There may be nothing more effective in bridging the gap between vastly different cultures, in in highlighting our unique qualities and those characteristics we share, than an artistic endeavor. It’s exciting to see the results of a cross-cultural collaboration, especially when one is surprised by similarities in style and sensibility among seemingly diverse art forms in lands separated by thousands of miles.
The Isan Project is one such collaboration. It started when producer Will Robinson visited Thailand on holiday. He discovered an Isan band on the Sukhumvit road in Bangkok. They were performing and busking for money. Isan is a province in Northeast Thailand, poor in wealth but rich in musical history. He was introduced to the Phin guitar and then heard a Mor lam singer from a taxi. He was fascinated and began his research into Isan music. He met Thai musicians Fatboyz Ford and Koh Saxman and went a pilgrimmage to Isan to experience the music for himself, with camera crew in tow. This experience and a subsequent video blog inspired him to fuse the music of Isan with contemporary sounds from New York and London.
The Isan Project’s first single “Forever (Dance Remix)” is based on a lovely ballad written on the banks of the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok and performed by UK artist Richie Dews and Thai soul singer Mariam of B5. The two remixes of the single have been played in more than half the U.K. clubs. The song is available on iTunes.
What blew me away was seeing the video. It was filmed in New York, Bankok and Wat Muang, a monastery in the Ang Thong province which is home to the Great Buddha of Thailand. Musically and stylistically, it fuses Isan sounds and dance with western music and dance. Even more startling than the differences in locations, from Udon Thani to the streets of New York City, are the similarities in style and well, heart. The video was produced in Thailand, U.S., U.K. and Denmark by Will Robinson and Michael Graves.
Stay tuned for more from this international collaboration of Thai and Western music, The Isan Project.