Thai Drama and Music

By far the most well-known dramatic kind is likay, a burlesque of lakorn containing components of pantomime, comic folk opera and social satire. Usually performed against a simply-painted backdrop for the duration of temple fairs, likay generally presents court-derived stories and embellishes them with nearby references and anecdotes.

Players, garishly costumed in satins, sequins and feathered headgear, andro-gynously produced up with powder, rouge and mascara, rely heavily on pratfalls, jarring musical accompaniment and bawdy lyrics. Spontaneous dialogue is freighted with outrageous puns and double entendres. Interaction between characters keeps audiences awake and laughing until the early hours.

Two neglected dramatic types are nang yai shadow play and hoon marionettes, each standard entertainment in 17th century Ayutthaya. In nang yai, which predates khon and lakorn, intricately fashioned cowhide figures, some two metres tall, are held against a brilliantly backlit white screen. Bearers of the figures dance their parts their movements have been later to supply the pattern for khon and lakorn. The impact resembles a higher contrast, black and white tv set viewed inside a dark space. Animated silhouettes, the figure-bearing men’s gestures and dancing combine with music and singing to bring the spectacle to life.

The nang talung, a much more popular shadow play located mostly in the south of Thailand, closely resembles the Indonesian wayang. Beautifully fashioned nang talung figures are smaller than their nang yai counterparts and are typically constructed to have one movable component – an arm, a leg, a chin or genitals. Concealed from audien-ces, nang talung manipulators are skilled singers and comedians whose brilliant repar-tee keeps action bubbling.

Hoon (marionettes) are seldom observed. Superbly crafted figures, they differed from European marionettes in that they were manipulated by concealed threads pulled from beneath, not above. Hoon plays were from the classical repertoire which did absolutely nothing to improve their recognition. A a lot more well-liked version is hoon krabok (actually ‘cylindrical model’) which are primarily similar to Punch and Judy-style hand puppets.

Indian, Chinese and Khmer musical traditions had been significant (as Burmese, Malayan and Javanese had been minor) influences in forming Thai classical music. For the most component, Thai music evolved by simplifying its diverse influences rather than embellishing them, and more than 600 years of experimentation gradually created into an integrated, unique technique. Some classic Thai instruments are of Chinese origin, other folks Indian. Bas reliefs at Angkor Wat show hand cymbals and one-stringed, plucked zithers strikingly comparable to particular Thai instruments played today.

Music was important to Ayutthayan courts as an adjunct to ceremonial, official and social functions. Contemporary book illustrations depict classical string and percussion ensembles. A 1688 account of Ayutthayan music by Nicholas Gervaise is a single of the very first European references to Thai music: ‘We heard concerts of a vocal and instrumental nature. The most pleasing of these instruments is somewhat equivalent to that we hear from two violins playing in best harmony. But there is practically nothing a lot more disagreeable than the small edition of this instrument – a kind of violin with 3 brass wires. Their copper trumpets resemble in sound the comets our peasants use to call their cattle. Their flutes are scarcely any softer … bronze gongs which distress those not accustomed to the sound …’