, and comps/reissues. Then it’s all about heading up to China Town and hitting the Saturday night market, and the old vinyl shops in Saphan Lek district.

Favourite live music venue?
Studio Lam, Sukhumvit 51 is definitely the most happening spot right now. Andrew Ashong, Awesome Tapes and Miles Cleret have all played there recently, as well The Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band, Ralph Thomas,and Yaan. When it gets busy it turns into a block party. Amazing cocktails and whisky too!

Favourite club / best sound system?
Studio Lam, Sukhumvit 51 again. So many venues in Bangkok have expensive equipment set up in the wrong way so the sound is too harsh. With its Altec speakers, valve amps and E&S mixer the sound is bright, crisp, warm and overall amazing.

Favourite outdoor party?
The best times were at Paradise Bangkok at Cosmic Cafe on RCA. Not all of it was outdoor, but there was little to beat the feeling of a cold beer in one hand, molam blasting out of the sound system and partying the night away with good friends. More recently the annual Wonderfruit festival is pioneering a great range of acts and artists, both local and international.

Best view of the city?
The Banyan Tree roof top bar. Amazing views of the city lights for as far as you can see, and of course a great drink selection. Bit scary if there’s a wind up, though!

The place to experience something unique to Bangkok?
China Town is one of the older parts of the city, and home to the many workers invited over from mainland China as the capital was being built up in the early 20th century. Great for tourist attractions of course, but a wonderful place just to wander round and get lost in. It feels like a neighbourhood where people have lived, worked and raised their families in, and you never know quite what you’ll find as you stroll around the labyrinthine streets.

The first place you miss after leaving Bangkok?
The Isan food stall on Soi 51. Street food in Thailand is some of the best food you’ll eat anywhere, and there’s nothing better of an afternoon than tucking into som tam, sticky rice and grilled chicken made by this excellent Thong Lor staple, watching the world go by.

Where will you find the friendliest, most interesting locals to have a chat with?
Studio Lam (as mentioned) and WTF bars. Just a few doors up from Studio Lam, WTF also doubles as a gallery. It attracts open-minded locals and foreigners alike, as well as hosting the occasional great street party.

Best place to see another medium of art other than music?
The Friese-Greene Club cinema, is a small art cinema and a great place to escape from the otherwise blockbuster dominated mall-cinemas that focus on the latest Hollywood fare.

Best local grub
Isan cuisine, from the north-east Thai region of the same name. It’s spicy and delicious, and always takes the edge of a hangover. Larb Moo (minced pork) som tam (papaya salad), sticky rice, grilled chicken….the list goes on. Thai muslim food is also great, such as spicy beef soup or the curried chicken. Explore and try new things as often as you can. It may well be impossible to eat bad food in Thailand.

Is there a person (dead or alive) who encapsulates Bangkok for you?
DJ Maft Sai – my partner in Paradise Bangkok and great friend. Some of my best times in Bangkok, be it DJing, record digging or just generally hanging out, are often synonymous with his company.

Tell us a little about the mix you made for us. You said they evoke a lot of happy memories – what’s the idea behind your selection?
Every track was found during my travels round Thailand – I can pretty much remember where I was when I found each record for the first time. The choice is very much linked to being somewhere for an extended period of time, as opposed to just a holiday trip.

What do you think are some common misconceptions about Bangkok / Thai music culture?
That it’s all overtly commercial – dig deep and there are pockets of resistance amongst modern music, and of course there is a rich music culture across the whole country that stretches back centuries.

What should people actually be appreciating about Bangkok / Thai music if they’re not already familiar?
Just keep an open mind and open ears and something will surprise you when you’re least expecting it. Saing Hong Lion who play molam/reggae and psych band Yaan. Both groups are making original and interesting sounds – two to watch for the year ahead.

1. Kati Sorn Jai – Nung Lamyong Kularbseemuang
2. Mor Khaen Ha Kho – Prasai Jaekankaeo
3. Lam Toey Dai Lao Leaw Luem Mia – Chanpen Dennapa
4. Chak Mak Pai – Chailai & Duangdao
5. Lam Plearn Diew Khaen Diew Phin – Somjai Nilbarun
6. Pai Na Pai – Sroeng Santi
7. Lam Plearn Tua Yaang – Petch Asia Band
8. Lam Plearn Gok Kaa Kao – Yenjit Porntawi
9. Kao Mai Rak Rao Rhok – Sroeng Santi
10. Sao New Look – Rome Sithammarat

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