Saturday, July 22, 2006

Notes from Bangkok

Sadly I missed the futon gig at bed supper club this Thursday through a combination of being tired out and having a day full of student assessments on Friday morning, so futon's live presence still remains an unknown. Word is they're great though, and I'll try to catch them when they play London later this year. It remains possible that they'll prove to be that rarest of birds: an asian band that translates to a western audience. Of course futon aren't really an asian band, in the same way that Bangkok isn't really an asian city; more an amalgam of influences that add up to something called Bangkok, and it's only partially Thai in character -at least to farang eyes- though it's administered and branded with ruthless nationalism. In fact National Pride seems to be the main national product here, in a sort of amplified version of the way that's true in Capitals the world over: The Nation's outpouring of concern over the health of the King seems manufactured to cynical western liberal neo-european-republicans like me, but there's an undeniable authenticity about it (witness also the swarms of yellow commemorative shirts worn semi-voluntarily to work on Mondays in this the 60th year of the monarch's reign) and an eagerness on the part of people to play the role of loving citizens that reminds me just how far Britain has moved from the relationship it had with its own monarchy in the first half of the twentieth century. Momus' comments about national cultural identity being largely arbitrary seem apposite here: Who's to say that this blending of east and west, this at once everywhere-ness and nowhere-ness, isn't precisely what constitutes Bangkok, just as it constitutes Hong Kong, Singapore, London and so many other capitals? Perhaps the capital city is becoming an idea of connectedness, as between-places a space as the international airports that sit on their periphery. Maybe it's this very quality that makes futon a truly asian band (after all they're a Bangkok band in which the majority of band members are from countries other than Thailand), whilst making them easy to love in London, Hong Kong, Singapore, KL, Paris and Tokyo. A Capital act indeed.

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