Thai pop music (in case you’re not familiar with the term T-Pop) is currently on the rise, seeing the emergence of new acts that are injecting new energy and spirit into the country’s lifeless music scene. But honestly, no one is able to do it quite like these four.
Jarukit “Ninja” Khamhongsa, Natphatra “Mcka” Diloettrakun, Chaninthorn “Folksong” Boonrod, and Ramet “George” Kiantisukudom comprise 4MIX, Thailand’s first pop group to identify as LGBTQ+. The group made their debut in May 2021 with the single “Y U COMEBACK”, under Khaosan Entertainment, and quickly shot to pop stardom with their intriguing looks and sounds, and willingness to challenge gender norms, which not too many pop stars have the guts to tackle.
Since then, 4MIX has become T-Pop's biggest source of pride. Last December, the quartet was invited by the Thai embassy in Mexico to perform at a mini concert to a massive crowd of 4MIX fans, collectively known as UNIX. It was a huge accomplishment for the group and a monumental step towards global recognition for Thai music.
We sat down with the foursome and heard for ourselves what they think of their meteoric rise to stardom.
How was your trip to Mexico?
Ninja: It was exciting. We all gained a lot of new experiences. The fans in Mexico were all amazing and very welcoming. It felt so unreal because, normally, we only get to interact with them in the comments section on social media, and not in actual person at the airport or even at the concert.
How did this trip come about anyway?
George: Our label told the Thai embassy in Mexico about our fanbase there, and they thought it’d be great if both countries could do something together. This led to the Cántala en Thai, which was a singing contest where the contestants had to sing a Thai song translated into Spanish and vice-versa. We all got to be the judges!
Ninja: And when the embassy found out about our fans, they decided to host a mini concert for us, and we thought it was going to be a small gathering…
George: The venue is only able to accommodate about 500 to 600 people but, as it turned out, there were over 3,000 fans wanting to get in.
How did you feel when you were onstage and saw all these signs cheering for you both in English and Thai?
George: We were completely overwhelmed with happiness.
Mcka: I could see many of the fans trying to write in Thai just for us.
Ninja: There weren’t only signs. Some of them came with gifts to give us at the concert, and when we were back at the hotel, we saw that there were letters written in Thai, English and Spanish. It was really touching to see them try to write our names in Thai, but the cute thing was how Folksong’s name was written as Don Tree Puen Baan (in Thai: ดนตรีพื้นบ้าน), which directly translates as “folk song”.
What was the feedback on your first international showcase?
Mcka: It was super impactful. We were quite popular in Thailand before going to Mexico, and I don’t know what to say…
Ninja: The thing is the concert felt completely different from anything we have done before. (Folksong: We felt like superstars.) Yes! (Laughs.) We really felt like superstars.
Folksong: On the way to the show, Mcka and I kept wondering if people would come to see us, and when we saw all these people, Mcka still asked if they actually came to see us (laughs).
Ninja: Mcka asked that question every 10 seconds. It was the first time that there were just the four of us onstage. In Thailand, mostly, one showcase usually included other artists.
Folksong: The cheering and screaming from the fans there really pushed us to put on the best show.
Ninja: Actually, we went to practice our blocking around noon, but we woke up to many mentions on [Instagram] Story that there were already many fans waiting for us at the venue, even before the organizers finished setting up (laughs). We were all surprised to see them get so enthusiastic about the show. When we got to the stage for blocking preparations, we didn’t think there would be too many people there–the crowd just made us go “Wow”.
Mcka: While we were in the makeup room, the staff came to tell us that the crowd had multiplied fourfold and showed us a video.
Folksong: When we got onto the stage, it was like ‘Oh my God’.
Ninja: When we first arrived at the venue, the path was still clear for our car to get in, but at showtime, the crowd was so huge that the whole space couldn’t take them all in. After the show, on the way back, the fans were still there to send us off. It was honestly the first time we felt like real superstars.
Folksong: You can see all of that on our Vlog.
What else did you do in Mexico?
Ninja: We got to travel around and try the food. On our first day, we went to visit the pyramids and then stopped at the city center, which was completely beautiful. There’s so much food, churches, flags, and it was so easy to get around the city. People were also very friendly. We knew that people there would be super nice, but they were friendlier than we expected.
George: It was really tourist-friendly.
Mcka: I went to get some tacos, and the guy couldn’t speak any English but at least tried very hard to communicate with me.
You all knew of your international fanbase before the concert, but how did you actually feel when you finally got to meet them in person?
George: There are no better words to describe how we felt apart from genuine happiness. We were really excited and thankful to all the fans.
Mcka: We were happy to see them and the feeling was mutual.
Ninja: The cheering and screaming went beyond our expectations. It was like they were extremely over the moon to see us fly all the way from Thailand. We are just a small act from Thailand, you know? And the language wasn’t a problem at all. Well, actually it was a little (laughs). Like we normally greet fans by saying something in Thai like “Give us some noise!”, but [in Mexico] all we could say were “hola” and “te amo”. There were some dead-air moments but, thanks to our translators, we were able to communicate with our fans.
What’s the difference between Thai fans and international fans?
George: They both like us as artists, but the fans in Mexico are much more fearless when it comes to expressing their enthusiasm.
Mcka: I think it’s their culture when it comes to enjoying a concert. It’s like they are really in the moment, where there’s nothing to care about except enjoy the show.
Folksong: They are so expressive.
Ninja: The energy from both is the same, but the reason why the whole thing [in Mexico] felt more intense was because the crowd was much bigger than those in any of our previous shows. If our shows in Thailand had the same number of people, I think we would feel the same intensity from them, too.
Folksong: It was super fun seeing the audience have a good time with our performance.
Do you now have more followers from both Thailand and other countries after the showcase in Mexico?
George: Oh, a lot more, especially Thai fans. I think they saw us on Twitter.
Ninja: When we arrived at the airport in Thailand, some staffers at the immigration office asked to take a photo, telling us that they just watched a video of us in Mexico. Some people at the hotel where we quarantined or at the convenience store also recognized us, asking questions like “Are you from 4MIX?”
Mcka: There are more people coming up to greet us, and we’d like to thank you, the media, for helping spread the word about us.
Ninja: We also see different languages on the comment sections [on social media] from English to more kind words from Thai people who say they are proud of us for representing our country. And we’re very happy to see comments from adults, not just teenagers.
What’s the next place you want to visit?
George: We want to go to many places, but possibly every country where we have fans.
Ninja: Brazil is one of the countries in the plan. We recently found out that our biggest fanbase is in Brazil, and Mexico comes next. But we have no idea if people in Brazil will come and see us (laughs).
Do you have plans to release a song in English or Spanish?
Ninja: We’re talking about it. We did that with our first single, “Y U COMEBACK”, but with a special version that includes Latin music and Portuguese. It will definitely happen in the future. Personally, I love Latin music because it always makes me want to move.
Mcka: Stay tuned because we just might!
Do you have time to practice Spanish because there are a lot of comments written in Spanish on your YouTube channel?
George: Yes we have. Our label found some language courses for us.
Ninja: Now we’re learning Spanish, English and the languages in the places we will visit.
Mcka: [The label] kind of wants us to focus on Spanish.
Ninja: We probably won’t reach a native level of communication, but we aim to at least learn how to speak on a conversational level so we won’t have to stick to saying just “hola” all the time. What we can say now is “hola”, “te amo”, “gracias” and “adiós”. Each of us actually prepared something to say to the fans at the show, but the time was so limited that we didn’t manage to do as planned (laughs).
Judging from all the feedback you got from the show in Mexico, do you think T-Pop has the potential to go further internationally?
George: Of course, it does. We discovered that Latin America has so much love for Asians, and they give us support the best way they can, including other T-Pop groups.
Ninja: We now see more people reacting to videos of T-Pop, and we believe that every T-Pop band has the potential to go further. Nowadays, every label is competing to showcase their artists, which is a good thing for the industry. It’s like a street vendor about to light up the oven to make some pad krapow.
How do you imagine the genre will grow in the future?
Ninja: If it continues to grow like this, it’d be really great to get to that point where we no longer need to compare ourselves to anyone.
George: I can feel the love for Asian culture from the other side of the world, and I also think music has no boundaries any more.
Ninja: Looking back at the past few years, we can see how T-Pop has come so far. I truly believe there’ll be more newcomers, while existing groups will continue to showcase their brilliant capabilities, especially 4MIX!
How do you want Thais to perceive the T-Pop scene?
George: T-Pop could become soft power and now we have proven that we are able to bring our music to the international market. You can see that South Korea strongly supports K-Pop music, whereas Thailand may have the budget to bring this about but there’s not enough tangible support. If there’s enough support, it won’t take long for Thailand to earn some income from it.
Ninja: What I want to see is a change in perspective so that T-Pop doesn’t have to try to be like any other country’s pop music, or even that the genre won’t have to break into the mainstream. Eventually, people will always support good music and what people need to do is open up their hearts to the genre. T-Pop is more than just singing and dancing; it’s an all-around performance that goes through a long process and practice. You’ll see that T-Pop is one of the best.
Mcka: I agree. To anyone who’s still clouded by prejudice, please try to open up. I feel like T-Pop disappeared for a while, but now it has returned. If you don’t like it, don’t try to break it. We should all support each other, shouldn’t we?
Ninja: There’s no need for any comparison. Why not try to focus on the artists and the country they’re from?
Now that you have received such good feedback and support from fans, are you worried about what’s next to come for 4MIX?
George: The pressure has been there since our debut single, and we all feel the need to get better every release.
Mcka: I do feel the pressure.
Ninja: We are trying to cope with the pressure and focus on getting better, for we do believe that we can’t force anyone to like what we do. We didn’t expect so much positive feedback from our last output. It will only make us feel bad if we pressure ourselves too much into thinking that fans will be pleased with our next single and it turns out that no one likes it.
Mcka: Despite the pressure, we do believe that our new release will be good.
Ninja: At least we have more fans now.