Watchawong Petchsuwan on ukulele, Anwa Rathaporn on base ukulele and Treerat Nachalaem on vocals – all students at Baan Nabon School in Wichit, south of Phuket Town – were bestowed the top accolade at the Junior Thailand Ukulele Champion Contest 2012 on February 26.
Now in its third year, the Thailand Ukulele Festival by Ribbee Boutique Ukulele Paradise has become an international affair, with musicians from Vietnam, Korea, Japan, and the US state of Hawaii taking part.
“I am happy to have represented Phuket in the competition. We did our best and we won, which is great,” said Watchawong.
“Playing the ukulele isn’t difficult for me. If you love to play it and practice often anyone can do it,” he added.
However, a decade ago it wasn’t so easy to learn the ukulele, according to the festival website. For 10 years, Asada Atornphata, founder of Ribbee Boutique Ukulele Paradise, tried to find a good quality ukulele in Thailand.
“After many years of searching, he only found low-quality ukuleles and sellers who didn’t know anything about the instrument. They called it a ‘tiny guitar’ at the time,” says the website.
Young Watchawong explained that things are different now.
“If you want to learn to play the ukulele, you can learn from YouTube. Just type in ‘Apple Show‘ and there are video clips. If you spend just five minutes learning, you can start playing,” he said.
“The strong point for the band was their character on stage. The ukulele player looked cute and we added a base ukulele to create a more interesting blues style,” said Nitipat Na Nakorn, the student’s teacher and band director.
“At first I was worried about them being uncomfortable playing on stage, but it was a very good performance. Everything was just right,” he said.
The first place prizes for the students were: an Anuenue Lani ii puke ukulele handmade in Thailand, a fluke, a tenor Ribbee ukulele, a concert Ribbee ukulele and a soprano Ribbee ukulele.
The total value of the prizes was about 40,000 baht, said Mr Nitipat.
“I’m proud of them and of our school being recognized nationally,” said Baan Nabon School deputy director Chonlachai Tewabutra.
“We are a small school, but our abilities are not small. We will continue to support student activities in many ways,” she added.
— Chutharat Plerin
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