Joob and the Gang is made up of lead singer Itsari “Joob” Mingkamonset and her husband Tuay who plays the acoustic guitar, plus drummer Ton and saxophonist Koh. The band have been together around eight years now, with the last three of those spent in Phuket.
All four band members used to live in Bangkok, performing regularly at About Hip bar, and Indy Trees bar. They also played at the New Stories bar and restaurant on Phatthanakan Road, Suan Luang, which is where they were spotted by Sanaeha owner Chawalit ‘Lek’ Ratanachinakorn.
Lek, who is well known in Phuket circles, spends his time between Bangkok and Phuket. Joob says that after he saw the band perform, Lek asked them to perform at his birthday in Bangkok. Then, when he decided to open Sanaeha more than three years ago, Lek called them up and asked if they were interested in moving to Phuket to work at the his new bar.
These days Joob and the Gang perform every evening except Sundays and Mondays, from 9.30pm to midnight. They are extremely popular, playing hits from the likes of Michael Jackson, Adele, Madonna, Kylie Minogue and Nirvana. They specialise in covers, many of them acoustic, and mainly rock, ‘80s, ‘90s, plus “oldies”, and attract a large crowd of regular customers.
“I love rock, jazz, country... I love U2, Stevie Wonder, Sting, that kind of music,” Joob says.
But little time to practice (Joob has a 15-year-old son, Toy, and Ton and Koh play at Catch Beach Club during the day) means the band often have to practice new songs individually, and hope it comes together on the night when they all play the song together for the first time. Most of the time it works, but Joob says if it doesn’t work the first time, they usually nail it on the second go.
Joob has been singing for the last 12 or so years, after falling into the music scene when she was asked to step in to sing with her brother, when his wife was sick and unable to perform.
Discovering a natural talent – she realised she could sing well – she has been entertaining ever since. Her voice is incredibly easy to listen to, and has attracted a real following across the island.
But it has been a lot of hard work learning how to copy the songs exactly, in a language that is not her mother tongue.
“I want to sing to farang and I want to understand what I sing, and the only way to do that is to practice. If there are some words I don’t know, I use the dictionary, and it really helps my English. I want to make it perfect so farang can understand.”
Talking about her place of work, she says: “I love the mood at Sanaeha. It is a beautiful bar, and when I come to work I know almost every customer – they are like my family.”
As well as rocking the stage at Sanaeha, Joob and the Gang also play at the Westin Siray Bay Resort & Spa every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from 6.30pm to 8.30pm, and the Radisson Blu Plaza Resort Phuket Panwa Beach every Thursday from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.