2018 started on the stage, at Cigar Bar, Koh Lanta. At that time, we were touring Lanta Island and Krabi – Lue has many musician friends there, and it was a great chance for us to discover the local bands. After playing a concert with Tai Sawan in Koh Jum on December 30th, we played with Sak Can Do at Joy’s bar in Krabi. With South Thailand bands, we found very similar influences to our own, mixing reggae and gypsy music. Tai Sawan, for example, take folk music from Isaan (North-Eastern Thailand), use traditional instruments like the mandolin and accordion, and put the whole thing on a reggae backbeat – it’s really close to what we are trying to do with Bamboo Tambourine and we definitely became more inspired after our tour of the south.
At the beginning of January, we left the Andaman Sea to explore the Gulf of Thailand: Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, and Koh Samui. On Koh Tao, we met Nicky, also known as Mr. Bossa Nova, who moved to the island from Chiang Mai a few years ago to start a music career there. He knows everyone, and everyone knows him. As a matter of fact, there aren’t too many musicians on Koh Tao, and Nicky runs from one place to another, always finishing the night with an epic show in Good Vibes, his own bar. At Good Vibes, everybody is welcome to come on stage to jam with Nicky, and there are always a handful of small percussion instruments laying around the place so people in the audience can hit the beat with the band. After a few good nights there, Nicky introduced us to some local venues and we ended up gigging around the island for the rest of our stay.
After Koh Tao, we hopped on the boat to Koh Phangan. Our friend Otto knows all the cool venues there and found gigs for us in the reggae bars every night. As in Krabi, in Phangan we met some Thai musicians who used to play with Lue, from the time they played together in the band, Job2do. On our last night, we ended up in a bar for a crazy jam session a French drummer, JN. JN has built a very dynamic project in Koh Phangan; organising events, promoting live music, teaching music lessons, and creating new bands. We talked at length about future collaborations between the North and South and planned to come back for more concerts one day. Unfortunately, Koh Samui didn’t offer us the same chances to play as the rest of our stops, and after a small tour of the biggest island of the Gulf, we went back home, ending our one month tour in the South.
As February arrived, Jai Thep Festival was preparing for its first big iteration and invited us to take part. This would be Bamboo Tambourine’s first festival and, despite an early time concert, we managed to attract a sizeable group of dancers in front of the main stage! Overall, we had a fantastic time over the weekend, and discovered some extremely interesting bands, such as Apichat Pakwan, from Isaan, who we brought back with us to Pai to show them the local music scene. At that very same time, The Black House Sessions were kicking off their home studio project and we took part in their first week of recording, for a collaboration with gypsy guitarist, Jason Shooster, and Thai singer, Namtan, on a cover of Belleville Rendez-vous, and a live video with clarinestist, Camille, for our song Gypsy Fish. Pai was then boiling with creative projects but, as the farmers started burning the mountains around the town, we decided to go back on the road, to hit Cambodia.
Cambodia was a new land for us, and we took this trip as an opportunity to make new contacts, and to meet local musicians for potential collaborations. The trip lasted a month and a half, as we were finding gigs day by day. We started in Siem Reap, then went down to Otres, Koh Rong, and Kampot; our favorite spot in Cambodia. Promoting live music and creative projects, Kampot venues also had very warm and welcoming crowds. Our best memory is from Rhymes on the River, when we played on the rooftop of a boat floating down the river at sunset. We finished our Cambodian trip in the big Phnom Penh where Joe managed a full tour with a collaboration from Seb on the double bass.
The beginning of April saw the start of our 2018 adventure in Vietnam. After three visits in 2017, we were very happy to come back and settle down there for a while. We performed our first show in Ho Chi Minh, and then flew up to Hoi An, our second home in South East Asia. For almost four months, we played three-hour shows, five nights a week, between Hoi An and Danang. That time was definitely good training, and helped us to get tighter while working on our arrangments. We also discovered new venues opening in Danang, which was becoming a very dynamic city. In one of the events organized in the area of Hoi An / Danang, we met the people from Rec Room. All of them music lovers, the members of Rec Room – a Hanoi-based music group – decided to rent a bus and hop-in with bands from Hanoi to play shows in small Vietnamese towns all the way down to Danang. As we met them during their stop in Hoi An, they offered for us to jump in with them on the way back to Hanoi. We spent a few days on the Rec Room Bus tour, playing every night in a different city, in front of people who had barely seen foreign musicians before. For the last stop in Nam Dinh, the Rec Room team offered us a live recording of our concert at the Fanxipan Studio. As Lue couldn’t be in Vietnam with us, our friend Dan joined on the bass during that tour, and continued playing with us for a month afterwards. Together, we took part in the 2018 An Bang Reggae Beach Fest starring Soom T, and went on a one week tour in Hanoi.
At the begining of August, we took advantage of a trip back home in France to play at Le Batolune, a music hall that had booked us a year before, as the band was just starting. There, we played the opening show for reggae guitarist Mike Love on August, 4th. This epic show marked the end of a very busy season, and we decided to take a well-deserved break.
In September, we went back to Pai and started regular gigs around town again, at Jazz House, Mojo and Art in Chai. Back together with Lue, we took time for creation during the fall of 2018, and wrote three new songs. Meanwhile, we arranged the mix and the mastering of our Fanxipan live recording for a release in early 2019. At the end of the year, as high season kicked off in Pai, we played for the famous, local Pittalew Party, joined the event “Gypsy on Tour”, staring Tai Sawan and Job2do, and supported the album release night of local artist, Supaporn Sunti.
Invited to play in a resort in Koh Tao for the New Year Countdown party, we flew down south just after Christmas to end 2018 just as it started: on stage.