Danish musician Jeff Thomsen is the man behind Music 4 kids, an annual event gathering great bands to perform music to support kids at Father Joe’s project in Klong Toey.
On May 31 and June 1, Apoteka bar and restaurant on Sukhumvit soi 11 was packed with expats and Thais enjoying themselves to non-stop live music performed by some of Bangkok’s finest bands and musicians. This was the 2013 edition of the Music 4 Kids Charity Music Festival – and as the cheering crowds proved, once again it was a huge success.
Music 4 Kids
Initiated in 2004 by Danish musician Jeff Thomsen, from Soi Dog band, Music 4 Kids provides donations to underprivileged children and their families living with the realities of HIV in Thailand. The yearly music event is held to raise money for the kids. The proceeds go to Father Joe Maier’s Human Development Foundation Mercy Centre in Klong Toey.
For many years, the event was held at Tokyo Joe’s blues bar. This year was the first time for Apoteka to host the event, where the ten great bands and musicians namely Big Rick, Crispy Durian, Damn Banjo, Todd Tongdee, Danny California, Dr. Blues, Celtic Colors, Cactus Terrain, Takashi & Full House and Soi Dog performed blues and rock music over two nights to entertain the audience at the event for free.
“We raised 162,000 baht this year, more than last year which was 71,000 baht. I’m very pleased. It was very nice of Apoteka to give the venue for two nights, and people were generous in the box,” says the organiser Jeff Thomsen.
Aside from raising money from the donation box that had been passed around Apoteka at the event, donations were generated from the sale of t-shirts in front of the bar at 400 baht each. Apoteka also offered the profits made from the two evenings to the charity project.
How it all began
“I have always wanted to help children so I checked out a few places. I went to Father Joe’s in Klong Toey and had a tour of the facilities. Then I saw a little boy in the middle of a big room by himself. He didn’t play with the other kids. A staff member told me that when you have HIV sometimes you have a bad day and this little fellow now is having a bad day. That was exactly the point I decided to put something together to help the kids there,” says Jeff.
“To convince great bands to perform on their busy Friday and Saturday nights was a challenge at first. But we have done it for many years since 2004 so it’s not a challenge anymore,” he adds.
A mix of cultures
Born in Denmark, Jeff moved to Thailand with his Danish parents when he was four. He spent his childhood in Lampoon province in the north of Thailand and later moved to study at an international school in Bangkok.
“My dad came here because he was a civil engineer. He built many nice roads over thousands of kilometres in Thailand. One of the famous roads is from Lampoon to Chiang Mai and that’s where we lived when we first came here,” says Jeff.
Growing up in a Danish family in Thailand, Jeff embraced both Danish and Thai cultures. When he was young Jeff travelled with his family to Denmark every school break in summer. Now Jeff is 52. He travels to Denmark every couple of years.
“I’m built like a Dane and polite like a Thai,” he says.
Jeff’s language skills are astonishing. He speaks Thai like a Thai and even sang a Thai song to wow the Thai crowds at Apoteka during the event. On top of that, he speaks perfect Danish and English.
“I speak Danish to my mum and dad but I have a lot more Thai friends than Danish friends,” says Jeff in perfect English to ScandAsia.
After 46 years in Thailand, his parents moved back to Denmark to enjoy their retirements around the family there. Jeff says he misses them. However, he has no plan to move there.
“Here is home. One of the reasons I love living here is the food. You can have any food any time you want. I mean you can have Pakistani, Spanish, Danish, vegetarian Indian, Iranian, French and everything here. And most of them are not bad. If you are lazy you can walk down the street and you will find bami noodles or kao man kai or anything,” says Jeff.
Nevertheless, there are things in Denmark that he misses. These include hotdogs, beers, cheese, Licourice, and Danish candies.
Passion for music
His passion for music started at an early age. Jeff found his inspiration for playing the guitar from Jimi Hendrix, the famous American musician making his name as one of the most influential electric guitarists in history.
When he was 38, Jeff decided to pursue his passion for music and two years later the band “Soi Dog” was formed. Among the four band members, Jeff is the only foreigner.
“We have played together for 12 years now. We are like family,” says Jeff.
One of the notable gigs for Soi Dog was at the 2005 Blue Rock Festival on Koh Samui where they shared the stage with many big bands from all over the world such as UB40, The Blues Brothers, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
At the moment, Soi Dog performs at Apoteka in Soi 11 every Thursday from 9 p.m. to midnight.
Despite his passion for music, Jeff says that it’s only his hobby. He has a leather business where he supplies leather to factories in Thailand. The demand is currently high as many people are back to use more of leather products again.
A message for Scandinavian society
Jeff says that the next Music 4 Kids event will be held in May again next year and the Scandinavian society should participate and support Father Joe. However, those who don’t want to wait until next year can find Father Joe’s project at www.mercycentre.org
“If you give up one fancy meal a month to support Father Joe, imagine how many kids you can help,” says Jeff.