This is how Novotel Bangkok on Siam Square’s new GM brought his passion for music to his career in hospitality.
by Laurence Civil.
Sagar Naker comes from the UK and his hospitality career started at the luxurious London Hilton on Park Lane. He worked in a selection of boutique hotels before joining Accor 14 years ago. Sagar’s last appointment in the UK was as general manager at Novotel London ExCeL, the multi award-winning hotel based in London Docklands.
“After the birth of our second child, we felt it was time for a change,” says Sagar. “Asia is where the hospitality industry is booming. I applied for various jobs and the first I was offered was the opening of Novotel Bangkok Platinum, so I accepted and moved to Bangkok two-and-half years ago.”
Sagar goes on to explain: “We live our lives through social media. Free Wi-Fi is a must-have as people want to be connected, which is why we offer it throughout the hotel, not just for in-house guests but also for anyone using our bars and restaurant. The modern culture is to photograph our food and drinks and post the images online. It’s in our best interest to help our guests to do that.”
“There is a strong loyalty to our brand through Accor Le Club because of the benefits it offers our members. Online feedback helps us to change the way we do things; listening to the customer ensures we offer them the precise service they are looking for.”
“When I joined the hotel a couple of months ago, the nightlife icon CM2 was closed and sitting in the dark,” he adds. “While visiting a bar in Hong Kong, I found bands whose members were business professionals by day with a passion to perform one or two nights a month. This got me thinking about a new entertainment concept for CM2. The usual networks of bands on the circuit with a set playlist, which always seemingly included Hotel California, were starting to sound tired. When my working day is over, the formal black business suit comes off, and playing in a band with other Accor GMs is our way to unwind and relax. This got me thinking as to what other performing musical talent there is in Thailand and how cool it would be to listen to new talent from a diverse range of musical genres.”
“We organized a Big Band night in a sort of X Factor format, with a team of four judges including myself. A total of 30 bands applied and 25 performed on the night, with one band traveling for seven hours just to play one number — such is their enthusiasm and commitment to playing live music.”
The winning band was Zanzer, made up of five young guys who are musical students from different universities but live in the same community in Samut Prakan, and they were the first to perform on the opening night of CM2 Live Jam. Their lead singer is Mhee (24), a classically trained opera singer with a powerful voice, who has the potential to be the Thai Freddie Mercury of the future. Arm (20), who is training to be a music teacher, performed a brilliant guitar solo on the opening night. He also rocked together with Ake (21), who is studying military music. Nueng (20), on drums, is a music student, and Tati (26) has already graduated and is teaching music.
Sagar continued: “We caught up with the band on opening night and they told us that they have been together for six years, and this was the first time they had ever entered a competition. They were surprised to win and it gave them confidence in their ability to perform. For them, it was a great opportunity to meet new friends who share their passion to perform rock. Their ambition is to write, record, and publish their own music. They took advantage of this opportunity to debut a song called “Together,” a number that represents the band and its future music by Arm and Thai lyrics written by Mhee.”
“CM2 Live Jam isn’t a night club. It’s more like a cellar space in the spirit of Liverpool’s Cavern Club that cultivates live musical talent,” says Sagar. “We have just used the section closest to the reception with access from the lobby. I wanted to create a casual intimate environment, with the bands performing in a shallow pit rather than a raised stage so they are closer to the audience. Bands that play get a token payment and drinks for the night. It offers something different with multiple musical genres and different languages. There are open mic opportunities for one-hour jamming sessions Thursday through Saturday 7 p.m. until midnight, with, on average, three to four bands performing each night. Food is simple comfort food, both Thai and Western, with dishes such as grilled baguettes and pasta, which offers easy-grazing while enjoying the music. Drinks are reasonably priced: just THB 130 for spirits, and no cover charge nor a dress code.
Sagar is clearly a GM who rocks.