Music in South East Asia: J-pop and K-pop Influence on Thai Pop

Still riding on the high of my last article published on the South China Morning Post about Thai and Vietnamese pop music, and with so much to discover, I decided to deepen my South East Asian music research. Going forth, each country will have its own dedicated writeup including perspectives that reflect the country's authentic pop music.

Thai pop music spans a diverse range of genres but in this article, we will examine 5 times where K-pop and J-pop have influenced Thai pop.

1. BNK48: Debuted in summer 2017, this bubblegum pop girl group is the third international girl group of the Japanese AKB48 franchise, following Indonesia's JKT48 and China's SNH48. Here's a comprehensive article in "The World" if you want to know more about AKB48 and its franchise mechanics. Jirat Bawonwattana, creator of BNK48, bought the franchise AKB48 from Chiba Kotaro’s Office48 and adapted the AKB48 business model to operate the Thai girl group. While many of BNK48's songs were adapted from the original AKB48 repertoire, the Thai lyrics were freshly written as opposed to a word-for-word translation from the Japanese lyrics.

2. CGM48: BNK48's domestic sister band, based in Chiang Mai, debuted in 2019. The sister group has kept most of its activities in Northern Thailand. CGM48's fashion style tends toward traditional Thai compared to BNK48.

3. AR3NA: Meet Je'Taime, Minseo and Prim, three teenage girls who debuted under 411 Music as AR3NA. Besides the fact Minseo is originally from Korea, the 3 girls are greatly influenced by K-pop dancing, fashion and singing styles growing up and underwent rigorous training in Korea before debut.

AR3NA in their debut "Come Get It" MV - credit: 411ent YouTube channel

4. ALLY: 16-year old female soloist and signed to 411 Music. Ally trained for a year in Korea before debuting in March 2020 with "Show Me How to Love" featuring Korean producer/rapper, Gray. The music video has more than 32 million views to date.

According to The Bangkok Post, the song also peaked at number one Top 100: Thailand, Apple Music, iTunes Top Song Charts Thailand, and Spotify Thailand Top 50.

5. Trinity: The male quartet debuted in 2019 and were former members of T-pop boyband, Nine by Nine. Managed by 4NOLOGUE, they were the main concert/event organizers for K-pop artists such as BigBang, Got7 and TVXQ in Thailand. Trinity sings 100% in Thai, never trained in Korea, but have incorporated some K-pop styles in their music and fashion. They have also cited K-pop influencing their music tastes.

Besides these featured 5, there are many other outstanding T-pop bands in the making as the Thai music industry continues to expand and refine its artist training process. Korea seems to be a key training ground for most Thai artists. Will the K-pop rapidly influence the South East Asian music scene as a result?