BANGKOK POST - SEPT 2005 (le passage intéressant est en rouge tout en bas...)

"On Koh Samui on a sweltering afternoon, a handful of workers are pumping thick brown water out of huge holes that will eventually anchor tonnes of scaffolding and a state-of-the-art lighting system. The stage is nowhere in sight and there's an ongoing discussion about whether or not they'll be able to mount the elaborate fireworks show that was planned.

To the unambitious eye, this may seem more like a typically slow-going construction project than the site of a large concert whose start date is rapidly approaching. But Alan Sadd, director of the Koh Samui Music Festival, is determined to stage an event unlike any in the region, and seems to have no problem seeing the big picture or rolling over roadblocks.

Sitting in the open-air blues bar he opened almost two years ago _ "Because," he deadpans, "I wanted to open a blues bar," _ Sadd is talking about last year's Samui Blues Festival, a much smaller affair that was scheduled to begin on December 28, and whose fate was thrown into question two days before it was set to open.

"We had the tsunami, which was a disaster. We were of two minds: should we proceed with the festival given the tragedy or should we call it off. We decided that the best thing we could do was to go forward and raise money for charity," the British-born Sadd says.

The event was by most accounts a success, in spite of the grim overtone, and both festival-goers and musicians came away from the event with a good feeling.

This year, Sadd decided to drop "Blues" from the festival's name, invite musicians from a wider range of genres, and create a venue that can accommodate 6,000 people a day. While blues still figures prominently in the lineup _ there's a tribute to the legendary bluesman John Lee Hooker featuring his daughter Zakiya _ reggae, rock and jazz are all represented.

Alan Sadd says he'd like to make the festival an annual event. "We've realised we don't want to get categorised," Sadd explains. "We want to bring in different music from different parts of the world and let people enjoy it, so that's what we've done. We're not just rock, we're not just blues, we're not just jazz _ we can do anything."

The list of headliners speaks for itself: UB40, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Wailers, Jools Holland, Ike Turner, the Preservation Hall Dixieland Band and Modern Dog are all scheduled to perform over 10 days beginning September 23.

To assemble this eclectic lineup, Sadd decided to hit the west coast of the US, specifically the San Francisco Bay Area. Roughly 40 years earlier this had been the spot where you could find the Grateful Dead jamming on their porch, Beat poet Allen Ginsberg chanting in Golden Gate Park and swarms of kids "expanding their minds" with a galaxy of strange and nefarious new ingestibles. And while the hipster scene may have faded away long ago, Sadd has enlisted two holdouts from the Haight to rock Samui _ Big Brother and the Holding Company and Canned Heat, a band featured at Woodstock in 1969.

Was it hard to entice these acts to travel to the other side of the world to play on a small tropical island?

"To be honest, one or two groups we asked were a little bit nervous because of the tsunami and everything else, but the guys that are coming out we haven't had a problem with," Sadd says. "In fact, UB40 are staying over a week _ they're coming on vacation."

Some of the musicians taking the stage in Samui will have far less distance to cover, notably Fong Naam, the Soi Dog Blues Band, Cannonball and FLOW, who will be joined onstage by two members of the Grateful Dead.

Maintaining a balance between international acts and homegrown talent is an important element of the festival, and Sadd says he's proud to be able to bring the Thai bands together.

"We live in Thailand, we're very privileged to live here and it's very important that we have Thai involvement," Sadd says. "It's quite unique that we've managed to get all these Thai bands on the same bill _ it's some lineup. I don't think they've ever played together before."

But the music festival, despite its rather straightforward name, isn't all about music. To keep the kids happy they'll be shadow puppets, the renowned French balloonists Les Plasticiens Volants and Thai mannequin theatre courtesy of Joe Louis's hoon lakhon lek.

Lighting designer Derek Watson, the man at the helm of 15 tonnes of lighting and projection equipment, envisions a surrealistic good time. "We'll have helium inflatables of giant fish, multi-headed beasties, crab-headed walkabout jobbies and all sorts of nonsense going on."

One performer that may just help cement a carnival atmosphere is Junkie Brewster, a French songstress brandishing a ukulele and one of the more bizarre biographical entries you're likely to come across _ apparently, she's been "doing the wild wild rockabody machine since March 2004."

Sadd admits that he's intrigued by this act more than any other. "I really want to see Junkie, she's something different," he says and laughs. "I've got a feeling that she could actually steal the show. Apparently, she hypnotised 800 people in 22 seconds, but I don't think it's meant literally."

Whether or not Junkie delivers, Sadd is already avidly brainstorming the next music festival he'll unleash on the island, although for the moment he's understandably preoccupied with this year's extravaganza. Among the legends that you might spot jamming along Samui's coast next year? Eric Clapton, Mick Fleetwood, and the apparently indestructible Keith Richards.

Sadd says he would like to make the festival into an ongoing annual event, but given the inevitable headaches, red tape and the potential loss of cash, why bother?

"I can't play an instrument. I can't do anything really except listen to the music, and it's as simple as that: I enjoy the music." And for the thousands of other concert-deprived music lovers who'll join Sadd on Samui, it's a good thing he does.

The Koh Samui Music Festival runs from September 23 until October 2 at the CoCo Blues Bar and the Main Stage at Chaweng Lake. Tickets, which range in price from 1,200 baht per day on the weekends to 22,000 baht for a VIP 10-day pass, are available at For more information, please visit