SOAS University of London

Department of Music, School of Arts

Track 6: Lao Phaen (Thailand)

Dusadee Swangviboonpong

Lao Phaen is a famous solo piece for several Thai instruments, but is particularly suitable for the Jakheh. It consists of 4 melodies combining the Northern and North-eastern Thai styles: Lao Phaen noi, Lao Somdet and lao sum. The term "lao" in Thai means "Laotian" and is used here as, owing to the proximity of Laos, the people of the North and Northeast are often referred to by Thais as Laotion. This piece is also often used to accompany dancing, but the particular version played here has been arranged to showcase the virtuosity of the soloist and therefore would not be suitable for dance.



The Jakheh is commonly made of jackfruit wood and has three strings, one of brass and two of plastic. The strings are tuned with pegs. The jakheh has eleven frets and is supported on 5 legs. The instrument is played with a plectrum of bone or ivory which is 5-6cm long with a rounded point. The plectrum is fastened to the right hand index finger by a cotton cord. The name jakheh is derived from the word "jorakheh" meaning "crocodile", and in past times the instrument could be seen carved to resemble this beast.

Thon and Ramana

The thon is an open-ended single headed drum. It is about 15cm long. The body is made of baked clay or wood. The head is about 22cm in diameter. The skin, commonly made from calf skin, is fastened down with rattan or plastic string. The player strikes it with the right hand and the drum is usually paired with the ramana, which is then played with the left hand fingers. The ramana is a shallow circular frame drum. There is a cord or "sanap" placed on the inside rim of the body to increase or decrease the tension. The ramana is similar in construction to the Malay rabana.


Tiny heavy cup-shaped cymbals, 5cm in diameter and used in joined identical pairs. They are the time keepers and set the pace for the ensemble. One cymbal cupped in the left hand is stroked with the edge of the other. The strike with an outward sliding motion produces a ringing sound called a "ching". The complementary strike, ending with the cymbals closed on each other with a dampened sound is called a "chap". The ching stroke is used for the weak beats and the chap for the strong.


Dusadee Swangviboonpong

An award winning Jakheh player and an experienced young musician, with wide abilities, who graduated from the music department of Chulalongkorn University, and has worked as a music teacher in the Royal School of Bangkok. Although he has learnt Thai music from many teachers, most of his musical knowledge was gained under the tuition of three famous performers: Chaluay Jiyajan (Sor U), Rati Wisetsurakarn (Jakheh) and Charoenchai Sundaravadhin (singing). He has given numerous performances, both in Thailand and Europe. Currently he is teacher Thai classical music in London and is writing a PhD thesis within the Centre of Music Studies, in the School of Oriental and African Studies.

Bussakorn Sumrongthong

One of the best female Ranat Ek players in Thailand, she learnt the instrument from several teachers, including Bunyong Kethong and Prasit Thaworn, the most famous exponents in Thailand. She finished her PhD in music from York University and is currently teaching Thai music at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.