Japanese and Thai Traditional Musical Instruments

Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) has an extensive collection of Asian traditional musical instruments. It includes musical instruments from China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Philippines and Thailand. This entry is about Japanese and Thai traditional musical instruments. They are in this entry together not for any particular reason other than there are few instruments for each of them to justify one entry each.

Japanese Traditional Musical Instruments

Cultural Center of the Philippines collection of Japanese Traditional Musical Instruments

Cultural Center of the Philippines collection of Japanese Traditional Musical Instruments

Shamisen is a three-stringed plucked lute believed to have originated from China. It reached the Ryukyu Islands in the 14th century, from which it was imported by Japan in the mid-16th century. Since the 17th century, it has played a significant role in many levels of Japanese society. Shamisen can be used for folk, theater, contemporary and even avante garde music.

Shamisen

Shamisen

Koto is a 13-stringed classical instrument found in every region of Japan belonging to the family of zithers used in East Asia. It was introduced from China during the Narra Period. The koto is played with a plectra made of ivory or plastic, either solo or in an ensemble. It is also used to accompany singer. 

Koto

Koto

Shakuhachi is an end-blown bamboo flute with five finger holes. One of Japan’s most popular instruments, it originated from a vertical flute from China in the 14th century. In the 19th century, the formation of a trio called sankyoku, composed of the shakuhachi, the koto and the shamisen, increased its popularity. Shakuhachi is played solo or as part of an ensemble.

Shakuhachi

Shakuhachi

Da-daiko is a huge drum used on special occasions and set on a special platform in an elaborately decorated frame. It adorns the imperial music hall during a bugaku or Japanese court dance performance. The instrument adds rhythmic emphasis to the choreography of certain dances. The da-daiko is stuck with two heavy lacquered beaters struck in left-right sequence.

Da-daiko

Da-daiko

Thai Traditional Musical Instruments 

Cultural Center of the Philippines collection of Thai Traditional Musical Instruments

Cultural Center of the Philippines collection of Thai Traditional Musical Instruments

Ta pho-n is a barrel shaped drum of a solid block of teakwood or jackwood. The edge of the heads is sewn with twisted strands of cane. Leather thongs pulled tightly through the loops of cane of both heads are tied closely together and cover the entire body of the ta pho-n. A mixture of cooked rice and ashes are rubbed in the center of the large head to give it a more mellow tone.

Ta pho-n

Ta pho-n

Rana-t-Ay-k is a wooden xylophone with 21 keys of a special type of hardwood connected to each other by cords at each of its nodes. The keyboard is suspended from metal hooks on both ends over a stand shaped like a Thai riverboat curved upward. The rana-t-ay-k, meaning “first or principal”, plays the higher sounding keys. The keys are struck by two long slender beaters with knobs at the ends.

Rana-t-Ay-k

Rana-t-Ay-k

Rana-t Thum is a wooden xylophone with 17 or 18 keys of a special type of hardwood connected to each other by cords at each of its nodes. The keyboard is suspended from metal hooks on both ends over a stand shaped like a wooden box with its edges slightly curved. The rana-t thum, meaning “lower rana-t”, plays the lower sounding keys. The instrument is played with two soft sticks with large and heavy knobs at the ends.

Rana-t Thum

Rana-t Thum

Glaw-ng That is a pair of large two-headed drums made of stretched hide, leather or skin, and fastened with pegs or nails. Played beside each other, one drum is considered male, the other female. Each of the drums uses only one drum head with a painted black rim, and a painted black circle at the center. The paint made from plant sap preserves the hide. The pasty mixture of cooked rice and ashes, placed in the center of one of the heads, serves to tune the glaw-ng that. 

Glaw-ng That

Glaw-ng That

Khaw-ng Wong Yai is a set of 16 tuned gongs placed on a circular frame made of rattan. Each gong has two sets of holes at opposite ends through which leather thongs are passed and attached to the frame in a suspended position. Khaw-ng wong yai means “large circle of gongs”. The instrument is placed on the floor with the player seated inside the frame. A pair of beaters, consisting of circles of thick untanned hide fitted with a wooden handle, is used to play the instrument.

Khaw-ng Wong Yai

Khaw-ng Wong Yai

Khaw-ng Wong Lek is a set of 18 tuned gongs placed on a circular frame made of rattan. Each gong has two sets of holes at opposite ends through which leather thongs are passed and attached to the frame in a suspended position. Khaw-ng wong lek means “small circle of gongs”. The instrument is placed on the floor with the player seated inside the frame. A pair of beaters, consisting of circles of thick untanned hide fitted with a wooden handle, is used to play the instrument.

Khaw-ng Wong Lek

Khaw-ng Wong Lek

Khaw-ng Wong Lek and Khaw-ng Wong Yai

Khaw-ng Wong Lek and Khaw-ng Wong Yai

Khaw-ng Mong is a type of gong used in Thai musical ensembles since the olden times. Also called mo-ng, its name was derived from the sound it made when beaten. It is usually supported by three poles that serve as its stand. Its beater has a cloth padding, sometimes covered with a heavy string net wrapped around its end. Before, khaw-ng mong was beaten to announce night time.

Khaw-ng Mong

Khaw-ng Mong

To read more, please read Philippines Traditional Musical Instruments, Chinese Traditional Musical Instruments, Indian TMI, Indonesian TMI, and Korean TMI.

Where: Asian Traditional Musical Instruments, 4th Floor, CCP Main Building, Pedro Bukaneg Street, CCP Complex, Manila

When: Asian Traditional Musical is open from Tuesdays to Sundays, 10am to 6pm.

How: From Vito Cruz Station of LRT Line 1, walk to Pablo Ocampo Street. Turn right on Pablo Ocampo Street and walk straight. In 2-5 minutes, you will arrive at the jeepney station of orange jeepneys that will take you to the CCP Complex.

How much: Asian Traditional Musical Instruments entrance fee: Students, P20 (US $ 0.44) and non-students, P30 (US $0.66), which is inclusive in the fee for Museo ng Kalinangan Pilipino (Museum of Philippine Culture).

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