By Saipanya School, Bangkok
It is believed that the jakhae is a further development of the earlier phin instrument. It is made to be played sitting horizontally on the floor or ground. In order to make it seem more natural in this position, in the old days the body of the instrument was made in the shape of a crocodile and the front part carved to represent the crocodile’s jaws. However, the body was also made hollow to serve as a resonance chamber. The word for crocodile in Thai is jaw-ra-khae, which was gradually shortened jakhae after it became the name of the instrument. Because it is more convenient, today the instrument is made in two parts, the long, narrow neck and the body or sound box. There are three strings along the top of the body, one of brass wire and two of gut. The jakhae has been used by the Thai since at least the first part of the Ayuthaya period (c.1357 A.D. / B.E. 1900) for it is mentioned in the court regulations of that time. But it appears that it has been used in the string ensemble only since the time of King Rama I (1782-1809). Before this, the jakhae may have been considered an instrument more suitable for solo playing. Some authorities say that the Cambodians also had a jakhae type instrument with a shape resembling a crocodile. Today the instrument is considered distinctively Thai and one of the Thai instruments having a particularly lovely tone. It is an important member of all string ensembles.
The saw duang is similar to the Chinese stringed instrument called hu chin, and may have been copied from this Chinese model. The name saw duang may come from the fact that the instrument resembles a certain kind of trap which is used to catch a type of edible lizard which is eaten by the people in the Northern provinces. This trap is called a duang dak yae and is also made of bamboo. So the name of this instrument may come from its shape rather than from the sound produced when it is played.
The ranad ek is a percussion instrument which evolved from the grap. Originally, a pair of grap was used to keep the rhythm. Later, several graps were made and put in a series, but the tones, when the bars were struck, were coarse and out of tune. Then it was decided to lay them on two tracks or supports. After musicians and instrument makers gained more knowledge and experience, further improvements were made. The grap were constructed in a series of sizes, and a support was devised to hold them in such a way as to allow the tone to sound freely. To accomplish this, a heavy string was threaded though holes made near the end of the grap. The grap were then placed close together on this cord, and the entire “keyboard” was hung on a supporting stand. The keys were struck with two long, slender beaters which had knobs at the ends. One beater was held in each hand. The instrument could now be used to play melodies. Later, improvements were made in the shape of the grap or wooden keys, and a mixture of beeswax with lead shavings was applied to the under side of each key causing the tone to be more “in tune” and thus more beautiful. This instrument was called ranad. This type of musical instrument in found in Java, the Mawn or Peguan region of southern Burma and Thailand, and in Burma proper where it is known as the “pattalar" or “bastran”. As for the origin of the instrument, it may have been an original idea of the Thai, or the Thai may have borrowed it from a neighboring country.
This instrument originated during the reign of King Rama III (1824-1854), being modelled after the ranad ek. The keys are made of similar kinds of wood, but they are longer and wider. The body has a different shape from that of the ranad ek. It is shaped like a long wooden box with the two long top edges slightly curved. The two khon or end pieces extend upward past the top of the curved rims, sometimes curving outward slightly at the top. Between them the keyboard is suspended on its cord which is hung on the metal hooks on the end of pieces.
Khawng Wong Yai
The “circle of gongs” is a further development of the single gong. The circular stand for the series of gongs is a framework made of a type of large, round rattan. It is placed on the floor and is 24 cm. The large inner and outer pieces of rattan, between which the gongs are suspended, are 20 cm apart on the end which contains the low-toned gongs, ranging gradually closer together until they are 17.5 cm. apart on the end which contains the high-toned gongs. The framework is almost a complete circle or oval, inside of which the player sits.