It isn’t easy competing with the likes of his other bandmates, neither does he strive to. He bobs to the music and he takes his craft seriously. The scene is predominantly Chinese, although the attractions are mostly Thai.
He’s a musician in a Thai Disco, a “flower joint” where girls from poor neighbouring countries sing, dance and mingle for a garland or two. Garlands don’t come cheap, yet if you’ve been before, you’ll know that garlands fly off the rack very quickly.
The amount of money you see float through such joints can border on insanity, and you often see raging competition between different tables for top girls. Garlands and sashes can range from $50 – $10,000 and each girl can be adorned with more than one.
There are quite a number of misconceptions about Thai Discos in Singapore. The main one being that it’s all grime and criminal. The truth is a little further from that. Whilst they may seem pretty intimidating, they’re actually less judgemental than most other establishments.
Thai Discos don’t usually operate in the warmest of locations. You’ll find them in many Shopping Centres or buildings way past their prime – the rare few places left where you can smell lingering cigarette smoke in air-conditioned establishments.
Many would also be quick to assume that the girls who work here, either come against their will or are tricked into it by managers. And I understand why.
Most of these girls however come as entertainers through modelling agencies in their home country. Almost all of them would have had experience working in such joints in their home country, and are only coming to Singapore for short stints.
The stints range from a month to six. It’s usually the case that those who are here for only a month do not have a working visa, and are actually taking a huge risk. Yet they still take the chance because the payout is worth it. Our currency is pretty lucrative.
Singaporeans don’t just spend here on our own soil, and many regulars have ventured to the distant shores of our South-East Asian neighbours as well, so these girls aren’t oblivious to the spending power that Singaporeans have.
Yes, you read that right, just like at any other bar or club, you can hook up and do the dirty with anyone you want as long as they’re of age, and he or she consents whilst sober enough to make a decision.
Nobody would deny that sex is out of the equation, but it isn’t always a paid service. Girls in such joints are playful by nature, and it is part of their job to tease and entice, to help you part with the contents of your wallet less painfully.
After all, they’re here to do a job, and that’s to entertain you, and most importantly to make dollar dollar bills.
There isn’t a specific figure to how much a girl or musician can earn. Musicians on one hand get a basic, but they do from time to time get adorned with flowers, some more than others. And each garland entitles them to a commission.
Some musicians are more adept at making this work in their favour. They step up from being a wallflower and into the limelight, even coordinating their outfits and practicing choreographed routines. They’re no longer just backing tracks for scantily clad dancers.
The real money however, usually goes to the girls who work there. The ones who drink with you whilst the band is on stage. They too take turns to perform up on stage, and if they’ve been sitting with you prior to that, they’ll probably be expecting a garland in return.
Some girls take a steady pay-check from the discos, most however, go for the commission from flowers. As mentioned earlier, top earners can fetch up to $10,000 from a single garland, although those aren’t everyday occurrences.
There are higher end joints, where everything from drinks to garlands are pricier. What these upscale joints ensure though is that the girls look better. Girls at such locations usually hail from South Korea, Thailand and Taiwan, and are noticeably much lighter-skinned.
So whether you’re reading this just to get a glimpse into what a Thai Disco is like, to see if I’ve actually captured its true essence, or to find out if you should let your boyfriend/husband go with his “camp mates” for “cohesion”, know that Thai Discos are an intricately colourful place.
There’s an entire exchange that goes on in places such as these. Every individual’s here for a different purpose; to pursue a craft, earn a quick buck while they can, or for the ridiculous happy hour 1-for-1 towers of beer.
I believe I’ve barely scratched the surface of the true inner workings of a Thai Disco in Singapore, and have so much more to learn through several more visits. I promise I’m only going for the beer towers and “research”.