Musical Accompaniment to Muay Thai

In Muay Thai, rhythmic music accompanies the Wai Khru Ram Muay rituals as well as the actual contests themselves. This music is referred to as wong pee glong and is performed by four musicians, each with their own instrument: pee chawaa (Javanese oboe), glong kaek (a pair of Thai drums played by two musicians) and ching (small Thai cymbals).

Ching With its onomatopoeic name, the ching is a percussion instrument, which can best be described as a pair of diminutive but comparatively thick cymbals, measuring about 6 – 7 cm. (less than 3 inches) in diameter, fashioned from bronze or some other metal. The two parts are joined together by a cord, which passes through a small hole in the top of each. Unlike Western cymbals, which are brought together horizontally and usually fully, the rims only of the ching are impacted vertically, the right hand usually being the upper one.

Pee Chawaa This instrument is thought to have originated in India and come into Thailand through Indonesia, hence its name (chawaa = Java). The instrument is made from hardwood or ivory or a combination of the two, and consists of two main sections: a cylindrical body about 2 7cm. (nearly 11 inches) long with seven holes for fingering; and a lower bulbous, bell-shaped section which is about 14 cm. (5 inches) in length. The mouth-piece consists of 2 pairs of reeds attached to a small metal tube which is inserted into the top end of the body of the instrument, the join being made airtight by wrapping thread around It. A small piece of convex metal or, more traditionally, a fragment of coconut shell, functions as a mouth rest or supporter when the instrument is being played. The tone of the pee chawaa is, by turns, melancholy and frenetic, the Western oboe being probably the nearest approximation.

Glong Kaek This kind of drum has a cylindrical hardwood body measuring about 58cm. (23 inches) in length. The two heads at either end, which are made from calf- or goatskin tethered by leather thongs, are of unequal size: the lower-toned larger one is 20cm. (8 inches) in diameter, while the higher-toned smaller one measures 18cm. (7 inches). Both drumheads are played with the palms and fingertips. Glong kaek are played in differently pitched pairs by two musicians: the higher pitched drum is referred to as tua poo (the male), while the lower toned one is known as Wa mia (the female). A highly sophisticated and complex rhythm is formed by the inter-play between the two drums.

The tempo of the wong pee glong music varies according to what it is accompanying. A composition called “Salamaa” accompanies the Wal Khru Ram Muay the tempo is slow and stately to match the mood of the rituals, with a smooth, flowing rhythm. When the actual fight commences, a composition called “Kaeg Chao Sen” is played .The general tempo of this piece tempo is quicker and, at moments of tension or excitement during the match, it becomes even more frenetic. Undoubtedly, the music increases the atmosphere of the event, while if fighters are not going on the offensive ferociously enough, the music can urge them to rally and try even harder.