Rhythm of the Earth #5, Bangkok: World Bar-B-Q
For four days CentralWorld Square has played host to the fifth edition of the Rhythm of the Earth: World Musiq-World Bar-B-Q, a five-day cultural extravaganza of music, traditional arts and crafts, and an array of chefs offering diverse culinary experiences. At the far end of the square, outside the Isetan department store the Global Village Stage took precedence, to the backdrop of a large wooden house raised up on stilts, its untreated timbers and flamboyantly thatched roof a startling contrast to the acres polished concrete, steel and glass of the mall. Apparently the Tai Puan , a minority people who migrated to Thailand during the reign of Rama II, wanted to bring their traditional home from Udon and the organizers obliged. Traditional Thailand rarely encroaches into Bangkoks shiny new city centre but in this case it did, and it was a dramatic and stylish visual sight that perfectly set the tone the old coexisting with the new. Along one side of the Global Village Stage the tradition of the festival was reflected in images from previous events while in front of the performing artists visitors were able to take in the music on show while seated on cushions placed on a raised platform and eating food from the array of stalls off a Khan Toke, a low, round bamboo table, with this these elements uniting to create a relaxed atmosphere in which to enjoy the array of sounds. The full length of the deck, all the way to the main stage at the other end was bookended by two long rows of tented stalls packed with chefs hard at work offering food from many cultures. Just perusing the culinary offering graphically illustrated the sheer visual diversity of what the world eats, region-by-region. The ranks of tables and chairs along the deck gave way towards the far end to wide array of arts and crafts, under the banner of the Himmapan Social Forest. I learn that Himmapan was a mythical forest in Thai legend where hybrid animals in many forms lived together in relative harmony. This concept last week brought together the old, young and socially excluded in a veritable forest of creativity. Many here reflected the country and planets - long tradition of creating objects by hand which is still alive and well despite the clammy grasp of commercialization in the 21st century. Dexterity and skill was on show from every angle: young girls weaving cloth in the shadow of the wood dwelling, portrait artists flicking pencils with precision, a craftsman skillfully cutting intricately-shaped letters out of a plank of wood with a fine hand-saw, a tattoo artist neatly applying dark henna ink, large wooden carvings shaped out of driftwood, hand painted shirts from the artistically unleashed fingers of graffiti artists, while everything from key chains-rings-and-necklaces to books-notepads-and-purses were being made by hand and finished in lavish, brightly-coloured fabrics. In between all this activity were dotted an array of musicians picking out tunes with everything from the acoustic guitar (crafted from the talents of Bangkoks first Guitar-makers Guild) to exotic-looking wind instruments and hand-made bongo drums. The event's overriding theme of social inclusion saw intricate weavings from blind people and wood carvings from the deaf. In this city there is always a diverse array of food on offer, different regions of Thailand have different specialties and people have brought these into the capital over the centuries, cherishing and nurturing traditions that have been handed down through the ages. It is also a city of evolution, and cookery here never stands still. Alongside this there is a vast array of culinary delights from around Asia and the rest of the world, reflecting the diversity of the many peoples who live here. All this diversity could be sampled and compared by the food stalls lined up in two long rows, each offering something different, something unique. From the local Pad Thai cooked up with noodles, vegetables and adaptable to pretty much any meat of seafood imaginable, to thick chunky grilled meats from New Orleans in the deep south of the United States that define the term Bar-B-Q, to equally-calorie pumped-up Ostrich, alligator and free-range game from South Africa, to the heat of the rotating kebab skewer of the Lebanese chef to his Indian counterpart offering meat and spices. English food was on show in the shape of chunky sausages, chips and fish, goat and Maize from Kenya, the flavours that flows down the Mekong, the colours of Indonesian cuisine, while Korean dishes, such as the Gimchi to Bar-B-Q beef, reflected in the lush greenery of this nation's salad and vegetables.