The Popular Music of Thailand

Although popular music culture in Thailand is something that has been embraced more recently than in the West, it is a scene that has accelerated at a speed few could have predicted. Popular or pop music in the country has its origins in the American R&B and surf-rock, rockabilly and country and western brought to Thailand by American and Australian soldiers serving in Vietnam in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The emerging music scene later drew on British Invasion bands and since the ’80s has also been influenced by disco, dance and funk.

By the early 2000s, Thailand had its own recognisable sound and style, driven by a cultural zeitgeist known as the T-Wind, the equivalent phenomenon of Korean pops K-Wave, and has been exporting its own sounds to neighbouring countries, South-East Asia in particular and the world in general. There are separate and recognisable scenes for both traditional folk and rock music but T-pop, as it now styles itself is a completely separate and culturally thriving scene unto itself.

There was a time when the face of modern, popular music in Thailand was limited to performers in karaoke bars, casinos and working as club entertainers. And whilst such places are certainly reputable venues and perfect places for young musicians to learn their trade, with the move from traditional casinos to the online world, like this Thai website, and with bars and clubs catering mainly for tourists, a new outlet for the T-pop wind was found, one that could take Thailand’s new sound to a global audience and turn the artists that make it into world-wide superstars.

And superstar is the right word. Bands such as the all-female Lyra have already signed to Universal Music Group, the largest label on the planet, and if it weren’t for the Covid-19 restrictions would already be launching the next chapter in their career from Los Angeles. Golf-Mike, a sibling musical duo, has already used its popularity to allow the two brothers to break into mainstream TV and Girly Berry have shrugged off tags of being just another throw-away pop band to evolve into one of the most important bands in South East Asia.

We’ve had J-pop, we have even had K-pop, it’s time to make way for T-pop. Hold on, it’s going to be a wild ride.