Jonas Anderson is known in Thailand as “the farang [white guy] who sings in Thai”. Originally from Sweden, Jonas Anderson has earned wide-spread popularity and acceptance ever since bursting onto the Thai music scene in the year 2000, singing the unique and challenging local style of music known as lookthung – Thailand’s version of country or folk music. He has released nine successful albums so far, attesting to his enduring appeal with the Thai audience. Jonas Anderson bears the unique status of being able to connect with a broad spectrum of demographics of varied ages and backgrounds from up-country farmers to high society Bangkokians. As a foreigner popular in Thailand, he has also been able to bridge the renowned barrier between East and West, even the seemingly impassible divide of cultural diversity.
"The hottest singer in the tradition-steeped world of Thai country music comes from the land of ABBA"
Jonas Anderson moved to Thailand from his home country of Sweden at the tender age of nine, with his parents who decided to relocate here on a community development mission focused on education in rural areas. Once arriving in Thailand this Swedish family soon moved to Nakorn Rachasima or “Korat”, the largest province in the populous northeastern region of Thailand known as “Isan”. This was where Jonas first began to absorb the language and culture of Thailand as well as the unique nuances of the Isan culture.
Growing up Jonas Anderson always had a penchant for singing, performing and connecting with audiences, especially in a culturally diverse environment. In his late teens he started out performing in support of various of social causes and was active in charity work using the effective medium of music and performance. He formed a group together with Christy Gibson and other young performers who shared the same vision and together they would conduct youth awareness campaigns through music and drama on topics such as drug prevention, AIDS prevention, safety, peer relations, etc. They also used music therapy as a channel of comfort and emotional healing in reaching out to the sick, disabled, aged, orphans and underprivileged using a repertoire of original material composed especially for these activities as well as Thai pop favorites.
Jonas Anderson’s unlikely path to becoming a lookthung or Thai country superstar began when he and Christy Gibson were asked to sing a lookthung song for a community event they were scheduled to perform at. The response to their initial and somewhat feeble attempt at singing this very challenging style of music was phenomenal and unprecedented, but more importantly, the experience sparked Jonas’ interest in this unique style of music and he started to learn and perform more lookthung songs.
A pivotal moment in Jonas’ career was when he was discovered by famous TV personality Khun Wittawat Suntornwinet, owner and host of the top rated variety TV show , “At 10” or “Tee Sip”. Khun Wittawat saw Jonas singing a popular lookthung song at a New Year’s eve party and consequently invited him to appear on his show. Once the TV show was aired Jonas attained instant nationwide recognizability. This was further amplified when he featured on the country’s premier nationally televised live concert called “Wetee Thai” which paved the way for Jonas Anderson to launch a professional music career.
In that capacity he entered an intensive voice training program under lookthung master, Vilai Panom and finally recorded his first album, “Pom Chue Jonas” (My Name is Jonas) which was released in June, 2000 under Wetee Thai. The album was an instant success and sparked Jonas’ meteoric rise to fame among lookthung fans and Thais in general. Before long Jonas Anderson had become a household name.
More than simply entertainment, Jonas views his success as an opportunity to highlight the beauties of Thai culture, and this was his intent in becoming a recording artist in the first place. It is a goal that has even been realized at a global level through international media interest in Jonas’ music and his being featured in such prestigious media as AP, Reuters, CNN, BBC, CNBC, MTV, Channel V, ABC Australia, NHK Japan, Fuji TV Japan, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Far Eastern Economic Review, Voice of America, Canadian Radio, and in all major Swedish newspapers and many Swedish television and radio programs.
Following the launch of his first album, Jonas Anderson released four more solo albums: “Rong Oo Laeng Wao”, “Jonas Mahasanook”, “Rak Lae Kit Tueng”, and “Nakrong Panejon”. He has also released three duet albums with Christy Gibson: “Ram Tone Ram Thai”, “Noom Tam Lao Sao Tam Thai”, and “Jonas and Christy”.
Jonas Anderson featuring as guest artist on various combination albums and other artist’s albums include, the song “Sai Tan Nam Pratai” in honor of HM Queen Sirikit on the album “Mae Haeng Chart” (in duet with Christy Gibson), the song “France Dant” in Nop Ponchamni’s album “Million Ways to Dobe”, among the lead singers in the song “Kwan Thai Jai Nueng Deow” written by At Carabao in support of those facing ongoing insurgency in the far south of Thailand, and most recently the medley “Rak Mah Hah Pee – Sai Ple Sai Jai” in the album “Ching Chap Tour: Ramwong Yohn Yook” Currently Jonas is working on a new album which is planned for release within 2012.
Jonas tours extensively all over Thailand as well as abroad, both solo and together with Christy Gibson.
He has mainlined advertising campaigns, co-hosted a nationally televised TV program, served as guest speaker and expert commentator, and remains a consistent high-profile media personality.
His emphasis on the Thai culture and language and being a positive role model in Thai society has been recognized by several prestigious awards he has been given, notably the Thai Language Usage Award bestowed by the Thai Ministry of Culture.
Other than his work as a Thai celebrity, Jonas Anderson has remained active in charity work. He sees this not as a secondary pastime but rather as a primary occupation that remains close to his heart. He views his popularity as a helpful platform from which to support needy situations and causes.
Despite his success and popularity in Thailand, Jonas readily acknowledges that he has yet much to learn about Thailand, its music and culture, and he is eager to develop his abilities and absorb as much as he can from Thai artists and musicians.
Finally in Jonas Anderson’s own words: “I am deeply indebted to the Thai people who have so graciously embraced and encouraged my efforts to sing and perform in Thai. Even though my Thai singing abilities are still lacking in many ways, I am so grateful to my fans, those in the entertainment industry, and the Thai people overall for their enduring support and kindness. I hope that my efforts to render Thai music as authentically as possible, will in some small way show support for Thailand, and repay the Thai people for all the hospitality they've shown me ever since I moved here.”