Once, when I was teaching English, I had to explain to a class what “child prodigies” were. I said, “These are children who do something much better than most adults.” And if you want to see classic rock playing in the local markets, you need look no further than the OZONE band from Phuket, whose average age is just 10 years old. They have already won Gold Medal and 2nd Prize Under 15 2021 Valaya Alongkorn Music Competition.
Their manager Rungrod “Roger” Bouthong happens to be a good friend of mine, and he suggested I go see them. He is a drum teacher at the Yamaha Music School and leads the band. They had been training for only three months then, but were confidently knocking out songs like To jump (Van Halen), Back in black (AC DC), welcome to the jungle (Guns n’ Roses) and For Whom the Bell Tolls (Metallic). But when I heard the first bass of highway star (Deep Purple), I wondered if they were going to screw up now ‒ it’s a fast song and notoriously difficult to interpret. I was amazed when they played it flawlessly! So who are OZONE?
Praew, on vocals and guitar, is, at 12, the oldest and already has a confident and commanding stage presence. She’s clearly the boss. Praew began guitar and vocal lessons at the age of seven, then started his first street performance a year later.
JC on bass is an 11 year old Filipino and he’s the quietest. He wants to follow in his father’s footsteps. His father, Boy, is a popular local virtuoso bass player who I have played with several times at Bebop Bar in Phuket Town.
Khao Tang on keyboards is 11 years old and is Thai, and has only been learning the piano for a year. Although he can perfectly play Beethoven and Mozart, he clearly knows how to rock too! However, his favorite musician is Chopin rather than Jon Lord of Deep Purple.
Finally, Boon on drums, at just 8 years old, is the little Thai baby of the group. He is always smiling. He started learning the drums with Roger a few years ago when he was still in kindergarten. Boon loves to rock, and it’s a little strange to hear the thud of his drums when you can only see the top of his head above the toms of the kit!
I went to see them rehearse at the Yamaha Music School to find out more about them. OZONE started when Praew, JC and Boon joined the Band Course there. Praew encouraged Kao Tang to learn the piano so he could join them. They played their first gig at the end of October last year when the COVID restrictions were lifted.
Since Praew is clearly the driving force behind the band, I asked her why she wanted to do all this. She said: “I saw boys playing guitar and I wanted to do it better than them…and I want to be a superstar someday.” Well, I thought she certainly had the guts and the potential to do just that!
I asked them what it was like to play in OZONE. Although they agreed it was a lot of fun and had become close friends, Praew complained, “But there’s never enough time to sleep.” Well, I figured if she wanted to be a real rock and roll superstar, she better get used to it!
And as for the future of OZONE? Praew wants the band to stay together forever — let’s face it, she had to put in a lot of work to get this far. However, while JC wants to be a musician, Kao Tang aspires to be a doctor. But she may have a much more difficult problem than that to deal with.
You see, if little Boon succeeds in his ambition. He might just be stuck on Mars for a few years – he wants to be an astronaut!
Andy Tong Dee is a local expat, musician and live music enthusiast. Read his blog and learn more about live music in Phuket at phuketmusicscene.com