K-Pop? How about T-Pop? Thai artists shoot for global audience

Chayut Setboonsarng and Jiraporn Kuhakan
·2 min read
Members of Thai female band Lyra sing at a recording studio in Bangkok

By Chayut Setboonsarng and Jiraporn Kuhakan

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Move over K-Pop. Here comes T-Pop.

Thai female band Lyra, backed by the world's biggest music label Universal Music Group (UMG), is hoping to harness its devoted fan base and match the success of South Korean artists who have who turned 'K-Pop' into an international phenomenon.

"We have high expectations. We want to introduce ... T-Pop music to the world," said 20-year-old Lyra member Jennis Oprasert.

Last year UMG partnered with Thai firm Independent Artist Management (iAM) to launch the six-member group, after auditioning some 80 girls and young women from the popular idol group BNK48.

"It's a bet," said Paul Sirisant, who heads UMG in Thailand. But he believes originality will drive the band's success.

The group trained for months remotely via Zoom and later lived together in a house after plans to go to Los Angeles were interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

"We saw them transform into their individual artistic selves, which is great, but there were many tears," Sirisant told Reuters.

Navigating the shift from BNK48's musical style was not always straightforward.

"It's not an easy ride at all," said 18-year-old Natticha 'Fond' Chantaravareelekha.

"The dancing, the music genre is different. I've never done it before, but even though it's hard, I've loved (doing) it since I was a kid, so I'm ready."

Their eponymous debut single has over 6.5 million views on YouTube after about two months online.

"We incorporated Thai elements by including sounds from two traditional instruments," another member, Punsikorn 'Pun' Tiyakorn, 20, who also came up with the group's name.

Fans at home and abroad have been supportive.

"I will support them until the end," said 23-year-old Danaiphat Singto, as he watched a video of a performance by the band in Bangkok. "I really want them to reach global audiences."

The band is part of a wave of Thai musicians gaining attention from audiences and investors abroad.

Thai-German singer Jannine Weigel was the first artist to sign with RedRecords, a venture between UMG and low-cost carrier AirAsia.

Early signs of success already have labels planning new groups.

"We plan to have more bands with Universal," chief operating officer at iAM, Nataphol Pavaravadhana, said.

"It will be different from Lyra for sure. Maybe indie. Stay tuned."

(Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng and Jiraporn Kuhakan; Editing by Mike Collett-White)