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.
When performing, there are three different compositions of the orchestra
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 is a theatrical performance with music and lyric singing. The lakon in Ayutthaya had three forms:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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