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Music and Sports

Music

Many people are deeply impressed by the performance practice of Thai music as the musicians play while sitting on the floor. The lyrics in the songs for ordinary people are simple, while the classical songs can be characterized as poetic.

Thai music differs from European music essentially through the diatonic scale. Thai music is characterized as whole-tone music with 7 different whole-tones. There is also no major or minor in the sense of European music.

There is neither a theory of traditional Thai music nor any instructions to play, because the music is only conveyed through listening. All Thai musicians have learned to sing and play by imitating their teachers. But it is possible to fix the melody according to the European notation system.

The Thai musical instruments look different from the European ones, but differ little in their function. The Thai musical instruments can be divided into two groups according to their function and type of play.

  • The first group is made up of those who give the rhythm
  • the second are those who create the melody of the song.

When performing, there are three different compositions of the orchestra

  • The orchestra of stringed instruments: String orchestra, i.e. stringed instruments play the first violin, accompanied by wind and percussion instruments. The important instruments are saw duang, saw uu, cha kae, flute, long and short drum.
  • The orchestra of percussion and wind instruments: Pi Pat Orchestra. Here the wind and percussion instruments play first violin. The orchestra consists essentially of different types of flutes, drums and cymbals. The Pi Pat Orchestra usually accompanies the Thai traditional theater performance Lakon, as well as puppet theater, shadow theater and folk theater Likae. The Pi Pat Orchestra is also played during religious and important cremation ceremonies.
  • Mahorie Orchestra is actually the combination of the two orchestral groups mentioned, whereby the number of musical instruments is reduced in order to achieve a balanced performance. Usually there are three string instruments (saw), large xylophones, round gong sets and different types of saw, flute and drums. A Mahorie orchestra only plays at very important ceremonies.
Dance and theater

The tradition of the Thai dance goes back to the Sukhothai time. Dances are mentioned on inscriptions from the time of King Ramkhamhaeng, but all information is without detailed descriptions. It can therefore be assumed that the Thai dance art from Sukhothai to Ayutthaya consisted in the form of a dance with accompanying singing and accompanying music. Dance in connection with theater emerged only later, as can be seen from numerous documents on Khon, Nang, Lakorn and marionettes.

Nang (shadow figures)

The traditional Thai shadow play is called Nang. That means a figure made of animal skin. The nang is divided into two types by its performance.

Big Nang or Nang Yai

Nang Yai is one of the main entertainment performances performed at festivals and ceremonies. Life-size figures are used that are cut from cowhide and then painted. The different parts of the figures are immobile. The players, who are in front of and behind the scenery, move the figures with two sticks and dance themselves.

The action is accompanied by an orchestra, a choir and recitations. The spectators can watch the characters moved by the players as well as the players themselves. Clowns appear between the scenes. In the past, stories from the Rammakien performed by U Narutt were made with the Nang Yai. Nowadays they only play episodes from the Ramakien.

Nang Talung

It is said that the Thai people took over the Nang Talung from Java. Nang Talung is still one of the most popular forms of entertainment in southern Thailand. At almost every ceremony and every festival there is the Nang Talung, e.g. at weddings or at cremation ceremonies.

The figures of the Nang Talung, which are moved by one or more players in front of the scenery, are much smaller than those of the Nang Yai. The parts of the figures are movable and controllable with a small thread.

The Nang Talung figures play stories from literature. E.g. Ramakien but also modern stories like comics or stories about the communists in Thailand.

Khon (masked dance)

The khon is a performance that is accompanied by dance, music and recitations. All movements and gestures in the dances have a certain meaning so that the connoisseur can read the sequence of events from the dance postures.

Most of the players are male. They represent men, women, gods, demons and monkeys. At the khon, texts are performed by the choir and individual parts by soloists. The only material for the performance of the khon is the rammakien, because the khon is traditionally played to worship the king, who is considered to be an incarnation of the Hindu god Narai.

Lakon

Lakon is a theatrical performance with music and lyric singing. The lakon in Ayutthaya had three forms:

  • Lakon Chatrie is a popular performance. In the past there were only male actors who appeared with a night upper body. These actors played all the roles: men, women and clowns. Later female actors were also allowed. The Lakon Chatrie is usually played outdoors. The spectators are on all sides. In the past, one played stories from literature. But today you also play other pieces. The Lakon Chatrie is almost extinct today, it is usually performed to redeem a promise.
  • Lakon Nok refers to the folk theater outside the King courtyard. Lakon nok originally just means Lakon. When the Lakon Nai or the theater within the King courtyard emerged, which was only played by women, the original form of the lakon was called – as a contrast to the Lakon Nai-Lakon Nok. In Lakon Nok, the course of action is not the most important thing. The actions change quickly and are often interrupted by clowns.
  • Lakon Nai is considered the highest art of dance theater and was only created towards the end of the Ayutthaya period. Lakon Nai was only performed by women. Ramakien, I-nao were the most popular motifs of the Lakon Nai. Later only I-nao was played. The performance of Lakon Nai strives for the highest perfection in dance, song, music and clothing. In the past, the Lakon Nai was only looked after at the King courtyard. Today, instead of the King courtyard, the Fine Arts Department has taken care of this ancient art.
Ramwong

Ramwong is a Thai folk dance. It is mainly accompanied by percussion instruments, i.e. it is a very rhythmic dance. Unlike the standard Ramwong, which contains 7 different sequences of steps, the folk Ramwong does not require the dancers to set a specific sequence of steps.

The Ramwong is danced in pairs. It expresses wooing a boy for a girl. The two dancers move in a circle. The boy tries to get close to the girl and look into her face.

Sports

Thai boxing

This sport has its origins in the martial arts. In the early days of the war one often faced the enemy personally. The boxing match could therefore hardly be avoided.

In the Ayutthaya period, king Naresuan the Great won a boxing match against a Burmese boxer and was therefore released by the Burmese king. Another famous Thai boxer, Nai Kanom Tom, defeated nine Burmese in a boxing match.

In Thai boxing, almost everything is allowed except biting, spitting and wrestling. Knees, legs, elbows and shoulders are also used in combat. The blows with the feet are apparently more dangerous than with the fists. The boxers, however, rely more on their agility than on their strength.

The traditional Thai boxing match is with music, i.e. boxers have to wear short red or blue or white trousers with a red or blue ribbon on the side.

Before the start of the fight, the Wai – Kruu ceremony takes place. The boxer kneels down. Then the dance begins according to the rhythm of the drums and the pi.

The choreography of the dance can look like a wreath of flowers, an elephant’s trunk or the four faces of Brahma.

Takraw

The ball for the Takraw game is made of wrapped rattan. Takraw is an old Thai game for men. In this game you are not allowed to use your hands, but only your head, shoulders, elbows, knees, calves, ankles or feet to keep the rattan ball in the air.

The sword and stick dance

This game has been very popular among Thai people for a long time. Two fighters in their colorful clothes dance and fight against each other. The gaming tradition goes back to the often fought wars.

The preparation for these wars is reflected in the sword and stick dance. The combat instruments are weapons such as sword, stick, lance, knife or kris.