Visual arts in Thailand owes much to the Buddhist religion. When it comes to music and dance the traditions are more widespread than religion. They come from the different ethnic groups as well as neighbouring countries. Literature has certainly been influenced by Hinduism originating in India for example while paintings even take European ideas even though Thailand, formerly Siam, was never ruled by a European colonial power. Traditionally drama has always been in the form of dance, rather than narrated theatre though shadow Nang drama is performed in the south while folklore has always been important. All these elements are evident in today’s Thailand and those who decide on a Thailand holiday, and book an organised Thailand tour package can expect an element of music and art as they travel around the Country.
There are two main forms of Thai dance, classic and folk. Both are elegant and even though locally ‘western style entertainment’ has become increasingly popular, traditional dance and performance survives. Tourists may well enjoy it while sitting down to dinner with several courses. Khantoke evenings though northern by culture may be available elsewhere in Thailand, especially those places popular with tourists enjoying Thailand travel. If you want the complete experience, then you should be seated on a mat on the ground but not show the soles of your feet to anyone; it is rude.
Khon and Lakhon Nai were solely performed for royalty at one time so a third, Likay, was developed for ordinary people to enjoy.
The Menora dance is certainly a development from India and there are folk and regional performances as well which Thailand private tours may offer for travellers in Thailand.
Thai dance is generally slow and graceful. Women and men dressed in colourful national costume need to learn a number of basic steps and mime the traditional stories from local history. There are 108 different movements that must be strictly adhered to. The upper body is always straight and only the knees are allowed to bend to perform and up and down movement. Hands and fingers are important as well so inevitably there is plenty of focus on the hands. Fingernails are sometimes as long as six inches and are themselves artistic features of the dances.
Music comes in the same two forms, classical and folk, Piphat and Mor lam. The former was played in the royal court many hundreds of years ago. It was strongly influenced by the Khmer with some evidence of India as well. Today there are three classic styles, the Piphat, Khrueang sai and Mahori which are played with similar instruments including cymbals and wooden sticks, drums and gongs but there the similarity ends. No one knows who composed the tunes that have been played down the years
Thai orchestras are like to have a xylophone (ranad), a stringed instrument played like a violin (sa-law) and flutes, phin pia and khlui. The music is ideal as a background but it is clearly enjoyable to sit and listen if you are attending a performance evening.
In the north, the music is somewhat different. If you have ever seen a snake charmer the music is reminiscent of what he plays.
Thailand has plenty of good modern performers playing songs that will remindtourists of the ‘’West’. Sometimes performers sing in English but Thai lends itself perfectly well to such music. This is very up to date music and a good contrast to what was played years ago, and what is still available for those wanting to listen to the past and Thai cultural music.