If it wasn’t for a Grammy-awarded singer and a peacock the lawn would have been empty. Keithen Carter is setting his voice free, crooning as he strolls across the grass towards the scene, where the ambassador and the rest of the band are already busy adjusting their instruments. Outside the crowd is waiting to be let in.
It’s Saturday evening February the 13th and the Royal Danish Embassy in Bangkok has opened its garden for a night with Jazz on the Grass. An event that took off last year as an initiative by music lover and Danish Ambassador in Bangkok, Mikael Hemniti Winther.
“The idea behind is of course of a public diplomacy matter. I want to meet all kinds of people, and I want to do it in an informal and non-hierarchically way, as this is a very Danish thing in my opinion”, the Ambassador explains and adds: “This is why this event is targeted as much to the local Thais as well as to the Danish expats”.
Staff is buzzing around finishing the last details before guest arrives and the bar opens at 8pm. Sound check is done and the sun is setting revealing the stars and the light from the neighbouring modern skyscrapers, that stands in contrast to the 2-storey embassy building from 1955.
This evening however is in line with what’s expected of a trendy event anno 2016, giving out selfie-sticks encouraging guests to share their experiences with friends on social media platforms.
“Beside inviting our local partners and companions personally, we have only marketed this event on Facebook. This also goes back to the idea, that everyone is welcome”, Mikael Hemniti Winther says. The strategy seems to have worked, as the garden can house 400 guest, but around 450 have signed up for the guest list.
“It’s actually a small concern. If all the guests are showing up, we might have an issue with accommodation”, new trainee at the Embassy, Peter Bjorn tells, as he’s preparing to welcome and register people in the counter.
The first guests arrive and the lawn is sporadically getting covered with blankets and groups ranging from seniors to youngsters. Conversation in Thai, Danish, English, Swedish are overheard. The Ambassador is busy welcoming as many as possible and posing for pictures by request in his all-black jazzy outfit topped with a hat.
“I regard these kind of events as highly important. As an Ambassador it’s important to be a present figure in the land where you live and at the same time presenting what Denmark has to offer”, Mikael Hemniti Winther states, as he explains further: “In the era of the social media and in a city like Bangkok, people have so many opportunities and offers on how to spend a saturday night, and in order for the embassy not to be absent and forgotten, we have to compete with this”.
At the bar a variety of Danish sponsors is also present, serving free Carlsberg lager, Somersby cider and cookies from Jacobsen.
The peacock is displaced and the grass is almost full of mingling guests, a queue for the Ambassador to take the stage and welcome the 374 people that has turned up.
“Tonight I’m very proud to present for you some of the finest musicians in Bangkok, that the embassy has the honor to host.”
The band consists of a bunch of Danish and International jazz musicians, that all have a special bond to Thailand; Frank Herrgott, Jakob Dinesen, Bong, Keithen Carter and Yasmin. Bandleader on the keys, Frank Herrgott, takes the microphone:
“Okay, I want you all to follow what your body tells you to do. If you feel like clapping or standing up or meditate, just go with that feeling, but be careful that you all will not levitate”.
Levitation was left to the bats and the insects, but clapping and singalong was all part of the crowd’s repertoire this evening, where the band merged genres as jazz, bossa nova and blues. And as some insiders would have expected, the Ambassador also grabbed his electric guitar and joined the band.
You can watch the Ambassador getting it on wit the band right here:
Check out more photos by [email protected] on the Embassy’s facebook page.