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Chiang Mai Citylife > Articles > If Music be The Food of Love

If Music be The Food of Love

…then they better be more careful in shops about what they are playing. We’d been paying some bills and Mrs. D decided the best way of dealing with the emotional trauma of parting with lots of money was to buy a new handbag. Despite my protests of this causing more filthy lucre to disappear, I was dragged round the shops, complaining all the way. Things picked up when we reached the bag section of the department store.

A muzak version of Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” was being played over the speakers. A lady with a South East Asian accent sang the vocal so you could hear every word. Mrs. D and I looked at each other. Surely they wouldn’t sing all the lyrics would they? We waited as the line approached and sure enough, the following lyric filled the store.

We burst out laughing, it becoming more uncontrollable as we realised nobody else had batted an eyelid.  Luckily, it destroyed my beloved’s enthusiasm for shopping and we found a restaurant for lunch. They were also playing music over their speakers. Some “copy-band” playing covers of various songs. Might have been Thai but my money would be on a band from the Philippines. You’ll find one in nearly every hotel bar in Asia and I’ve often wondered why? My theory is that as the country is predominantly Catholic, they must be pretty good at the rhythm method and can hold a beat. Particularly important when holding a large instrument in your hands.

These days, I only listen to music through computer speakers, headphones or in the car. With MP3s in their raw form not capturing the full frequency spectrum and older ears, it doesn’t really matter. But sometimes it’s nice to have a good old blast of your favourite songs as loud as possible. Or go and listen to a band somewhere. Better yet, to play in one and I have been known to strum a few chords on occasion.

Can’t do that these days of course. Need a work-permit. Quite right too in one sense. It could be considered to be taking away Thai musician’s jobs. We are guests in the country after all. But then there is the dichotomy; if Chiang Mai wants to be considered an international centre of arts and culture, how does it handle the creation of art, music or theatre? Nobody else can be the “artist” and create and claim the work in their name. Copied bags, clothes and watches you see everywhere. Original creation? No.

Imagine U2 not being allowed to play a concert because there was a local band who played their songs? Wouldn’t make much sense and at that level, there are special licenses (i.e. Fees) paid to resolve the issue. But what about for the rest of the writers, musicians, painters, sculptors, actors at grass roots level? How can that be addressed? Maybe an artist’s license could be made available to people so that activities can be out in the open. Originality creates more opportunities for everyone. Make being creative legitimate. And that’s another thing.

In this interconnected world, I fail to see why anybody can’t pay for any media they want. Whether it be television, music, films, whatever; pay a fee and it’s yours. Many of the companies worry about rights and royalties but why would it be so hard to set up regional servers, owned by the companies with the distribution rights and order from there. Everyone’s happy. Here, one can’t even order from iTunes for fear of piracy. So what does that encourage people to do? Yep, download it illegally. A perfect “Catch 22”.

The technology seems to be moving faster than people’s ability to think of innovative new ways to deal with opportunities it presents. With things moving globally in seconds, denial is not the right way of dealing with the problem when solutions already exist. But what do I know?

Mrs. D glazed over as I explained my views. Apparently I was ruining her salad. I questioned how that was possible as only having salad represented an already ruined meal. I ducked quickly enough and with full bellies, the bag-hunt resumed. Nothing was found that met her requirements.

“Maybe I’ll try the Night Bazaar instead. Just get something cheap.”

I asked her whether she’d been listening to a word I said. I should have known better. The only bit she remembered and agreed with was the “what do I know?” comment. That night she disappeared with a Thai friend and returned with a new bag. And the friend. Who wasn’t a bag. Quite the opposite but that’s another story. When I asked her how she could make the purchase, she answered immediately.

“Darling, this is Thailand.”

Of course. How silly of me. I forgot.