The Music of Thailand


Krachap Pi

Since ancient times, the Thai people have known how to make musical instruments or to copy the patterns of others and adapt them to their own uses. In fact, there are several kinds of musical instruments which the Thais apparently devised before they came in contact with the culture of India, which was widespread in Southeast Asia before they migrated there.
Later, when the Thai people were establishing their kingdoms and had come into contact with Indian culture, particularly with Indian instruments which the Mon and Khmer cultures had absorbed first, they assimilated this musical culture into their own.


Kokg Song Na (two drum faces)

From this contact, the Thais creats several new kinds of musical instruments such as the phin, sang, pi chanai, Krachap pi, chakhe, and thon, which are mentioned in the Trihumikatha, one of the first books written in Thai, and on a stone inscription from the time of King Ramkhamhaeng of the Sukhthai period. Some songs of the Sukhthai period are still sung at present, such as Phleng Thep Thong.
During the Ayutthaya period the instrumental ensemble was composed of four to eight musicians. Songs became much longer and singing technique was improved. Many Ayutthaya songs were composed in a from of musical suite called Phleng Rua, which was a series of songs. Poets contributed lyrics in the form of short stories, mostly from the Ramakian. Many Ayutthaya songs are still employed in Thai plays today.


Sor-U

In the beginning of the Bangkok period, after a long period of war, there was a remarkable revival of Thai arts, especially music and drama. The size of the instrumental ensemble was enlarged to 12 musicians and several masterpieces of Thai literature were produced as theatrical performances accompanied by music. Beautiful lyrics written by contemporary poets were fitted into melodies of the Ayutthaya period.
All Thai musicians in the past received their training from their teachers, through constant playing and singing in their presence. With nothing else to rely upon except their own memory, it was only through much hard work that they gained their technical experience and practical knowledge in playing and singing.


Tone Drum

In all, there are about 50 types of Thai musical instruments, including many local versions of flutes, stringed instruments, and gongs used for all kinds of occasions: festivals, folk theater, marriages, funerals, and social evenings after harvesting.


His Majesty plays the saxophone that has been given him by Benny Goodman

Music plays an important part in the life of the Thai royal fmily. His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej is an internationally -recognized jazz musician with numerous orginal compositions to his credit, one of which was featured in a Broadway show in the 1950's. Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindron is an accomplished performer on several classical Thai musical instruments, while Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn has made several popular music cassette tapes to raise funds for charity.