Dance and music

Thai dance

Thai dance is the main dramatic art form of Thailand. Thai classical dance drama include Khon, Lakhon, and Fawn Thai. Folk dance forms include dance theatre forms like Likay, numerous regional dances (Ram), the ritual dance Ram Muay, and homage to the teacher, Wai Khru. Both Ram Muay and Wai Khru take place before all traditional Thai boxing matches.

Thai dance

Khon is the most stylised form of Thai dance. It is performed by troupes of non-speaking dancers, the story being told by a chorus at the side of the stage. Choreography and costumes are dictated by tradition, with demons wearing coloured masks.

Lakhon features a wider range of stories than khon. Dancers are usually female and perform as a group rather than representing individual characters.

Fawn is another form of “folk-dance” accompanied by folk music of the region, such as the Fawn-Lep finger-nail dance from Chiang Mai.

Likay is much more varied than lakhon or khon. Stories may be original, and include singing, comedy and ham acting. Costumes may be traditional, modern or a combination of the two. Likay is often performed at village festivals.

Thai music

The two most popular styles of traditional Thai music are luk thung and mor lam.

Luk thung, or Thai country music, developed in the mid-20th century. Many of the most popular artists have come from the central city of Suphanburi, including megastar Pumpuang Duangjan, who pioneered electronic luk thung.

Mor lam is the dominant folk music of Thailand’s north-eastern Isan region, which has a mainly Lao population. It has much in common with luk thung, such as its focus on the life of the rural poor. It is characterized by rapid-fire, rhythmic vocals and a funk feel to the percussion. The lead singer, also called a mor lam, is most often accompanied by the khene.

The ’70s saw the rise of protest songs called pleng phua cheewit (songs for life). The earliest pleng phua cheewit band was called Caravan, and they were at the forefront of a movement for democracy. In 1976, police and right wing activists attacked students at Thammasat University; Caravan, along with other bands and activists, fled for the rural hills where they continued playing music for local farmers. In the 1980s, pleng phua cheewit re-entered the mainstream with a grant of amnesty to dissidents. Bands like Carabao became best-sellers and incorporated sternly nationalistic elements in their lyrics.

String pop took over mainstream listeners in Thailand in the 90s, and pop stars like Tata Young and Bird became best-sellers. Simultaneously, Britpop influenced alternative rock artists like Modern Dog, Loso, Crub and Proud became popular in late 1990s. In 2006, famous Thai rock bands include Clash, Big Ass, Bodyslam and Silly Fools.

It is to be noted that HM King Bhumibol is an accomplished jazz musician and composer. He played with jazz legends like Benny Goodman, Stan Getz, Lionel Hampton and Benny Carter.

Thai music

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