Neung Jakkawal was born and raised in Klong Toey, Bangkok's largest slum. Although he had no toys, he did have dreams fueled by imagination and a father who encouraged him to experiment and "play" with music. Today Neung is one of Thailand's most celebrated Music Directors.
Jakkawal Saothongyutitum or better known as Neung Jakkawal is one of the most sought after pianists and music directors of Thailand. His mastery of many kinds of music including folk, pop, R&B, funk, groove, etc., has taken him across the country to serve as a great pianist and music director for concert tours. His fame has also made him a major music producer and commentator for many popular TV shows such as The Band, Sing Your Face Off, I Can See Your Voice and the Golden Song. He is deeply respected as a music producer by many Thai superstars such as Bird Thongchai McIntyre, Tata Young, Ben Chalatit and Gam The Star – just to name a few.
Even though born and raised in the Klong Toey slum, the oldest and largest slum in the capital city of Bangkok, he had a dream and aimed for the stars. As a little boy, his father would sing and teach him to listen attentively and to drum along on whatever was available in their shack such as a can or a bowl. The key was to use his imagination and let the songs sing in his heart and his heart would find the notes. This power of imagination has equipped him with an ability to play music without notes and to re-arrange music into a new, impressive versions of the songs.
His first encounter with a piano happened when he was just admitted to grade 7 at the College of Dramatic Arts. He was accidentally selected to major in violin instead of piano, but he fell in love with the sound of piano. A way to his mastery was to venture out into the real world. He played with a band at night cafés where he first had to bear countless harsh criticisms. He endured yelling from other musicians and singers in exchange for experience and making some money.
His big turning point came to him before he was 20 years old. GMM Grammy, an entertainment giant of Thailand, approached him to work. The power of his imagination, passion and perseverance has made him well known among superstars and people in the music industry. He works 7 days a week and frequently until the early morning hours. He once sat in front of his piano for 24 hours straight with just 2 half-an-hour breaks for his meals. His fame never stops him from working hard and learning new things, and above all he never forgets where he came from.
“Are you serious? You lived there before?” A lot of people he knows ask him with a complete shock. And he says ‘Yes’ with pride. He never wants to keep it a secret and visits his birth place from time to time. However, his old friends from childhood have all died from drug abuses. This stark reality gives him a strong sense of gratitude to his parents who tried their utmost best to protect him from going down that road. He also thanks himself for his determination to fulfil his father’s dream of having him become a professional singer or musician. “I never give up. If I had given up, I would have died of drug abuse or spending my life behind bars.”
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