Bangkok’s most famous cultural festival is back


Bangkok: Bangkok’s best-known cultural festival is back and timely to coincide with the country’s opening to international tourists.

It had been canceled last year, due to Covid, even though the first shipment of accessories had already landed in town!

The 23rd International Dance and Music Festival has been postponed several times this year, but the dates, November 18 to December 16, have finally been announced, causing a stir in the city.

“It was very difficult for us, but we were determined to make it work, which is why we have been in constant contact with the artists who were supposed to perform last year,” said Rasina Uberoi Bajaj, General Manager of the festival, and daughter of Kukoo Uberoi, of Indian descent, who has run the bombastic festival for two decades.

She informed that the festival has been in contact with various government and health organizations and has set strict Covid precautions for the festival.

Places would be limited in the great cultural center of Thailand.

Only double-vaccinated people would be allowed, and even children would have to do antigen testing at home, before attending shows.

All performing artists attending the festival were also fully vaccinated and would follow strict Covid precautions, both in the hotel and in the auditorium.

For the first time, some programs would be broadcast live, in particular the two popular ballets.

The Bangkok Festival is often considered the best cultural festival in Asia.

Great Indian classical dancers like Aditi Mangaldas, participated in the festival, as well as Kala Kendra with Ramayana, not to mention the Bollywood musical, Taj Express.

Rasina was happy that India was one of the countries selected to enter Thailand without quarantine.

“We hope to see an Indian group come back very soon,” she said.

The festival will be shorter this year, because of the Covid, with only six events, but the shows and the performers are of a very high caliber.

The hugely popular Swan Lake and Nutcracker Ballet top the list, performed by the Russian Multimedia Ballet Theater, with awe-inspiring sets and costumes, and aided by multimedia sound and light design.

The solo artists are from the Bolshoi Ballet, which Rasina considers a scoop, since the artists of Russia’s First Ballet Company usually do not travel abroad at all.

“This is proof of the global reputation of our festival,” she said with pride.

In order to target young people, who have recently flocked to the festival, a vibrant flamenco team from Spain and a hot hip-hop group from France are participating in this year’s festival.

Spanish group Los Vivanco is known for their dazzling flamenco fusion rhythms. This is a multi-award-winning group of seven Spanish brothers who have performed in over 35 countries. They combine humor, martial arts and aerial acrobatics in a spectacular way, which has taken the world by storm everywhere.

Motion, from Compagnie Zahrbat de France, combines hip hop and break-dance with a high-level art form, using cinematography, computers and writing. Nine dancers display their physical, rhythmic, acrobatic and technological prowess against a screen, making it an almost gravity-defying spectacle.

Last but not least, two opera performances by world famous artists. They will be accompanied by Konstantin Chudovsky, the award-winning Russian conductor, who will conduct Thailand’s brilliant Royal Bangkok Symphony Orchestra.

The presence of this orchestra at the mega international festival reiterates the objective of the festival to promote local talent in the country.

The first concert is by tenor Joseph Calleja and soprano Celine Byrne.

Grammy-nominated Calleja was voted Artist of the Year 2012 by Gramophone magazine and won the Readers’ Award at the 2014 International Opera Awards.

Céline Byrne has performed extensively around the world, for dignitaries such as Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth and the Pope. She is back at the festival by popular demand, having performed here with the great Jose Carreras two years ago.

Finally comes Welsh mezzo-soprano superstar Katherine Jenkins OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) who after selling over 2.6 million albums and getting the number. 1 album 14 times, was named “The Best Selling Classical Artist of the Century” by Classic FM.

Rasina Uberoi admitted that the festival schedule deliberately coincides with Bangkok’s opening to international tourists.

“In fact, the governor of the TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) wanted to use the festival as a platform, to open up the country,” she said with pride.

A great cultural extravaganza, indeed, to celebrate the opening of “Amazing Thailand” to the world.

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Darcy J. Skinner

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