Music lovers will be in their element in Thailand as the country is passionate about great music and embraces all types of genres. Even His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej is a jazz enthusiast and accomplished saxophonist.
As well as playing in jazz bands, performing Dixieland and New Orleans jazz numbers, the king has also written 48 musical compositions and tried his hand at everything from waltzes to traditional Thai music.
Thailand’s vibrant music scene
Bangkok has a wide variety of venues where you can really immerse yourself in the music scene. The city is home to some highly renowned jazz bars, such as Brown Sugar on Phra Sumen Road and Saxophone on Phayathai Road (Victory Monument). Thailand even has its own jazz music festival. The Bangkok Jazz Festival has been held annually since 2003 in honour of the His Majesty the King. Usually held over three days in December, a number of internationally acclaimed jazz musicians perform and up to 30,000 people attend.
For an authentic Thai experience, Bangkok’s National Theatre features regular Khon performances, a traditional mask dance accompanied by Thai music. Shows are held the first Saturday and Sunday of each month.
Any music lover visiting Thailand should definitely check out the Pattaya International Music Festival. This three day musical extravaganza is one of Asia’s largest beach festivals. Held annually in Chon Buri, the festival features a wide range of genres, from pop and rock to hip-hop and R ‘n’ B, and attracts some big name acts from Thailand and around the world. There is even a colourful theme each year for those who enjoy dressing up.
Traditional Thai music
Pop music is on the rise in Thailand; however, strong Government support for the arts means you can still experience traditional Thai music performances countrywide.
The wide variety of influences in traditional Thai music reflects the country’s geographical position and trading history. Elements of Indian, Persian, Chinese and Indonesian music can all be found in traditional Thai music, from the notes and rhythms to the instrumentation.
There are three main styles of traditional Thai music; Piphat, Khrueang Sai and Mahori. These can feature four different instrument groups; woodwind, strings, melodic percussion and rhythmic percussion.
Piphat is one of the most iconic and popular forms of Thai classical music. It symbolises the dancing of Thailand’s ancient dragons and is usually played by a mid-size orchestra featuring instruments such as gong chimes, barrel drums and xylophones.
This delicate style of music is primarily heard accompanying stick puppet theatre; also known as Thai Hoon Grabok. It uses a variety of wind, percussion and string instruments. As Thai Hoon Grabok is deeply influenced by Chinese puppetry styles, the string sections are reminiscent of traditional Chinese music.
Mahori is a type of classical music traditionally played by woman in the courts of Thailand and Cambodia. Originally it was performed using small instruments as it was believed it would be easier for female musicians; however, nowadays regular sized instruments are used. The orchestra is also accompanied by a vocalist who features more prominently compared to other traditional Thai music forms.