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Bangkok Island, a Franco-Thai musical haven saved from the waters

A concert hall on a boat that can just as easily go on a cruise or stay at the dock, Bangkok Island offers an original concept. After two difficult years, the sky looks finally serene.

Located a few steps from the Saphan Taksin BTS station, Bangkok Island has become one of the essential places to listen to music, whether docked or on a cruise, in Bangkok. The place organizes three evenings a week with groups of musicians, indie evenings, DJ’s but also events mixing styles and artistic performances.

Among the next major events, Bangkok Island is preparing to launch “BKK Indie Club” evenings every Thursday, the first date of which will take place on June 16 with Franco-Thai musician Chris Jon, Tamlin and Cupnoodle.

After a hiatus due to the Covid-19 epidemic, the Fête de la musique also returns on June 18 and takes up residence on Bangkok Island with four groups ranging from gipsy jazz to punk rock and ska, as well only 5 DJ’s. The Fête de la Musique is organized in collaboration with the French Embassy in Thailand.

Owners Pornpiroon Supannafai and Frenchman Yuval Schwok accompanied by their musical programmer Polo Ruesz. Photo Catherine Vanesse

So many events which finally allow the owners, the Frenchman Yuval Schwok and his partner Pornpiroon Supannafa, to envisage the future under a more serene sky after a particularly stormy period. “In 2020, we were able to organize parties only for six months and barely three months in 2021! It’s been a really bumpy two years, but that’s what got us started on the dockside events”, explains Yuval Schwok.

musical cruise

Originally from Paris, Yuval Schwok moved to Thailand fifteen years ago and manages The Overstay guesthouse/bar in the Khao San district. “After having organized small-scale events for several years, I wanted to think bigger. I was also looking for a more independent concept to be able to get through difficult times. The idea of ​​having a boat, even if you get kicked out, which often happens in Bangkok, you can continue the adventure”, details the 37-year-old Frenchman.

View of Bangkok Island musical boat
Bangkok Island organizes several evenings a week with groups of musicians. Photo courtesy Bangkok Island

In 2013, Yuval decides to buy a cargo boat. Five years of work then began to install an engine and convert it into a concert hall. The first cruise took place in December 2018. “We got off to a flying start, we had nearly 500 people and before the Covid, we organized around ten cruises,” recalls Yuval.

At the time, the evenings on Bangkok Island were only held in cruise mode, the public embarked on the boat for a trip on the river for a few hours to the rhythms of DJs and musicians. Until Covid-19 put a damper on all gatherings and activities.

Docked to stay afloat

To cope, he reduces his team to a minimum. “Today we are 15 people, but there were times when the only person I kept paying was the boat keeper!”, explains Yuval. “In events, it’s normal for there to be ups and downs, it’s precisely the role of the captain to stay the course when there are hurricanes”, he adds.

View of Bangkok Island musical boat at night
Located a few steps from the BTS station Saphan Taksin, Bangkok Island has become one of the essential places to listen to music. Photo courtesy Bangkok Island

Therefore, between periods of relief and tightening of restrictions to fight the epidemic, a dose of adaptation is necessary. In order to be able to continue to organize events and reduce costs, the Bangkok Island team decides to anchor at the Bangkok Dock shipyard at soi 57 on Charoen Krung and build a bar on the quay in November 2021. The period also corresponds to the resumption of live concerts and the reopening of bars / restaurants. Staying on the dock allows for free parties for the public, lower costs for owners compared to cruises, and for Bangkok Island to make a name for itself in the Bangkok music scene.

But also to be grounded for the future, as music programmer Polo Ruesz explains. French who spent his adolescence in Bangkok and studied at the French International School in Bangkok, Polo Ruesz returned to settle in Thailand just before the Covid-19. With a master’s degree in acoustics, Polo joined Yuval in November 2021. “Managing a place like Bangkok Island and scheduling groups there in this time of uncertainty means that when all the restrictions are lifted, it will be joy. Contracts, procedures are ready and the phone is starting to ring more frequently, artists are starting to contact us to play here”, specifies the young man of 33 years.

With a capacity of 300-400 people, Bangkok Island hopes to establish itself as a place for concerts and to receive more and more international artists.

Bangkok Island

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