The Thai people have incorporated a superb sense of the aesthetic and a lively imagination to create some of the most inspiring performance arts in the entire region of Asia.
Thai performing arts include the elaborate and colourful dance-dramas that have enchanting and graceful movements that lead to the most stylistically and dazzling dance forms in the world. While a lot of importance is put on the traditional drama and dance, this isn’t all that Thailand has to offer.
The cultural landscape in Thailand also includes the vibrant independent movie scene, contemporary theatre, and a few genres of indigenous music. In addition to this is the Thai literature which is a useful source of inspiration and creativity for the performing arts.
The pii-phaat or traditional Thai orchestra makes use of a variety of unique instruments with 5-20 members, and mostly goes with a dance performance. Typical instruments included in the orchestra include the khlui, phin pia, two bamboo flutes, a sa-law (resembles a bow-shaped instrument), and a ranad (floor based xylophone). The sound produced by the ensemble can range from a steady metronomic rhythm to a mid-tempo melody. This music can make a pleasant and charming experience and often played as background music in places like restaurants while dining on the Thailand holidays.
The music in northern Thailand can sound slightly different and makes use of alternative instruments, which can exclude the phin pia and sa-law. Also, the sound of the flute can make a more aggressive sound and seem quite nasal sounding.
The contemporary music scene in Thailand continues to gather momentum with a very active industry that is seeing the emergence of gifted singers and many pop stars. Most of this music is sung in the local Thai language, but the production ability and song writing is still of a professional standard. The music in the north east of the country is attracting wider support and is styled on modern rock.
Thai traditional dancing and music is a common sight on the Thailand travel packages and performed for the foreign travellers up and down the country. The government puts a lot of importance into maintaining the origins of the country’s traditional music and dance.
The majority of the graphic arts relate to art associated with the Buddhist temples or other religious buildings. This can include sculptures in a variety of materials such as stone, stucco, and wood, as well as bronze castings of Buddha and mural paintings. Elsewhere there are the local traditions like painting on canvas or paper, weaving, plaiting, ceramics, wood carving, silverware, gold work, mother-of-pearl inlay and lacquerware.
In the early Bangkok and Ayutthaya periods, there was an interest in creating common and royal textile traditions. The nobility sourced the fabrics from countries like Persia (modern-day Iran), India and China, while also receiving a wide range of textiles from neighbouring regions as tribute. The majority of the common people created their own clothing up until the 19th century, when the imported fabric because a lot more widespread.
Thailand is still seen to make use of regional weaving styles that can include the creation of unique hand-woven items that are sold in urban areas to elite customers and travellers on the Thailand customized tour. The use of textiles is very popular in the country with plenty of national, regional and local fairs and competitions taking place throughout the year.
A style of painting in Thailand includes tempera, which is the creation of pictures on paper or cloth, as well as murals on temple walls. The most popular themes relate to Buddhist themes. The majority of the artistic styles were influenced by southern India and Sri Lanka, while the inspiration was also taken from the west and China in later years. A lot of artwork created by Western artists was imported by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V).
Prominent pieces of art were those related to realistic statues and painted portraits. King Vajiravudh made an attempt to revive the traditional art in 1910 and created several arts schools, including the Arts and Crafts School and Department of Fine Arts. A major figure that was appreciated for creating modern art at the time was Italian-born sculpture Corrado Feroci. By 1949, the Fine Arts University was holding a national exhibition, which is now an annual event that showcases the state of contemporary art in the country.
The majority of the artwork created by today’s Thai artists has a close similarity to the pieces created in North America and Europe – although the imported styles are used to create the images that relate to the national culture.
The local folk dances in Thailand led to the development of classical dance which took inspiration from several of the leg and arm movements, as well as the elaborate hand gestures used in Indian. Most of this dance style started with the Khmer and Mon cultures. There are several of the dance forms that are seen in the Sukhotai stone inscriptions. In Thailand, the 18th century is seen as a golden time for dance drama and classical dance. Even though a lot of the dancers and musicians were removed by the Burmese after in the invasion in 1767, those that stayed free were able to teach performance skills to others throughout the early times of Bangkok.
The classic style of drama and dance was attacked by certain parts of ruling government in the 1970’s for the reason it was associated with the aristocracy. But with the return of power to the military in 1976, the art forms of a classical nature were given more prominence. Shortly after a national drama and dance festival was held across the country that intended to glorify the country's past. Today, there are various types of performance arts that are popular, which varies between the modern, folk and classical.
The style of folk dance applies to a particular region of the country. Plus, musical instruments change with the different dance style. In the central regions of the country, the dance style has taken influence from courtly traditions. For those in the south of the country on the Thailand tours it is possible to notice the dance styles have been influenced by South Indian and Sri Lankan traditions. For the more unique styles of dance, this often relates to the ethnic minorities.