Samui Wining & Dining
Under the Spotlight

The mellow music of the RA Duo Band at By The Sea restaurant every Friday night makes fine-dining that much finer.

­p19The only sounds are the waves slipping quietly onto the beach nearby and the rhythmic chirp of crickets. It’s night-time and there’s an immense sky full of stars. The sand is brightly illuminated in pools of light that fade towards the nearby fishing boats chugging wearily home. Over to the left, the arm of the bay arcs away with a thousand tiny lights that shimmer across the water. And you can soak all this up underneath the spotlit palms that edge the beach. Just next to you, the azure depths of the swimming pool is twinkling with a galaxy of stars glowing eerily from within – first blue, then purple followed by red. The chairs are softly padded and you’ll feel very relaxed. Then, suddenly, the wistful opening bars to Sting’s classic, ‘Fragile’, drift perfectly into this reverie. You’re in a restaurant. It’s aptly named By the Sea and the RA Duo Band has just begun its first set.

By the Sea is the signature restaurant of Destination Beach Resort & Spa, a comparative newcomer on the Samui scene, having opened its doors for the first time in April 2009. The resort immediately drew positive comments due to its subtly lavish style and décor – a blend of traditional Thai and some elegantly contemporary design. There’s a lot of scrubbed concrete surfaces with contrasting patches of texture and raw stonework which subtly complement the richness of the glowing woods and natural fabrics. And the upmarket restaurant also follows this theme, with its open design extending outwards to the edge of the pool and onto a terrace that overlooks the beach.

Nowadays, nearly every resort on the island has at least one musician and these frequently come in pairs. At an educated guess, I’d say that there are only a few that are not Filipinos! That island race has an international reputation for producing music – it’s in their blood. There’s an estimated 90 million people scattered amongst a group of over 7,000 islands. But probably a big percentage of these are permanently working abroad, and there’s more than a few on Samui!

Take RJ, for instance. He’s the R part of RA Duo Band (more formally known as Ricardo Parr) and was born in the small city of Antimonan. He was already singing and playing with local groups and bands whilst at school. And two years later he found an agent who began to supply him with contracts working abroad. He worked away for six months and then returned home for a break before starting the process again. He’d already worked in most countries in South East Asia before he landed a contract on Samui, playing with a partner at Fairhouse Beach Resort & Hotel, in Chaweng Noi, in 1999. Unusually, he remained there for the next seven years (most entertainers are happy to move on when their contract is up). But it speaks volumes that he was invited to continue for such an extended period.

In this time several partners came and went but in 2005 he met a young lady by the name of Lissa and they began to perform together at Q Signature Samui. They married the following year and her career took an upwards move in a different direction shortly afterwards. RJ continued to perform and eventually teamed with Arriane Callanga in February this year and formed the RA Duo Band, securing a contract at Destination Beach Resort.

Arriane is also from the Philippines, from San José in Occidental Mindoro. And she’s unique. It must be rare indeed to come across a Filipina that didn’t learn to play an instrument at school, although she more than makes up for it with her superb voice. She studied for a degree in the IT industry before coming to Samui, and, in fact, it wasn’t until around two years ago that she began to play the guitar. That was when she came to stay here with her aunt and uncle and found herself in the middle of a large community of folks that made music for a living. And, in the course of this, she came across a partnerless RJ and so they teamed up.

There are two separate schools of thought when it comes to duos such as this. One says – ‘Hey! We’re only two people, why try to sound like a band?’ And the other opinion embraces today’s technology, uses a computerised synthesiser and sounds like whatever they want! And that’s the way it is with RJ and Arriane.

But if you expect that this means you’re going to be dining to a big band sound, then think again. These two are much more refined than that. Their material is both subtle and eclectic, and the realistic-sounding accompaniment is always just a backing for their voices. Material includes the contemporary country ballads of Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift, blues standards from Bessie Smith and Ella Fitzgerald and the usual range of classic love songs and ballads. Plus, as the evening wears on, you’ll hear funkier numbers, too.

Their voices are a perfect complement to each other. JJ has a high, clear pitch that’s strong under power whilst Arriane is more dynamic, with a tonality ranging from breathy to powerful. Usually such duos have a clear male and female harmony but here the harmonies are very close indeed, leading to some complex and pleasing vocals.

You can enjoy the RA Duo Band at By the Sea every Friday evening. They begin their first set at 7:30 pm and continue on until 10:30 pm, taking a 15-minute break in-between each of the three sets. Destination Beach Resort & Spa is tucked away from the main road but isn’t hard to find. Heading from Big Buddha towards Choeng Mon, you go around the 90-degree right-hand bend in the road and about 200 metres further on you’ll come to a side street on the left with a 7-11 on one side and a Family Mart on the other. Head left up there and the resort is another couple of hundred metres on the left and is clearly signposted.

There’s a lot of restaurants in Samui and a lot of singers and musicians to go with them. But when it comes to a combination of fine-dining and fine-singing there’s far less choice. And if you want one with a delightful outlook in a chic resort that’s only 15 minutes from Chaweng, then there’s not many to pick from at all. But one of them is By The Sea at Destination Beach Resort & Spa


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