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Thailand

Thailand

Geography & Topography

Capital: Bangkok

Area: 513,000 km2

Population: 66,720,153

Language: Thai

Religion: Buddhism

Currency: Baht

History

Thailand, formerly known as Siam and now officially the Kingdom of Thailand, is located in the middle of Southeast Asia. It has a population of 64 million people, and consists of diverse ethnic groups; approximately 75% of the population are ethnically Thai, 14% are of Chinese origin, and 3% are ethnically Malay. The other 8% belong to minority groups including Mons, Khmers and various hill tribes. The country’s official language is Thai, however several other dialects exist, the largest of which is the Lao dialect of Isan spoken in the north-eastern provinces. The primary religion is Theravada Buddhism and is also considered the national religion.

Performing Arts

The most popular styles of traditional Thai music are luk thung and mor lam, although by the 1930s classical music, show tunes, jazz and tango had become popular. Western music is extremely influential and has developed fusions such as string (or Thai pop), alternative rock, and the protest rock music phleng pheua chiwit (songs for life).

The most recognizable instruments in traditional Thai music are:

culturalinfusion/soundinfusion-Khim

Khim, a forty-two brass string instrument played using two bamboo sticks with soft leather on the tips to produce a soft tone

 

Khim: The khim has Persian origin and was introduced to Thailand and Cambodia from China. It is trapezoidal in shape and made of wood. Forty-two brass strings are laid across the top of the khim in groups of three. It is played using two bamboo sticks with soft leather attached at the tips to produce a soft tone

 

culturalinfusion/soundinfusion-Jakhe

Jakhe, a plucked zither which produces a buzzing sound

 

Jakhe: The jakhe is a plucked zither that has Indian origin. It is approximately 140cm long and made of wood into a crocodile shape. It has raised frets made of bamboo and its strings are made of silk yarn, nylon or brass depending on their placement. It is played like a guitar, with one hand on the fret board and the other plucking stings, but makes a buzzing sound.

 

culturalinfusion/soundinfusion-GlongKhaek

Glong Khaek, a double-headed drum with Indonesian origin

Glong khaek: The glong khaek is a double headed barrel drum with Indonesian origin. There are two types of glong khaek:  the higher pitched glong khaek tua phu (which is considered to be male) and the lower pitched glong khaek tua mia (female). They are always played in a pair, usually by two players.

 

 

Dance

Examples of traditional Thai dances are:

Dance in Thailand can be divided into different categories including the Likay, which is a form of popular folk theater where the focus is on the actors’ improvisation skills. There is barely any decoration on stage and the performers wear extravagant costumes. Likay is a blend of music and dance along with a vaguely determined storyline.There are also numerous regional dances called Ram, the ritual dance Ram Muay and the homage to the teacher Wai Khru. The latter two usually take place before all traditional Muay Thai matches.


Ram Muay: A type of dance performed by the fighters as a warm up activity but also to show respect to the audience, to Buddha and to the others by putting their hands together in the form of a prayer. In this dance, the performer will circle around the ring for three times before kneeling and bowing three times. Ram literally means dance and Muay stands for fight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some interesting facts:

  • Thailand is the world’s leading exporter of rice.
  • Muay Thai, or Thai boxing, is the national sport in Thailand.
  • In Thailand the head is considered the most sacred and the foot the dirtiest part of the body, so it is taboo to touch someone’s head or point towards them with your feet.

Thai community in Australia:

More information on the Thai community: