AE | Volumes | Asian Ethnology 77

From “Fǭn ngīeo” to “Selemao”

The Transformation of a Tai Yai Folk Melody

Jarun Kanchanapradit

Fǭn ngīeo musical relationship Thai folk songs Tai Yai



This article traces the transformation of a Tai Yai folk song into the celebrated Thai traditional melody known as "Fǭn ngīeo" ("Tai Yai dance") and the continued use of this melody in various forms. This well-known song has been reproduced in several musical styles such as phlēng Thai doēm (Thai classical music), phlēng lūk thung (Thai country song),phlēng lūk krung (Thai city song), and phlēng phư̄nbān khamư̄ang (Northern folk song). It was able to enter these mediated styles because of its adoption into the musical traditions of Chiang Mai's court, known as Khum čhao lūang. Structural similarities between "Fǭn ngīeo"and other Tai folk songs support the notion that common cultural elements are communicated through music.

Musical languages have developed in all cultures. Within Thailand, there is diversity of both spoken and musical languages and a diversity of factors that have led to their emergence, with the most significant being the large number of ethnic groups represented. Within the spoken languages of Thailand there are influences from Pali (from Theravada Buddhism), Sanskrit (from Brahmanism/Hinduism), Mon and Khmer (from human migration, trading, and war), and English and other European languages (from trading and modernization). Using words from outside specific language systems or dialects, as frequently occurs with Thai loan words, has a parallel in music, whereby rhythmic and melodic elements from other musical systems and traditions have been incorporated into Thai classical songs (known as phlēng Thai doēm). Thai musicians refer to this established practice as phlēng samnī ang phāsā (foreign accent songs). The foreign samnīang (accents) include Farang (Western), Khǣk (Indian), Čhīn (Chinese), Khamēn (Khmer), Mǭn (Mon), Lāo (Lao), Yūan (Vietnamese), Phamā (Burmese), and Ngīeo (Tai Yai/Shan).

The relationship between Thais and the Tai Yai or Shan has resulted in the melody that is the subject of this article. As with most folk and classical traditions in Southeast Asia, Thai traditional music is passed down orally from teacher to student. Consequently, the history of many Thai classical songs is not well documented and little is known about who wrote them or when. However, it is possible to reconstruct the development of "Fǭn ngīeo" ("Tai Yai dance")from the Tai Yai folk vocal melody "Sǭ ngīeo" and trace its use through Thai classical and popular music and Lannafolk songs. In doing so, it is also possible to show how music can act as a path that links different cultures and languages.

This is a musical case study of how Thai culture is influenced by, and absorbs elements from, neighboring ethnic groups. It traces the transformation of "Sǭ ngīeo," which is known to be a Tai Yai song from the Northern Lanna culture that predates the Ayutthaya (1351–1767) and Rattanakōsin (1782–present) Thai dynastic periods, into the Central Thai classical song known as "Selemao". In addition, analysis of musical structure provides a better understanding of the musical relationships between the Thai-Lao and Thai-Karen ethnic groups in Thailand.

The essay, therefore, has three sections. The first addresses the history of music in the Khum čhao lūang (royal palace of Chiang Mai) and the development of the "Fǭn ngīeo"melody. The second discusses the"Selemao"melody and its reproduction in Thai society. The third section is an analytical discussion of the song's structural properties.

Background of Ngīeo

The ancient kingdom of Lanna was located in what is now Northern Thailand. The capital of Lanna, Chiang Mai, formally became part of Siam in 1774, when the Siamese king, Tāksin, captured the city from the Burmese. In 1782 the Rattanakosin period began in Siam and in 1802, the first Rattanakosin king, Phutthayotfa Chulalok, or Rama I, split Lanna into a number of vassal states of Siam. The kings of Lampang and Chiang Mai governed an ethnically diverse citizenry that included Lao, Burmese, Tai Yai, Mon, and other ethnic groups commonly known as hill tribes. At that time, the Tai Yai lived in what are now the Shan states of Myanmar and the Northern Thai provinces of Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phrae, Lampang, and Nan. As Yasuda Sachiko writes, "Tai-language speaking people do not only reside in Burma; the creation of nation state borders resulted in the spreading of these people over various territories, including Thailand, Burma, Laos, Northern Vietnam, Southern China, and Northeastern India. Broadly speaking, they are divided into six groups: Tai-Long, Tai Nü, Tai Khün, Tai Khamti, Tai Lue and Tai Yuan" (Yasuda 2008, 16).

The ethnically Lao Lanna majority referred to the Tai Yaipeople as Ngīeo, a term that conveyed negative implications (Cadchumsang 2011, 48). When used by Northern Thai people today, the term Ngīeo refers to the hill tribe ethnic group, which is separate from Khon mư̄ang, a name used to avoid referring to the majority Northern Thai group as Lao. Despite this attempt to delineate difference, there has been transmission and exchange within various Lanna musical traditions. This wisdom commingled and resulted in contemporary Lanna musical identity.

History of music in the Khum Čhao Lūang

During the nineteenth century, the center for integrated Ngīeo and Lanna music was the Khum čhao lūang in Chiang Mai. The term Khum čhao lūang refers to the royal palace of Chiang Mai. The Khum čhao lūang hosted a range of artisans including tailors, sculptors, painters, musicians, dancers, and choreographers, and was the focal point of the arts and culture of Chiang Mai in the same way that the Grand Palace was the artistic center of the Bangkok Royal Court. His Royal Highness Prince Krom Phrayā Damrōngrāchānuphāp states, "It is said that the king of Chiang Mai, Kawilōrotsuriyawong, used to once perform as Inthǭrachit when he was a royal page under King Phra PhutthayǭtfāČhulālōk [Rama I]" (Damrōngrāchānuphāp 1921, 14).1 This shows that the king of Chiang Mai was well versed in Central Thai performance and music and had been influenced by Bangkok at an impressionable age. During the reign of Kawilōrotsuriyawong (1856–70), the sixth king of Chiang Mai, the Khum lūang court came under the direct political control of the royal court of Bangkok. The process of acculturation began immediately after Siam annexed Lanna.

Because Kawilōrotsuriyawong had two daughters but no son, the Bangkok royal court planned for the succession by adopting his younger brother, Inthawitchayānon, in 1853. Designated as Viceroy Inthanon, the young man was sent to Bangkok and educated in several branches of arts and science, including the masked musical theater of the Thai court known as khōn. After the passing of King Kawilōrotsuriyawong in 1870, Viceroy Inthanonwas sent back to Chiang Mai, where he was crowned the seventh king of Chiang Mai in 1873. During his reign (1873–97), he established the first royal Chiang Mai theatrical performance ensemble.

In 1884, King Čhulālongkǭn (Rama V) (1868–1910) announced his Monthon municipal provincial system, which turned the Chiang Mai kingdom into a group of provinces, andInthawitchayānon lost his status as king. This led to increased promotion of Central Thai culture in Chiang Mai, including the introduction of the royal khōn and Central Thai classical music, two important elements in the development of modern Northern music, drama, and dance. Chiang Mai was increasingly seen as a smaller duplicate of the Bangkok court. Saisawan Khayanying writes:

Due to profound familiarity with the culture and traditions of the Siamese Royal Court, King Inthawitchayānon (Inthanon) implemented several forms of culture and tradition of the Siamese Royal Court in his reign. There was the establishment of the Pīphāt ensemble and selection of royal dancers, or chāng fǭn, from the king's governors (Khayanying 2000, 13. All translations by the author unless otherwise noted.)

This is supported by the writing of Carl Bog, a British man who travelled to Chiang Mai in 1881. Concerning his reception meal at the Khum lūang, he wrote:

The show and the dance were interesting. They were trained by a Thai khrū so well that the performances were more appealing than in Bangkok. Even though the music was as slow as it was in Bangkok, but it was somehow more enchanting.(Puntarangsri; Teekara 2007, 35)

At this time, performances in the royal theatrical tradition in Chiang Mai were given by the group of Čhao Bunthawong, which was led by the Siamese Khrū Čhādand her husband, Khrū Chǭi, who was in charge of the musicians. Inthawitchayānoninvited khrū (teachers) from the Bangkok royal court to train the Khum lūang's artists to perform on various occasions, especially for the receiving of official visitors.

From the above records, it is clear that khōn, lakhǭn (unmasked theatre), and the percussion-based pīphāt ensembles were established inside the Khum lūang during the reign of King Inthawitchayānon, and as in the Bangkok royal court, the Northern court patronized these performances. Under the political and cultural control of Bangkok, the Northern governors may have viewed the Central Thai music and drama as more interesting and developed than indigenous dances. Whatever the motivation, Central Thai culture confirmed the political reality that Lanna and Chiang Mai had been subsumed into Siam.

Princess Dārā Ratsamī and the preservation of Lanna music

One of the key figures in the history of the integration of "Selemao"into the wider body of Thai music is Princess Dārā Ratsamī (1873–1933). A daughter of Inthawitchayānon, Dārā Ratsamī became one of Čhulālongkǭn's numerous consorts in 1886. This elevated her social standing as she was given the royal title Čhao Čhom Dārā Ratsamī, which means Princess Consort of King Čhulālongkǭn.2 However, in Bangkok she was always considered an outsider and both she and her retinue were referred to as "Lao ladies," who smelt of fermented fish sauce (plārā). 3

At court, Princess Dārā Ratsamī studied Thai traditional music under the most renowned Thai music khrūs of the time, including Chǭi Suntharawāthin and Plǣk Prasānsap. She also encouraged her cousins, Princess Būachum Na Chīangmai and Čhao Thepkanyā Na Chīangmai, to learn Thai as well as Western music. Dārā Ratsamī's entourage became renowned among the Bangkok royal court for the high quality of its music, which was comparable to other popular performing groups in the Bangkok royal court, such as the lakhōn Dưkdamban (a traditional dance-drama created in the style of Western opera) of Phrayā Thēwēt Wongwiwat, and the musical drama ensemble of Prince Naritsarā Nuwattiwong (Khayanying 2000, 69).

It appears that theatrical activities in Chiang Mai received a boost whenever Princess Dārā Ratsamī returned to Chiang Mai to visit her elder brother, Prince Inthawarōrot, and the rest of her family. On one occasion, she brought three plays from PrinceWǭrawannakǭn for Prince Inthawarōrot's ensemble to perform in a pagoda celebration ceremony at Wat Sūan Dǭk temple. The three plays—Phra lǭ tām kai (Phra lo follows chickens), Sāo khrư̄a fa (Miss Khrua Fa), and Inao—were performed entirely by the ladies of Prince Inthawarorot's court (Khayanying 2000, 71–73), demonstrating that the degree of skill of the performers in Chiang Mai was comparable to those in Bangkok.

The reign of Prince Inthawarōrot Suriyawong, the eighth ruler of Chiang Mai, (1901–10) saw more support for musical and theatrical activities. During this period the first trǣ wong (Western-style brass band) was established in Chiang Mai. This ensemble was trained by Khrū Muk Na Lamphūn and performed free of charge prior to the start of a lakhōn (drama), which began at around 5 p.m. The lakhōn group consisted of approximately fifty performers, most of whom were ladies of the king trained by Khrū Čhad. The drama performances were of Thai literary classics, such as Phra aphai manī (an epic poem written by Sunthorn Phu in 1821–23), Laksanāwong (an epic poem by Sunthorn Phu),and Inao (Chiang Mai University 1996, 148–49). In The Inao Drama Legend, Prince Damrōngrāchānuphāp described a performance of "the story of Inao at theprovinces in a huge theater." According to his account, groups that performed at the large Chiang Mai theater included the group of King Inthawitchayānon, the group of Prince Inthawarōrot, which maintained the dramatic style of Čhao Phraya Mahindra4 and had even performed for the king of Siam, and the group of Čhao Buntawatwongwānit, the ruler of Lampang (1921, 14).

From a musical perspective, the performance of theatrical music in the Chiang Mai royal court had become sufficiently entrenched that court musicians could accompany the play of Inao in the Central Thai style by the early 1900s. The masters brought from Bangkok to teach the Northern musicians were especially skilled in theatrical music, which they were personally responsible for teaching to performers in the Chiang Mai royal court. However, there is no irrefutable evidence for which particular Thai music master was the principal teacher, and thus the dominant influence, in the Chiang Mai royal court. Teerayut Yuangsri claims that KhrūChǭi, the husband of Khrū Čhad's mother, taught in Chiang Mai royal court (Yuangsri 1991, 15). However, Khayanying writes that Plǣk Prasansap "spent the later part of his life as a music teacher in the palace of Prince Inthawarorot for several years" (Khayanying 2000, 60). So it is possible that Khrū Plǣk, who was then aged in his forties, taught in Chiang Mai during the period 1901–10 and was thus responsible for raising the standard of Northern lakhōn and pīphāt performance to their peak.

The cultural reform of Lanna music and dance (1915–33)

Following the passing of King Čhulālongkǭn in 1910, Princess Dārā Ratsamī stayed in Bangkok until 1914. However, his death reduced her status from consort to royal widow. This affected her income (Hong 1998, 339) and prompted her to return to Chiang Mai permanently to help her brother, Prince Kǣo Nawarat (r. 1911–39), develop Chiang Mai. In the early days of her return she resided in his palace, where there were already performing musicians and lakhōn dancers. During this period, she assisted in training these performers. This marked the beginning of a period that saw the royal court of Chiang Mai competing with the musical and theatrical performance styles and standards of the royal court of Bangkok. When Dārā Ratsamī moved to Dārāphirōm Palace in 1927, she encouraged training in the Central Thai dramatic arts there, making these two palaces important centers for the study of Thai dramatic arts and music.

In Watchanee Measamarn's description of the music teachers in the Khum čhao lūang she noted that "During Čhao Dārā Ratsamī's stay at the Royal Palace of the Prince Kǣo Nawarat, there was constant revision of music and dance groups" (Measamarn 2000, 36–37). In 1925 Prince Kǣo Nawarat announced his desire to further strengthen the music and dance of Chiang Mai. Upon hearing the news, celebrated Bangkok court musician Lūang Pradit Phairǫ(also known as Sǭn Sinlapabanlēng) recommended Sa-ngat Yamakhup move to the North along with his wife, Lamun Yamakhup, who was an expert in Thai drama. Through their teaching, from 1925–31 these two khrūs further influenced the music and drama in the Royal Palace of Prince Kǣo Nawarat.

After the 1932 coup that deposed the absolute monarchy, Chat Suntharawātin and Chǭ Suntharawātin also came to teach in Khum čhao lūang, following an invitation from Khrū Rǭd Aksǭntup. The two helped Khrū Rǭd in directing drama, (khōn) puppet shows, and the lakhǭ nrǭng Prīdālai (singing play). The status of Thai classical music was so adversely affected in the decade following the 1932 coup that Chat and Chǭ returned to Bangkok in 1941 to become pīphāt teachers for the renowned Kœdphon family at Ban Mai in Ayutthayā province. Upon their retirement from that post in 1943, they returned to the North and remained inLampang province until their deaths (see Phātthayarat 2012).

Origin of " Fǭn Ngīeo"

While the Chiang Mai royal court tried to match the standard of Central Thai-based music and dramatic arts with that of the Bangkok royal court, Dārā Ratsamī also supported traditional Lanna-style performance in these fields. According to Akins and Bussakorn, she refined the choreography of Northern dances and "oversaw improvements to the construction of musical instruments, notably making the salo more durable" (Akins; Binson 2011, 245). In 1927, Dārā Ratsamī displayed these innovations in performances welcoming King Rama VII to Chiang Mai, thus legitimizing Northern customs and equating them with the fine classical traditions of Siam. Shahriari states:

She also tried to create a common identity that included all inhabitants of the former Lanna kingdom, not just the residents of the major cities. In constructing a concept of Lanna culture, she considered the many ethnic groups that were not previously considered part of the khōn mūang mainstream population, such as the Tai Yai (Shan) and hill dwelling populations, primarily the Karīeng (Karen), to be part of the Lanna-Thai culture (Shahriari 2001, 64)

This inclusive notion of Lanna-Thai culture incorporates the previously excluded Burmese and Tai Yai and their arts, including varieties of the fǭn (a general term for dance in the North and Northeast) dance.

"Fǭn mān mui chīang tā" is a dance adapted from a movement in a Burmese court dance.The "Fǭn lēb" (fingernail dance) dance was inspired by blending local Northern dance movements with those of the Bangkok Royal Court. "Fǭn ngīeo" was adapted from the local Northern Thai drum plays of the Tai Yai.

The movements of the "Fǭn ngīeo"dance were first choreographed by Khrū Lōng Bunčhulōng, a dance master of Khum čhao lūang. Thai scholar Khayanying writes:

Although her specialty was dramatic theater, Khrū Lōng had mastered the art of indigenous fǭn dance to its perfection. Accordingly, she was made responsible for teaching both fǭn and theater in Khum čhao lūang. She was one of the driving forces during folk performance reform in the Princess Dārā Ratsamī's palace. She was known for her ability to remember dance movements at first sight and make suitable adjustments in her own choreography when required. KhrūLong choreographed "Fǭn ngīeo"by adapting movements from a lively klong mong sœng (percussion performance in which the musicians dance) of the Ngīeo or Tai Yai, in which the performers recited a poem along with striking the klong mong sœng drum. (Khayanying 2000, 85–86)

As with most folk music, which is passed down from generation to generation as an oral tradition, there is no clear evidence as to who wrote or arranged the music accompanying "Fǭn ngiao." Only the musicians' names of that period are recorded. These are the abovementioned Chǭi, and his students Som, who played khǭng wong yai (a set of circular vertical gongs), Khām—son of Som—who played ranāt ek (a xylophone with a set of hardwood keys suspended over a boat-shaped wooden body)and Wang, who played the membranophones (Yuangsri 1991, 64). However, because prominent musicians Rǭd Aksǭntup and Chan Aksǭntubwere in Chiang Mai in 1915, where they first earned a living by accompanying performances of the folk theater genre li-kē at Srīnakhǭnphing Theater before moving into the palace as music teachers (Khayanying 2000, 87), it is possible, although not certain, that Rǭd Aksǭntup was instrumental in creating and arranging the accompanying music for "Fǭn ngīeo."

Music for "Fǭn Ngīeo"

An historic publication of The College of Dramatic Arts Chiang Mai (2013) includes Dārā Ratsamī's conceptual repertoires for accompanying "Fǭn ngīeo."This source claims that "Fǭn ngīeo"played a vital role in asserting the identity of the Tai Yai in Lanna, through the use of the "Sǭ ngīeo" melody. The melody and lyrics of "Fǭn ngīeo"evoke the Ngīeo orTai Yai who inhabited the mountains of Northern Thailand. Sometime later the lyrics of "Fǭn ngīeo"were revised and the new lyrics became part of the song now known as "Selemao,"which is so called because the lyrics start with the word se-le-mao. Originally, the lyrics of "Selemao"consisted of four verses, but only the first two are sung nowadays (see figures 1–2).

" Selemao" (Thai lyrics and transliteration)




เฮยปี้เฮย ผ้าสีปูเลยป้าดเกิ่งตุ้มเกิ่ง





selemao bā dīao pan kwāng

pai sǫ sư̄ čhāng kǭ dai pū ek ngā khāo

ao pai lāk mai kǭ ti čhīang sǣn kǭ čhīang dāo

hœ̄ī pī hœ̄ī pasī pū lœ̄i pat kœ̄ tum kœ̄ng

selemao bā dīao pǭk sǭk

pai len pai pǭk kǭ sīa tœ̄ng lūk kǭ tœ̄ng lān

len pai hǣm nǭi kǭ sīang tưng pin kǭ tưng lān

nǫ pī nǫ čha khī hư̄ hǫ khưn bōn ‘a-kāt

In addition to "Selemao," the "Fǭn ngīeo"dance suite included several other melodies with specially composed lyrics. These dances were linked by the drum beat, which imitated the poetic meter and performance style of klōng mōng sœ ̄ ng,a percussion performance in which the musicians dance.The "Phamā ram khwān" ("Burmese axe dance") melody is the first in the suite, followed by "Phamā pang ngǭ" and"Tāi krāo talung" before the new "Fǭn ngīeo"lyrics accompanied the playing of the sǭng ngīeo melody. This was followed by two renditions of the "Selemao" melody, the first with a mixture of original and new lyrics and then an instrumental version.

Figure 1: Score of the first verse of the "Selemao" melody.

Figure 2: Thai Notation of "Selemao"melody. The cipher notation indicates pitch as follows: D=Do, R=Re, M=Mi, S-Sol, L=La. The melody is primarily pentatonic using the scale degrees DRMSL (Do-Re-Mi-Sol-La).

(See 5 for cipher notation)

Khrū Lamun Yamakhup introduced a revised version of the "Fǭn ngīeo" dance to the Fine Arts Department in Bangkok in 1934. In 1935 "Fǭn ngīeo"was listed in the curriculum of The College of Dramatic Arts, the Fine Arts Department, Bangkok, but without "Phamā ram kwān," "Phamā pang ngǭ," and "Tai krāo talung"(Measamarn 2000, 26). The revised version of "Fǭn ngīeo" was more compact but still retained the original pattern of "Fǭn ngīeo" lyrics, the "Selemao"melody, and the synchronized movement with drum beats called mong sœ̄ng, which imitates the playing of klong mong sœ̄ng.

" Fǭn ngīeo" lyrics, transliteration, and translation









มงคลเตพดา ทุกแห่งหน


มงคลเตพดา ทุกแห่งหน


gkhǭ ūay čhai phut thi krai čhūay kam

song khun lœ̄t lam pai tuk thūa tūa ton

čhong dai hab sappha ming mong kon

nā tān nā khǭ thēwā čhūay haksā tœ

Let us praise with the support of Buddha's might for the inimitable grace that prevails

May you receive all those favorable auspices, and protected by guardian angels

Live happily by the might of Dhamma. The divine will aid merry living.

(Author's translation)

Figure 3: Score of the verse of the "Fǭn ngīeo" melody that added a new verse to the original.

Figure 4: Thai notation for "Fǭn ngīeo."

The new "Fǭn ngīeo"lyrics (see figure 3) combined with the old "Selemao"melody were pioneered by Lamun Yamakhup and became widely recognized. Nowadays the song is popular among Thai musicians and retains an important place in the music curriculum, which ensures that it is taught in educational institutes throughout Thailand. Because of its popularity among performers, people came to be familiar only with Lamun Yamakhup's version of "Fǭn ngīeo," while the original "Fǭn ngīeo"of Čhao Dārā Ratsamī, which is only transmitted within The College of Dramatic Arts Chiang Mai, was rarely performed or heard.

Thus, events inside the Khum čhao lūang were vital to the origins of "Fǭn ngīeo" as it made the transition from dance accompaniment to the discrete song Selamao with lyrics based on the melody of "Sǭ ngīeo" (vocal song of Tai Yai people in Northern Thai), an iconic ngīeo folk song of Lanna. The next section discusses the development of the "Fǭn ngīeo"song through various Thai musical genres such as Thai classical music, Thai popular music, and Lannafolk song. To avoid complications, the writer will use the term "Selemao" to refer to the original melody of the "Fǭn ngīeo"song, whereas the term "Fǭn ngīeo"will refer only to the dance.

"Selemao" in Thai classical music

After Lamun Yamakup introduced “Fǭn ngīeo” to the Bangkok public in 1935, Thai classical music masters recognized the accompanying melody “Selemao” as a new accent—a ngīeo-accented song—and referred to this new song as “Selemao sǭng chan” (chan, means rhythmic level). In 1952 the renowned Thai musician Bunyong Ketkhong (later honored as a National Artist) from the Government Public Relations Department rearranged “Selemao” for the Thai classical ensemble, giving birth to a new Thai classical repertoire, which he later named “Ngīeo ramlưk thao” (Ngīeo commemoration) (1986). Ngīeo refers to the Tai Yai ethnic people, ramlưk means to commemorate, and thao is a type of musical form used in Thai classical repertoire that combines the three rhythmic levels—sām (third) chan, which is half the tempo, song (second) chan, which is the original tempo, and chan dīeo (first), which is twice the tempo—with each level maintaining the essential melodic structure. Khrū Bunyong’s “Ngīeo ramlưk thao” follows the principles of thao composition, which uses augmentation to create a sām chan melody and reduction to create a chan dīeo melody. A new set of lyrics for these sections, composed by Kongsak Khamsiri and Jamnīan Srīthaiphan, created a new lyrical melodic variation for the song.

The style of the augmented and slow sām chan melody is complex and delicate, using the most advanced playing techniques of the numerous instruments. In keeping with Thai practice, Khrū Bunyong left room in the piece for the musicians to interpret in their own way (thāng). A feature of Khrū Bunyong's version is that it also includes an introduction section, which is not typically present in thao form. Khrū Bunyong's introduction presents the characteristics of ngīeo rhythm by imitating the rhythm of the drums, gongs, and cymbals used to accompany traditional "Fǭn ngīeo" dance. Following compositional practice, the structure of the original "Selemao"melody is unchanged and decorated with the addition of idiomatic melodic embellishments for aesthetic purposes. KhrūBunyong's "Ngīeo ramlưk thao"signified the complete transmission of ngīeo music into the classical music tradition of Central Thailand.

Figure 5: Score of the "Ngīeo ramlưk thao" melody of Bunyong Ketkhong.

Figure 6 illustrates how the composer preserves the original structure of "Selemao" (see the aforementioned "Selemao" Thai lyrics and transliteration) by retaining the scale structure of the melody and the ending tone structures (luk tok) of L, L, L, S, L, M, D, L (La, La, La, Sol, La, Mi, Do, La).

Figure 6: "Ngīeo ramlưk sǭng chan," which is part of "Ngīeo ramlưk thao." Notation created by Bunyong Ketkhong.

In addition to this the ornamentation of the melody appears, which completes the melodic detail of each measure and, more importantly, provides the basis for the original introduction section. Khrū Bunyong's aim was for the introduction to comprise rhythmic elements of the percussion accompaniment of fǭn ngieo_, which is heard as mong sæ mong sæ sæ mong talum tum mong. He uses only two important structural notes, the lower La (A) moving to the higher Mi (E). The composer has also specified the method of playing the introduction for pīphāt instruments by starting with the third interval followed by the technique called sabat, which involves the rapid striking of the three successive notes Do Re Mi, as shown on the first beat in measures two and three in figure 7.

Figure 7: A comparison of how to create melodies from drum patterns.

The use of "Selemao" in Westernized genres

The first known adaptation of Western music styles and instruments into Thai society was in 1851 when King Mongkut (Rama IV) introduced Western-style military brass bands (trǣ wong) (Miller 2008, 179–80). During the reign of the following monarch, King Čhulālongkǭn, one of his sons, the skilled musician Prince Bōriphat Sukhumpha, began composing pieces for the trǣ wong using Western music theories. This led to him being commemorated as the “Father of Thai popular music” (Chakat Ratchaburi in Nanongkham 2011, 128). In 1912 King Wachirāwut (Rama VI) started the first Western string ensemble in the Royal Court, named “The Royal Farang String Ensemble.” He also established the Phrān Lūang School in 1917 to teach Western music and give performances of trǣ wong and Thai classical music to the public. The school included tuition by the American Phra Čhēn Duriyāng and, according to James Mitchell, it contributed directly to the development of phlēng Thai sākon (universal Thai song): “After the absolute monarchy was overthrown in 1932, the wong krư̄angsāy farang lūang was disbanded and its musicians were forced to enter the emerging popular music scene” (Mitchell 2015, 10). The most influential of these musicians was Khrū Ư̄a Sunthǭnsanān (1910–81), otherwise known as Suntharāphǭn, who, in 1939, became the leader of the official band for Prime Minister Plǣk Phibunsongkhram’s Krom Kosanākān (Department of Propaganda) (Mitchell 2015, 11). Saman Naphayon wrote that Prasit Silapabanleng coined the name Suntharaphǭn by combining Khrū Ư̄a’s surname with his wife’s first name, A-phǭn (1983, 46). It was Ư̄a Sunthǭnsanān who first made the transmission of “Selemao” into Thai popular music possible.

In 1952, the Department of Propaganda changed its name to the Public Relations Department (Krom Prachasamphan), and its director, M. L. Khāp Kunchǭn, established a combined Thai–Western music band known as Sangkhīt Samphan. The first experimental piece for the band was "Khmēn sai yǭk" ("Sai Yok waterfall in Cambodian accent"). This was sung by Thasani Duriyapranit and broadcast by Radio Thailand Station in 1954 to positive feedback from audiences (Yothinchatchawa 2001 2000, 34). Perhaps the most popular piece of music that combined Western and Thai elements by the Government Public Relations department was "Kratae" ("Chipmunk"), sung byWinai Julabusapa and Chawali Chuangwit and recorded at the Kamon Sukoson studio in 1955. Demand for the song was so high that its publisher, His Master's Voice (known as mā dǣng or red dog in Thailand, because the record series's label was red and featured the famous Nipper illustration) had to send abroad for further copies to be made (ibid, 35).

This new public appetite for combinations of Thai and Western music led to the success of a popular music version of “Selemao,” which was arranged by Suntharāphǭn and recorded by Srisuda Rachatawan in 1954. Suntharāphǭn’s combined music or sangkhit samphan band version of “Selemao” is in the style of ramwong (circle dance introduced by Phibunsongkhram during WWII). 6 In 1946 Krū Ư̄a Sunthǭnsanan adapted the original melody of “Selemao” and new lyrics were composed by Kǣo Atchariyakun according to the old lyrical melody. The name of the song remained the same but was spelt and pronounced differently due to the lower intonation of the first syllable, “sē”. In this case, the change in melody resulted in a change in spelling but did not affect the meaning of the word. Initiated by M. L. Khāp Kunchǭn, the reproduction of “Selemao” in the form of Thai popular music was part of the first phase of development of dontrī Thai prayuk (adapted Thai music). The reproduction was facilitated by several prominent Thai classical and Thai popular musicians to create a new music genre that was well accepted by both classical and popular audiences.

Kannapon Yothinchatchawa explains that one of the composing techniques of Suntharaphǭn'sSangkhīt Samphan ensemble was to perform Thai classical music in the traditional manner, retain the original name, as was the case with"Selemao," but apply new lyrics (2001, 49). This composition and performance method was applied to numerous Thai classical songs, including"Phet nǭi" ("Little duck"), "Nāng khrūan" ("Woman's lament"), "Thǭranī kansæng" ("The earth spirit cries"), "Nok sī chomphu" ("Pink bird"), "Sārathī" ("Driver"), "Thalē bā" ("Crazy sea"), "Khlư̄n krathop fang" ("Wave crashes onto the shore"), "Thā nam" ("Harbor"), "Wētsukam" ("Vishnu Hindu god"), "Mān mongkhon" ("Sacred curtain"), "Bai klang", "Mǣ srī" ("Mother Sri"), "Sālikā chom dư̄an" ("Magpie looks at the moon"), "Sut sanguan" ("Most reserved"), "Khrūan hā" ("Lament for former lover"), "Lao duang dǭkmai" ("Lao moon flower"), "Fang nām" ("Waterfront"), "Sǭi sǣng dǣng" ("Light-red necklace"), and "Selemao" (2001, 50).

The adaptation of these songs by the Sangkhīt Samphan ensemble was the first stage of development by the Krom Prachāsamphan ensemble in combining Thai and Western elements. There were three reasons for doing this: Firstly, M. L. Khāp Kunchǭn wanted to popularize phlēng Thai dœ ̄ m (Thai classical songs) that were well known among the musicians in his band. Secondly, he wished to test the response of the Thai audiences familiar with phlēng Thai dœ ̄ m to this innovation of hybridization. Thirdly, he wanted to show that Thai classical music could be integrated with Western music. The lyrics and figures below are the work of Suntaraphon, who used the main melody of Selemao but wrote new lyrics for his band.

Suntharāphǭn's "Selemao"

Selemao, the land of our ancestors

fertile and plentiful, we all harvest its fruits

and sow across the fields. Shilling is to earn, crop is to reap.

Reap, reap, oh reap. Reap all that is to reap within one's rice field;

treasure hides under the soil for us, the Thais, to pick. We reap,

surely reap, our very own crop definitely can sustain the world.

We reap, when it comes to reaping, we do it like it's gold. (Author's translation)

Figure 8: Score of Suntharāphǭn's "Selemao."

Suntharāphǭn's "Selemao"

Figure 9: Thai Notation of "Selemao" by Suntharāphǭn.

In Suntharāphǭn's "Selemao" (see figures 8 & 9) the composer preserves the original melodic contour and structural essence of the original "Selemao" by retaining the ending tones (luk tok) in the fourth and the eighth measures of almost every line. With the exception of the eighth measure of the third line, which uses a different ending note (Do instead of the original Mi), the original melodic outline of the song is used with minor changes to suit vocal intonation.

During the 1950s, Thai popular music split into two branches, which Mitchell summarizes as phlēng chīwit (life songs) or phlēng talāt (market songs), and phlēng phūdī (good people's songs), before these categories were more strictly defined:

luk thung and luk krung, although it is a more accurate generalization to consider luk thung of the 1960s a hybrid of phleng chiwit and ramwong, and luk krung a hybrid of phleng phudi and Western pop. (Mitchell 2015, 52)

During the 1960s the popular music industry was flourishing and new bands were emerging. The concept for composing lūk thung and _lūk krung_was based primarily on the process of adapting melodies from Thai classical music with new lyrics and combining Western and Thai instruments. Lūk thung music also derived its melodies from rural folk songs in regional Thailand. Later, these provincial influences were instrumental in the creation of distinctive music genres of their own, such as lūk thung Isān and lūk thung khamm ư̄ ang (Northern country songs).

There are many examples of Thai popular music, both lūk thung and lūk krung, which borrow the melody of "Selemao," including "Khōn Bangkok mai mī hūa čhai" ("Bangkok people have no heart"), sung byPhonthipha Buranakitbamrung and composed by Phayong Mukda; "Thōn" ("Carry over the head") for a filmin 1970, sung by Sangthong Sisai and composed by Suchat Thianthorng; "Ramwong chom sawan" ("Watching heaven circle dance") by Suntharāphǭn;and "Toei čha" sung by Yodrak Salakjaiand composed by Cholathi Thanthorng.

In Northern Thailand, "Selemao" has also been rearranged in the style of lūk thung khamm ư̄ ang. Yanathep Aromoon noted that "Selemao" was reproduced as a lūk thung khamm ư̄ ang song for the first time in Chiang Mai by Siriphong Srikosai, a radio producer and the founder of the Sompetch music band (2011, 35). The song was sung by Veerapol Kumongkol and released in 2013 under the title "Num sǭ rǭ fǣn" ("Young boy sings and waits for his girlfriend").

From "Selemao" to folk song "Khammư̄ang"

During the 1970s the popularity of lūk thung was threatened by the rising popularity of string (Thai pop) and phlēng phư̄a chīwit (songs for life). Young Thais were particularly drawn to the American-style songs for life bands, which used acoustic guitar, mouth organ, and banjo. The year 1977 saw the debut of Jarun Manopetch, a Chiang Mai musician who played in the folk style known as khammư̄ang, which is an easy-listening genre combining American country and western music with Lanna folk music. He became famous throughout Thailand through the success of his first album, Fǭlk Sǭng Khammư̄ang Amata [Classic Northern Folk Song]. His work reflects the laidback musical characteristics of the khammư̄ang style through narrative lyrics in the Northern dialect. The songs’ lyrics are highly expressive and deal with a range of emotions and human experience. The popularity of sǭ ngīeo in Lanna was a factor in Jarun Manopetch adapting “Selemao” to the Northern hybrid style. In his version, Jarun preserved the old “Selemao” melody while adding the timbre and playing texture of the acoustic guitar. The song was sung by Jarun along with Sunthari Wetchanon and became widely popular.

Analysis of "Selemao's" musical structure

This analysis of the musical structure of "Selemao"aims to bring out the features that underpin the original structure of "Fǭn ngīeo,"and which have largely been retained through the various stylistic transformations. The analysis is carried out using the principles of Thai music analysis of Manop Wisuttipat (1990), which modify a Western method to analyze Thai classical music. The examination of the important characteristics of "Selemao" emphasizes two primary melodic aspects by focusing on the ending tones and melodic scale, the pattern of melodic arrangement, and the creation of new melodic elements.

For the sake of lucidity, I will use the Western-derived Thai system of notation for the analysis, which represents each pitch according to the Western solfège system. This process facilitates melodic classification and simplifies the comparison of pitches when transposed into other melodic scales. Relevant ending tones of each phrase are indicated as the last note of the fourth and eighth measures, respectively (see figure 10). It is essential to point out that a feature of the Thai notation system is that the final note in a measure of Thai notation is perceived and notated as the down beat in the subsequent measure in Western notation.

Figure 10: Thai notation for the main melody of "Selemao."

The above notation can be rewritten in numerical figures, as follows.

D(do)=1, R(re)=2, M(mi)=3, S(sol)=5, L(la)=6

Figure 11: Analysis of "Selemao."The numbers 12356 used in the figure are abbreviations of Do, Re, Mi, Sol, La.

Analysis of ending tones and melodic scale

The relevant structure of ending tones (luk tok) and melodic scale of "Selemao" in the fourth and eighth measures can be concluded as follows:

Table 1: The structure of ending tones of "Selemao."

This shows that the melodic structure consists of the following ending tones in the eighth measure of each line: La (sixth), Sol (fifth), Mi (third), and Do (first). It is noteworthy that the note La features prominently as an ending note. The prominence of La, which is the sixth degree of the melodic scale Do-Re-Mi-Sol-La and the first note of the relative A minor scale in Western musical terms, signifies that it is the tonal center of "Selemao." This is unusual in Thai music, which normally gravitates to D as the terminal and thus tonic note in the ordering of pentatonic melodies. The ending notes of the sections in "Selemao" can be grouped according to melodic structure as:

Table 2: ONE (opening, narrating, and ending notes) structure analysis of "Selemao."

These ending notes reveal the simplicity of the structure of "Selemao." The use of La—note the ending tones of the Opening and Ending set—is vital in keeping melodic progression within the melodic scale throughout the song.

The above analysis reflects a Thai explanatory model used to describe the pattern of melodic arrangement and the creation of melody. These are the objectives of a latter part of the analysis, which I conduct by implementing an analytical framework devised by this author to support the melodic analysis. The framework I propose is called "ONE-structure analysis." By focusing on the relationship between the opening (O), narrating (N), and ending notes (E) of melodic sections, the primary melodic structure and features of its stylistic elaboration can be clarified. The analytical process proceeds from the following questions: how does the opening begin, what are the characteristics of the narrating melody, and how are endings reached? The division of "Selemao" into these three sections is based on the original version of "Selemao" from the lyrical narration known as so.

Analysis of melodic arrangement

The analysis of the melodic structure applies three analytical principles to understand the important pattern of the melody. These principles are:

  1. Analysis of the fundamental structure according to principles of Schenkerian analysis (see Pankhurst 2008).
  2. Analysis of the phrase structure according to principles developed by theorist Hugo Rieman (see Rehding 2003).
  3. Analysis of the musical structure using the author's ONE-structure analysis.

Schenker's Fundamental Structure is a layered classification of melody consisting of: 1) foreground, the layer that shows all the details of a piece (Pankhurst 2008, 21, 193); 2) middle ground, which reveals less detail but acts as a base for the first layer (Pankhurst 2008, 21, 120); and 3) background, which is the structural foundation of a song. It can be a single note, chord, or short phrase (Pankhurst 2008, 21, 91).

The foreground layer of "Selemao" is the melodic structure, which owes its origin to the _s ǭ_ _ng ī_eo, a kind of lyrical narration. If the melody is reduced to form the middle ground, the important melodic structure can be more clearly observed (see figure 12):

Figure 12: Middle ground of "Selemao."

In the middle ground layer, the main melody of "Selemao" is developed using a melodic pattern developed from a single rhythmic (see Figure 13):

Figure 13: Melodic pattern in the middle ground of "Selemao."

This is the rhythmic pattern that appears in the beginning phrase of "Selemao" in the foreground layer. The middle ground layer is still the Do-Re-Mi-Sol-La pitch set and, by grouping the phrases of melody in the form of question–answer according to Reiman's Phrase Structure Analysis, a single melodic pattern can be observed throughout the piece.

The background layerof "Selemao" can be obtained using only a single structural note, which is La, and then decorating it with the same rhythmic melodic pattern. This pattern ascends throughout, with each phrase's melodic structure having three fundamental notes from the original melody (see table 3 and figure 14).

Table 3: Phrase structure analysis of ascending melodic patterns.

Analysis of the pattern of melodic arrangement using the ONE-structure method is as follows:

Figure 14: ONE-structure analysis of ascending melodic patterns.

The Opening is the first line of the song. It consists of two four-measure phrases that form an eight-measure question-and-answer structure. The note Re in the sixth measure functions as a connecting note between the question and answer phrases.

The Narrating section is made up of the next two lines, which also comprise question-and-answer phrases. The question parts of the two narrating lines are identical to that of the opening phrase, but the /-Do-La/-Sol-Do/---Re/-Mi-Sol/ (/-D-L/-S-D/---R/-M-S/) phrase in the answer adds variety. The answer phrase of the second narrating line retains the same format as the former, but changes in the melody notes of the last measure /---Re/---Mi/ (/---R/---M/) draw the section to a close by resolving to the fifth scale degree of the A pentatonic mode.

The Ending** comprises a single line of melody that continues from the end of the narrating part using Re as connecting note (/-Re-Do/---Re/-La-Do/). The question section of the phrase emphasizes Do and progresses to the answer phrase, which concludes the melody on the tonic note La. The underlying structural pattern of melodic arrangement identified in this analysis can be illustrated by reducing the form to the three most important structural notes that occur at the completion of the opening, narrating, and ending sections, as seen in figure 15:

Figure 15: Pattern of melodic arrangement of "Selemao."

Concluding Analysis

This analysis of "Selemao" follows principles that are well established in Thai composition and analysis and thus reveals a musical logic common to Thai music. It describes two structural dimensions by identifying the notes that make up the pentatonic scale and are used in forming the melodic pattern, and explicitly emphasizes the final tones (luk tok) of structurally important phrases. This shows that the melodic structure of "Selemao" is based on the primary note La, which is adorned by other notes from the pentatonic set in which La is the sixth degree. This feature gives the melody a different quality to what is usually heard, because the primary note in Thai pentatonic melodies is usually Do, which preserves the intervallic structure D-R-M-S-L that underpins the style. The structure of the piece is a single ascending melodic line supported by a single rhythmic pattern in which the last note of each second measure and the second beat of the final phrase are accented (/----/---x/----/-x-x/). The ascending melodic pattern comprises three groups of consecutive ascending notes. These are Mi-Sol-La, Re-Mi-Sol, and Do-Re-Mi. These groups vary where the first note is repeated in the last, for example Do-La-Do and La-Sol-La.

Through the ONE-structure analysis method the structure of "Fǭn ngīeo"can be understood as comprising three melodic structures made up of question-and-answer phrases. The opening melody concludes with la as the ending and thus tonic note, the narrating melody comprises phrases that terminate on other notes from the pentatonic set, and the ending melody concludes on la.

Structural relationship between "Selemao" and other songs

In this section, I will discuss the relationship between the "Selemao" melody and other songs, such as "Tœ̄i khōng" ("Mekhong river melody") from the Lao-Isan musical tradition, and "Ē mūai" (Ē mūai is a name of Karen women) from the Karen musical tradition of Western Thailand. These songs share the same musical structure as "Selemao." They have an opening section that terminates on La (sixth degree), a middle narrating section comprised of notes drawn from the entire pitch set and that are also used as ending notes, and an ending that concludes with La (see figure 16).

Figure 16: Pattern of melodic arrangement of "Tœ̄i khōng."

“Tœ̄i khōng”

“Tœ̄i khōng” is an old melody of Northeast Thailand. It is classified in the lam tœ̄i category, which is a popular melody for the indigenous singing known as mǭ lam, a courting lyrical narration. Jaroenchai Chonpairot categorizes lam tœ̄i as one of four types of lam melodies, namely lam thang san, lam thang yao, lam tœ̄i, and lam phlœ̄n (2002, 253). He then further elaborates that “lam tœ̄i, meaning courting song, is sung in lively tempo. Although lam tœ̄i is sung in what is considered a sad mode, the same mode used in lam thāng yāo (ACDEGA, DFGACD, or EGABDE) also conveys a happy expression” (ibid.). According to Terry Miller, “Lam Tœ̄i is metrical (often described as danceable), ‘minor’-sounding, and upbeat” (2005, 98). Tœ̄i can occur in both the Isan and Central Thai dialects, but they use slightly different poetic forms. Similarly, ethnomusicologist Sanong Klangprasri7 suggests that the "Tœ̄i khōng" rhythmic pattern shares similar traits to the family of khap melody, which possibly existed earlier than mǭ lam and can still be found in northern Laos. More importantly, this family of khap melody consists of short melodies. In pre-industrial Siam these melodies were often heard among the people of Northeast Thailand. Later the traces of khap melody were slowly forgotten and replaced as mǭ lam and lai khǣn (melodies of the free-reed bamboo mouth organ in Northeastern Thailand) developed. This khap melody was also called (a general term for singing in Northern Thailand) in Northern Thailand. It is thus possible that the khap melodies contributed to the birth of mǭ lam singing in the Northeast.

Later, "Tœ̄i khōng" gained popularity when a singer-cum-composer named Benjamin, also known as "the king of ramwong," adapted lam _tœ ̄ i_melody into the style of ramwong and recorded it in 1957 under the new title "Ram tœ̄i." Since then, many popular Isan songwriters such as Soraphet Phinyo and Phongsak Songsaeng have made use of _lam tœ ̄ i_in their songs (Mitchell 2015, 58). The primary exponent of lam tœ ̄ i in the lam klawn(Northeastern recitation subgenre) vocal repartee style of _m_ǭ lam is Ubon Ratchathani–based performer, Pho Chalatnoi.

Figure 17: Score of "Tœ̄i khōng."

"Tœ̄i Khōng" (Northeast Thai and Lao)

Figure 18: Notation of "Tœ̄i khōng."

The similarities between "Selemao" and "Tœ̄i khōng" (see figure 18) are seen in the shared use of La as the ending note and pivotal tonic note, and in the use of the same interval structure of the pitch set, Do-Re-Mi-Sol-La. The songs also share a similar melodic pattern; for example, the opening phrase is repeated in both of these forms. The different phrases are connected by decorative notes that maintain continuity, they each use all the notes drawn from the pitch set in the narrating sections, and both songs have ending sections that conclude on La.

“Ē mūai”

“Ē mūai” is a type of song that is accompanied by a 6-string harp-like instrument called nadeng (Karen harp) of the ethnic group Pwo Karen in Western Thailand. “Ē mūai” is a longstanding entertainment in the Pwo Karen community. The playing of nādēng must be accompanied by singing. The lyrics of the songs mostly deal with the Karen lifestyle, beliefs, nature, and love. “Ē mūai” can be classified as a type of courting song. Its lyrics portray the affection of a male toward his loved one through periphrasis. Thus, the lyrics do not always describe love, but instead conceal the courting process in depictions of natural scenery. Similarly, if the female accepts the proposal, she would also respond in periphrasis. The ability to sing with periphrasis while playing the nadeng is an art form that enables the demonstration of the singers’ wit and intelligence.

“Ē mūai” lyrics, transliteration, and translation

Ē mūai pư̄ sǭ thia čhia yœ̄ klong khœ̄ lœ̄ sā nong lœ̄ nœ̄ lǭng kūai kœ̄ mā lư̄ kǫ tœ̄ čhia lœ̄ kai yœ̄ mœ̄ kō nœ̄

mǭng satthā mā thưng rao rǭi chāt mai lư̄m thœ̄ long len bǭ nām dœ̄m kāw nưng khǭi thœ̄

Your faith comes to me I forget you not for the next hundred births Playing in a pond and walking a step to wait for you. (Author’s translation)

Figure 19: Score of "Ē mūai."

Figure 20: Thai notation of "Ē mūai."

As a result of modernization, the playing of nadeng is no longer attractive forKaren adolescents, who have largely spurned the instrument. Only certain groups of dedicated and interested people want to preserve and continue the playing of nadeng today. In 2009 this writer had a chance to learn the singing and playing of nadeng from Rongkhinpho Saisangkhla-Chwarin, a local Karen musician in Kǭng Mǭng Thavillage of Kanchanaburi province.

From the lyrics of "Ē mūai"it can be seen that the structure of "Ē mūai"uses different melodic phrase lengths to that of "Selemao" and "Toei khōng." Consequently, the relevant ending tones must shift to positions other than the fourth and eighth measures that are used in the other styles. However, as with "Selemao" and "Toei khōng," "Ē mūai" can be divided into three parts—Opening, Narrating, Ending—as shown in figure 21:

"Ē mūai" structure

Figure 21: Analysis of "Ē mūai" structure.

This shows that "Ē mūai" shares the same pattern of melodic arrangements as "Selemao" and "Toei khōng." They each begin with opening sections comprised of short melodies that conclude on La. They have narrating sections with one or two measures of main melodic structure, including the repetition of the phrase /---Mi/-Re-Do, which is connected by the note La. The repetition of melodic phrase with a single connecting note in between increases the length of the song. They each have ending phrases that terminate at La. The ending tone is also repeated to emphasize the end of the song.


"Fǭn ngīeo"owes its origin to "Sǭ ngīeo," a folk song of the Tai Yai ethnic group of Northern Thailand. Through the addition of lyrics, the melody became the basis for a new song known as "Selemao." When Dārā Ratsamī returned to Chiang Mai, the dance, dramatic theater, and music of Chiang Mai Royal Court were revolutionized through the adaptation of new performance methods from the Bangkok royal court. In this new paradigm elements derived from foreign cultures were embraced, contributing to the development of a unique Lanna musical and performing culture. "Fǭn ngīeo"then made its way to Central Thailand in the form of Thai classical music (ngīeo ramlưk) through KhrūBoonyong's adaptation for Thai classical ensemble. It found its way into Thai popular music when it was adapted by the Suntharāphǭn ensemble under the title "Selemao."The song also spread to other musical genres such as lūk thung, lūk krung, and fǭlk sǭng khammư̄ang.Thus, it can be seen that indigenous Northern musical material has been influential in inspiring the creation of new musical works in a number of different genres.

The structural relationships between "Fǭn ngīeo" and the four case studies, "Selamao," the Thai adaptation of the Tai Yai "Sǭ ngīeo," the Thai-Lao"Toei khōng," and the Thai-Karen"Ē mūai," indicate similarities in their melodic structure that imply a familial relationship. This may be because all four songs can be traced to the ancient phlēng khap form of reciting. This musical tradition became extinct but melodic fragments and structural elements that underpin this old melody have continued to be heard in other forms throughout the geographical region. This highlights the evolution of an ancient shared musical tradition within Tai cultures. It is hoped that this analysis of the history and musical characteristics of "Fǭn ngīeo"provides a fresh viewpoint from which to approach the study of musical relationships between different societies.


  1. Rama I died in 1809 and Kawilōrotsuriyawong was born circa 1799. 

  2. She became the mother of Chulalongkorn's seventy-third child. 

  3. Nevertheless, it is a measure of her pride in coming from the North that she wore her hair long in the Northern fashion and insisted on always wearing the Chiang Mai–style material known as pha sin

  4. Čhao Phraya Mahindra (1821–95) was a theater owner, whose "Siamese Theater," built around 1858 later became the "Prince theater," named after the famous theater in London. Čhao Phraya Mahindra created the theater variety of Lakorn Panthang(Fine Arts D. 2007, 159), which greatly influenced theater in the Siamese and Chiang Mai courts. 

  5. This style of cipher notation used by Thai musicians divides a piece according to measures and employs a non-moveable Do system. 

  6. For the history and description of ramwong, see Mitchell 2015, 11–16 and 52–54. 

  7. Personal communication comprising a phone interview, conducted August 9, 2013. 


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