Since 2017, Mari-Ann Kucharek has been well known to many lovers of live music in Hua Hin, perhaps as the keyboard and vocalist of the Bamboo Heart Band.
This is the Hua Hin Based rock outfit, just one of the casualties of Covid restrictions which put a stop to many live music appearances at venues around town. Alternatively, she’s played with bass-playing husband Jeff as the more laid-back duo; the J&M Band.
The bad news for local music fans is that family responsibilities for the couple have now led to a decision to depart for the USA at the end of November, maybe with occasional return visits, but not as residents or regular performers around town.
The good news is Mari-Ann is leaving behind her musical legacy. Her ‘Hua Hin swan-song’ will be an album, ‘Wide Open Air’, as her ‘dream come true’ with the musical debut of Sylvie Valiente, now her recording name.
Mari-Ann, or Sylvie as her new alter-ego, began her musical journey at an early age with classical training in England where she began piano and violin lessons but also vocal training as an opera singer. She also was a choir member, recorded advertising jingles and was on the stage at the renowned Glastonbury Festival of contemporary performing arts at the age of seventeen.
But turning away from the music scene led to a corporate career, including some years in Dubai where she met and then married her American husband Jeff. In 2017 the couple decided it was time to escape that pressured corporate world with Thailand and Hua Hin becoming the destination of a sea-change.
What soon followed was a reawakening of Mari-Ann’s musical inclinations. Local muso Terry Fox soon recognised her talents and Mari-Ann became Bamboo Heart’s keyboard player, joining Terry on vocals, with Jeff on bass. She says moving from her more classical musical background into the rock scene needed a different approach; not as easy as it may seem to some!
Terry says “from the moment she first (unofficially) stepped on stage with the band at the old Siam Handlebar, there was a magic that happened and continued to happen each and every performance that we subsequently had.
She was a critical member of the band contributing with sparkling keyboard parts and her angelic and versatile voice. Her musical talents are limitless.
It was an honour and a privilege to play onstage with her for 4 years; musical moments that I will forever cherish.” Other have suggested that there’s a similarity to Fleetwood Mac legend Stevie Nicks in her vocals.
Another important introduction was to Ian Nice and the opportunity to have the Sylvie Valiente album produced by the very professional production team at the ‘Rocky Head’ recording studios.
The recording of ‘Wide Open Air’ was completed after some three months in the making. This was the day before we were introduced to Sylvie, who was feeling very upbeat about the results. The style is something of a hybrid of her classical past and more recent rock influences; it’s an easy listening but powerful presentation that will appeal to a variety of musical tastes. There are 12 tracks with two originals, including a single, on the album song list.
Next will come the release of a musical video with the single “Holding On’’ on 25th October. Our preview of this video showed scenes of the Hua Hin coastline as an ongoing reminder of the local origins of this recording. That will long be both a fond memory of life in Hua Hin for Mari-Ann, but also showing a glimpse of this lifestyle to a worldwide audience.
There’s also a live musical event at the Amara Resort on 30th October where you will have a chance to get your hands on a pre-release CD, followed by the official digital launch on November 17th . The album will then become available online worldwide.
The musical journey of Sylvie after relocation to Florida seems destined to continue. The next production may have some Spanish vocals to appeal to both a European audience as well as the vast Spanish speaking population of the US, especially in southern regions. That’s also possible thanks to her Spanish mother and fluency in that language.
Our thanks to Mari-Ann/Sylvie for our introduction to ‘Wide Open Air’; her Hua Hin swan song. We’ll release the links to the album as soon as possible, but it may be worthwhile to get your autograph soon before Hua Hin’s loss become Florida’s gain.
‘WIDE OPEN AIR’ SONG LIST:
- How Long – Ace
- Just the Two of Us – Bill Withers
- Holding On – Sylvie Valiente
- Creep – Radiohead
- You Do Something To Me – Paul Weller
- Wonderwall – Noel Gallagher
- Constant Craving – K.D. Lang
- Life is a Dance – Ian Nice
- Baby I Love Your Way – Peter Frampton
- Nothing Else Matters – Metallica
- Everybody’s Talkin’ – Harry Nilsson
- Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel) – Billy Joel