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Northern Thai Funeral Music

Udom Silapin

Funeral Music of Chiang Mai

It is nearly impossible to find recordings of northern Thai funeral music outside northern Thailand. Even in Chiang Mai, cassettes are quite rare, despite the fact that these ensembles are essential for a proper ceremony. The ensemble and repertoire are both called "phleng hae sop", or music for the corpse. A typical ensemble consists of ranat ek (wooden key xylophone), ranat lek (iron key xylophone), khong wong (gong circle), a pair of pii (double-reed winds, tuned a fifth apart) and several drums. Each piece marks a point in the funeral, ending with the cremation of the prasat (literally, castle), the pavilion that carries the body.

This recording was made by the most sought-after "phleng hae sop" group in Chiang Mai (circa 1990), led by master musician Udom Silapin na Chiang Mai (literally, Udom the Artist from Chiang Mai). The live recording was made by me at a temple in Chiang Mai. This was the moment when the procession left the temple for the cremation grounds.

For more information, or to request more examples of Udom's playing, please, email me.

Finding recordings of music from northern Thailand is very difficult. However, there is one company that specializes in hard-to-find recordings published in Thailand. Visit Thai Net City.

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Central Thai classical music

Northern Thai string ensembles