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Playng Khorat: Standards of Folk Performing Arts, Nakhon Ratchasima Province, Thailand

Suparat Thongpanich
Faculty of Cultural Science, Mahasarakham University
Muang District, Mahasarakham Thailand, 44000

Songkoon Chantachon
Faculty of Cultural Science, Mahasarakham University
Muang District, Mahasarakham Thailand, 44000

Surapong Kongsat

Faculty of Humanities, Mahachulalongkorn Rajavidyalaya
University Thailand

Abstract
Problem Statement : The Khorat folk performing arts is commonly known in Thailand as Playng Khorat. Playng Khorat has its own identity particularly the language used in the performance. It uses a dialect spoken by the people in Nakhon Ratchasima or Khorat Province from the beginning until the end of each folk performing arts. Currently, the format of the Khorat folk performing arts has been changed to a great extent stemming from social value. People have chosen other entertainments, such as likay (a type of stage performing arts), country music, and movies. Playng Khorat fellows, therefore, spent their time searching for a better way to make the folk performing arts alive amidst changes. They finally came up with bringing country music into their performances. Such practices could probably make Playng Khorat less traditional than it formerly was. The objectives of the study was threefold. 1) to study the historical background of the Khorat folk performing arts which was commonly known as Playing Khorat, 2) to examine the current situations and problems of the Khorat folk performing arts, and 3) to set standards of the Khorat folk performing arts in Nakhon Ratchasima Province, Thailand.

Approach : The research was carried out between March to October, 2011. The Method used was qualitative using documentary studies and a fieldwork conducted in three districts (Amphoe) of Nakhon Ratchasima, namely, Muang, Non Sung, and Chok Chai. The 93 sample were 11 key, 54 casual, and 25 general informants respectively. The research instruments used were observations, interviews, focused group discussions, and workshops. The data were cross-checked using a triangulation technique, analyzed, and
presented descriptively.

Results : The Khorat folk performing arts is a very old tradition in Nakhon Ratchasima Province. No one around could tell when the tradition really began. The folk performances done were in the format of transliterative verses, known in Thailand as glon. The performers took turn in singing as well as saying verses instantly, cleverly, and alliteratively using the Khorat dialect. Such a dialect displayed a combination of the Central Thai language and the Northeastern dialect. The Khorat folk performing arts were presented in all occasions except weddings. Currently, the popularity of Playng Khorat had decreased for general public and the people in Nakhon Ratchasima. What had been left was the fulfillment of their vows toward Thao Suranaree. The format of performance, however, was not as neat as it used to be particularly the elements of each performance. The standards of Khorat folk performing arts were important and folk performers should pay attention to keeping outstanding identity of Playng Khorat in Nakhon Ratchasima Province. The standards of the folk performing should comprise of standards of folk performers, lyrics, language, dancing styles, dresses, stage, and light and sound.

Conclusion/Recommendation : The study was concluded that Playng Khorat had a long historical background. Due to its unpopularity currently, the important elements should be maintained and brought to performing as usual; schools may use the standards of Playng Khorat folk performing arts in making their own school curriculum

Keywords: Khorat folk Performing arts (Playng Khorat), A Standard Making, Folk Performing Arts

1. Introduction
As a part of folk or local culture, a folk performing arts often reflects human emotions, feelings, and traditional beliefs. Each part of Thailand has its own identity and folk performing arts as folk entertainment. Each folk entertainment was believed to be created fro creative local wisdom and was assisted by environmental bases: It often reflects real life of the people who live in rural areas. It began with the singer’s slow singing rhythm and moving his or her body all along captivating the audience’s taste of watching the folk performances. Shortly after that, the singing began to reflect short stories based on original literature or imitated real life episodes (Renu Kosinanon. 1993 : 1-2). Most popular folk performing arts, presented in all parts of Thailand, were literally simple, amusing, humorous, and sarcastic. Sometimes there were Buddhist teachings here and there. The music instruments used were ching, rhythm clappers, and drums. Sometimes the folk performers just clapped their hands. The lyrics and prosodies, very often, were not rigidly fixed. When they sang, they often repeated the same lyrics or prosodies over and over again but very utterly and synonymously. With their locally made costumers on, most folk performers often wore colorful jewellery.

The Northeastern Thai folk performing arts were culturally divided into 3 groups: the Northeastern-styled singers, the Thai-Khmer singers (Jariang gantreum), and the Khorat folk singers.

The Northeastern styled singers were found in many Northeastern Provinces: Loei, Nong Khai, Udon Thani, Maha Sarakham, Sakon Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, Khon Kaen, Kalasin, Mukdahan, Chaiyaphum, Roi Et, Yasothon, and Ubon Ratchatani. The Thai-Khmer singers were found in only 3 Provinces: Surin, Buri Ram, and Si Sa Ket. The Khorat folk singers lived only in Nakhon Ratchasima
(Amara Klamcharean. 2010 : 123-124)

As commonly known, “A gate to the Northeastern Thailand”, the people there speak both the Nakhon Ratchasima and Isan dialects and they have a variety of folk songs, such as, child soothing, long-drum, fire-rocket, cat procession songs, and many locally known, such as, pikeaw, mong-mong, larg mai, chert, and kha chao hong dong lamyai songs. The Khorat folk performing arts (Playng Khorat) is the oldest and most practiced.

It was not known when Playng Khorat was introduced in Nakhon Ratchasima Province. According to all accounts, Thao Sura Naree or Khun Ya Mo (Grandma Mo), who lived between 1770-1852, liked playng Khorat very much. The recorded history of this performing arts was made in 1913 during Rattanakosin or early Bangkok period. Every time the Thai army won the Khmer army, the people at Ban Sake, located near Jira railway junction, often celebrated the victory. When they sang and danced, the singers moved back and forth and cupped one’s ear. It was presumed that the Khorat folk performing arts was adapted from Khmer Jariang folk singing. At the beginning, Playng Khorat were short having some meaning or none at all (Chart Pattna Party. 1999 : 140-142)

There are 4 types of Playng Khorat. The classification was based on the occasions to perform, development of performances and related elements, characteristics of verses, and song content. The occasions to perform was separated between professional and non-professional performers. The development of performances was traced from its past to the present. The characteristics of verses and related elements were based on the number of pairs of the performers. The contents of songs were many, such as, invitation, introduction, asking how things were going, praise of nature, serenade, comparison, vows, curses, grief, saying goodbye, taking a girl away or just comforting (Thawon Subongkot and others. 1993 : 27-31) Besides the above, Playng Khorat often reflects belief, traditions, Buddhist teachings, karma, occupations, child discipline, social awareness of advertisement, environment and occupations and families, and social values of seniority and the sacredness of Khun Ya (Grandma) Mo.

Despite the tradition of Playng Khorat especially the dialect used, belief, popularity, and a great respect of the people toward Khun Ya Mo, the current value and its popularity have been decreased a great deal due to the impoliteness of the language used and the influence of the modern-day entertainment, such as, Thai boxing, movies, folk musical performances, likay, and dances. It was culturally necessary to bring back Playng Khorat to modern-day Nakhon Ratchasima Province by making the once popular tradition important and useful for the fast changing Thai society by presenting new and elaborated folk performing arts model to suit the taste of young and old generations more sustainably.

2. Objectives
1. To study the historical background of the Khorat folk performing arts (Playng Khorat) in Nakhon Ratchasima Province.
2. To examine the current situations and problems of the Khorat folk performing arts (Playng Khorat) in Nakhon Ratchasima Province.
3. To set standards of the Khorat folk performing arts (Playng Khorat) in Nakhon Ratchasima Province.

3. Approach
This qualitative research was carried out in Nakhon Ratchasima Province. The 9 Khorat folk performing arts groups were selected purposively. They were resided in 3 districts or amphoe of Nakhon Ratchasima Province : Amphor Muang, Non Sung, and Chok Chai. The 3 groups of folk performing arts selected were members of the association of Playng Khorat whose performances were outstanding for 10 years. The instruments used for data collection were observations, interviews, focused-group discussions, and workshops. The analysis of data was done deseriptively and using a triangulation technique.

4. Results
The Khorat folk performing arts had a long historical background. No one knew when the folk
performances really began. Thao Sura Naree, who was living between 1770-1852, liked Playng Khorat
very much. From early period, Playng Khorat using short songs or verses responding between female
and male performers. Using one’s own resourcefulness or cleverness, each side had to respond with
verses or songs promptly, if not the team was judged as the loser. The contents of Playng Khorat were
related to Buddhist teaching, belief of Karma, occupations, traditions, and the reflection of basic social
values.

Currently, the khorat folk performing arts was less popular than it once was due to modern-day
entertainment, such as, country music, likay, and movies. The audience of Playng Khorat were elderly
people. The format of the folk performing arts had changed; they brought in country music, modern
dresses, and dances. The exchanges of songs and verses refuting between the two sides had been
minimal.

The standards of the Khorat folk performing arts (Playng Khorat) should cover 7 areas of folk
performing arts: 1 Skillful, knowledgeable and polite performers, 2) the prosody of verses conforms
with current social and economic contents, 3) the language used should be the Khorat dialect, polite,
and understandable, 4) dancing styles should be traditional Khorat and right rhythms, 5) the clothes or
costumes should be fresh and bright. Men should wear a short-sleeve T-shirt with a loincloth over the
T-shirt. Women should wear a short-sleeve tube-shaped T-shirt with shirt over loincloth. They should
wear their hair in a bun. Both man and woman performers should wear ornaments, 6) the stage should
be 6x6 meter rectangular, 1.5 meter height and equipped with a ladder of all sides, and 7) the stage and
its surround areas should equipped with 100% light-colored and a good amplifier.

5. Discussion
1. Despite recorded history at the early period, Playng Khorat was traditionally passed down from generation to generation using discourses. Male and female performers often exchanged serenade songs or prosody of verses which corresponded with Sukanya Pattarachai (1997 : 147-150) . that verses of transliteration refuting between male and female performers. Each side often had someone singing all along. The rhythms of songs were very important. In the past, the serenade songs were very popular. They brought amusement, education, and social harmony. They also helped to release social and economic pressures. Playng Krorat hasn’t been replaced by outside entertainment. It satisfied the people’s needs emotionally. Such was supported by functionalism (Malinowski. 1884-1942). They included social, emotional, and basic needs. Culture, according to Malinowski, was not only used to satisfy the human needs but also for the analysis of human behavior (Songkoon Chantachon. 2010 : 20-32)

2. Currently, Playng Khorat had adjusted the performing format by bringing in country music for more entertainment. The study found that some audience paid their fees for the performance is of Playng Khorar was to fulfill their vows. The performing time had to be short and other performing elements, such as, qualified performers, songs or lyrics, language, dancing styles, and dresses were also changed which was in agreement with Pattana Boonin (1994 : 118-126) that the change of Playng Khorat was observed in the way of life and the content. Currently, the given folk performing arts were used commercially by setting up corresponding offices for hiring folk performing arts. Most of the Playng Khorat folk performing arts groups often looked for a better place located near the Statue of Thao Suranaree. They even had auction for that. In order to survive, the Playng Khorat folk performing arts groups had to readjust themselves by bringing in country music, electron, and modern dancing styles. They also reduced their fees and performing time. The people who paid or hired the performing groups did not really enjoy the shows, the wanted to make favor to Thao Suranaree. The folk performing arts groups did not have to have singing skills and knowledge to perform the tradition of Playng Khorat. That was why the folk performing arts groups were needed to be professionals.

3. Based on its traditional and beautiful performing arts format, Playng Khorat should set its own standards in 7 areas: qualified performers, lyrics, language, dancing, styles, dresses, stage, and light and sound. Such corresponded with Alexander Gottrib Baumgaten (1714-1762)’s aesthetic theory stating that beauty could be found in both nature and in human’s creative thinking by providing ample opportunity of touching with their own surroundings and experiences. The same was true for the beauty of Playng Khorat. It touched not just light and sound but also the sense of passion, emotion, meanings, aesthetic, and people (University of Chankasem. 2010 :
11-17)

6. Conclusion
By having standards of the traditional Playng Khorat, the audience’s needs, such as, satisfaction and understanding of identity, dancing, styles, language, and lyrics could be achieved and maintained. From now on, the outstanding Playng Khorat folk performing arts could stand on its own local identity. It had been developed to stay regardless of different directions of change.

References
[1] Amara Klamchareon, 2010. Songs and Folk Recreation. Bangkok : Odien Store.
[2] Chankasem University, 2010. Life Aesthetic. 2nd ed. Nonthaburi : Muang Akson.
[3] Chart Pattana Party, 1999. Our Nakhon Ratchasima. Bangkok : Mang-gon Printing.
[4] Ministry of Culture, 2010. The Handbook of Cultural Watch for Children and Youth. Bangkok : Thailand Co-operative, Limited.
[5] Pattama Boonin, 1994. An Adaptation of Folk Songs : A Case Study of Playng Khorat, Nakhon Ratchasima Province. Master Degree Thesis. Thammasat University.
[6] Renu Kosinanon, 1993. Folk Performing Arts in Thailand. 2nd ed. Bangkok : Thai Wattana Panit Printing.
[7] Songkoon Chantachon, 2010. Cultural and Social Theories. Mahasarakham : Mahasarakham University Printing House.
[8] Sukanya Pattarachai, 1989. “Folk Songs” in Teaching Document in The Thai Language 8. Sukhithai Thammathirat University.
[9] Thawon Subongkot and Others, 1993. Playng Khorat : An Analytical Study. Bangkok : T.P. Printing.

European Journal of Social Sciences - Volume.29, Number.2 (2012)
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