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Music drama


Likay performers improvise their dialogues and song lyrics, accompanied by piphat traditional music, during the performance following the scenario provided by a story-teller.

Reasons for selection

Likay or music drama is a traditional performing art of central Thailand. Throughout its history, Likay has never lost its unique characteristics which are the beautiful costumes, the comic actions and the fast storytelling. It is still popular in modern Thai society, especially in rural areas, because of its entertainment value and the performers' ability to improvise and extemporize verse.

Area where performed

Likay troupes mainly perform in the central part of Thailand. However, Likay performance can be found in other regions, each with specific characters.

Essential elements of the performing art

Music, Dance, Theatre

Detailed explanation

The Characteristics
Likay is a stage traditional performing art performed by actors and actresses playing particular types of characters, namely phra (hero), nang (heroine), kong (villain), itcha or jealous woman (villainess)and joker (male or female clowns). The performers improvise their dialogues and song lyrics during the performance following the scenario provided by a story-teller.
The performance is divided into three parts: the piphat musical prelude, the ok khaek (the appearance of the khaek )or the introductory opening, and the play proper. The repertoire includes a large number of contemporary stories set in earlier times and a few modern ones, all treated in a light, romantic-comedy vein.

Where and When Do They Perform?
The Likay troupe travel from one performance to another around various localities in central Thailand. During the dry season (from November to July), the Likay troupe perform outdoors for particular occasions or local festivals and fairs. They perform on the rong or Likay stage which is always a thrust stage. The performance is shown free of charge because of sponsorship by rural people who are free from farm work.
The wik, the Likay theater, is used during rainy seasons (from August to October), when the rural folks are in the farm. The Likay performers have to earn their living by setting up the performance themselves in enclosed theaters where admission is charged.

History Likay has roots in Muslim chant ( Dikay )and Buddhist recitation ( Suat phramalai ). The Dikay was introduced into Thailand by Muslim immigrants. The word Dikay in Malay dialect is closest to word Yikay, the early name of Likay. Even before 1880, both the Dikay and the Suat phramalai had become popular, losing their religious purports as they were transformed into secular entertainment forms. The performance had been developed several times to gain more popularity. Along with this development was the adoption of the piphat traditional music. During the 1960's and 1970's, Likay music was augmented by the Phleng lukthung, the pop country music. From 1975 onward, a new costume style for actors emerged and replaced the previous fashion. In 1978-1979, there were around 1,000 troupes comprised of professional performers who performed throughout the year all over the country.

Publication and textual documentation

ASEAN Committee on Culture and Information
1995 Living Traditions-Essay on the Revitalization of ASEAN CTM Forms.
Philippines: ASEAN Committee on Culture and Information. In English.

VIRULRAK, Surapone
19__, Likay.
Bangkok: Office of the National Culture Commission.
In Thai

Audio documentation

no information at present

Visual documentation

no information at present

Institution/organisation involved in preservation and promotion

Ministry of Culture
Somdej Phra Pin Klao Road, Bangplad, Bangkok 10700, Thailand, Tel: 66-2248-5850, Fax: 66-2248-5841

Office of the National Culture Commission
Ratchadapisek Road, Huay Kwang, Bangkok 10310, Thailand
Tel : 66-2247-0013, Fax : 66-2248-5840

Data provider

Ms. Sudhasinee Vajrabul
Director, External Cultural Relations Division
The Office of the National Culture Commission
Address: Ratchadaphisek Road, Huay-Khwang, Bangkok 10320, Thailand

(Revised in July 2004)
Ms. Darunee Thamapodol
External Relations Division, Ministry of Culture
4th Floor, ONCC Bldg., Ratchadapisek Road, Huay Kwang, Bangkok 10310, Thailand