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  • Writer's pictureRhythmatist

Thai drums

Thailand has a fascinating array of drums owing to a rich history of classical and folk music, diverse hill-tribe population and its position in the center of SE Asia where it brought in influences from other neighboring countries.

The most commonly used drum in Thailand is the Taphon pictured at right. The Taphon is a double-sided rack-mounted drum about 1 foot in diameter and two feet in length. The playing style resembles the kendang/gendang style that is prevalent in SE Asia. It is usually played accompanying a wood xylophone and can be seen in Cambodia and Thailand. There are four basic tones for each skin: center, rim, closed center and opposite closed center strikes. Performances can be seen in Hindu shrines in Bangkok where devotees will pay musicians and dancers to do dances for the gods in thanks for some favor granted. The Sawngna is a similar drum without the rack mount but the same intricate weave of leather straps for tightening the skins.

The Thon, a small goblet drum is also used in Thai traditional music. The Thon is similar to the Middle Eastern doumbek and darbuka in its shape except for that the open end of the drum is tapered. The drum is made of lathe-spun wood which is covered with goat skin. It is played simultaneously with the Rammana which is a small frame drum. The Thon Mahori, pictured right is made of ceramic, Thon Chatri are made of lathe-spun wood.

Another drum that is used for within temple and shrines of Thailand is a ceremonial drum pictured at left. Though it resembles the Japanese Taiko in shape and size, these drums are used to announce Buddhist ceremonies. The northern region of Thailand that borders with Laos and Myanmar is mountainous and relatively undeveloped. In this area, dozens of nomadic hill-tribes live agrarian lifestyles without electricity or other modern comforts. These hill-tribes have unique drums developed by their tribe such as this Mien tribe drum pictured at left with tuning pegs hammered in a radial pattern to tighten the head. These traditional hill-tribe drumming styles can be seen in the northern city of Chiang Mai.

The Glawng Yao, pictured right is a drum remarkably similar to the African Djembe in its playing style. However, the neck of the drum is long and slender with a trumpet-like base. This drum is seldom seen in performances around southern Thailand (Bangkok) but can be seen in the northern areas around Chiang Mai. It is more of a festive folk drum than an accompanying drum as the drums mentioned above.

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