Play That Funky Music Thai Boy.
This song is a killer. From the Thai-pride macho chest-thumping lyrics (‘Be proud that you were born a maaaan’) to the funk music fused with a traditional Thai kickboxing orchestra, Jiraphand Ong-ard’s ‘Thai Boxing’ knocks out the competition.
Muay Thai, or Thai boxing, is more than just a sport. It’s Thai national heritage imbued with history, spirituality and art.
Sarama, the music that accompanies a Muay Thai match brings together three traditional instruments. The pee java is the haunting oboe sound you hear, believed to have made its way to Thailand from India via Java (hence the name). It does sound very close to the South Indian nadaswaram. The double-barreled hand drum, glong kaek, also via Indonesia, is similar to the South Indian mridangam. Rounding out the three-piece band are ching, hand cymbals.
The particular Muay Thai composition you hear funkified here is called Kaek Jao Sen. It’s music played during the match to hype up the crowd and embolden the boxers.
Rituals precede every Muay Thai match and form an integral part of the boxer’s training and professional life. The most visible of the pre-match rituals is the Wai Kru Ram Muay, shown in the video below.
Wai Kru means paying respect to your teachers. Teachers, in Thai culture, deserve the utmost respect, and Wai Kru ceremonies are important to other arts and disciplines beyond the bloodiness of Muay Thai. In the Muay Thai Wai Kru, each boxer circles the inside of the ring three times before kneeling and prostrating three times times, paying respect to his trainers and to the Lord Buddha. They do so with the gesture of a wai. In the traditional Thai wai hands are held palms together (like an Indian namaste). Here the wai is done with boxing gloves.
Ram Muay means ‘boxing dance’ and is performed after the Wai Kru. All boxers have different styles. Ram Muay can be simple or elaborate and can give those with an eye for it a window into where the boxer trained, or who he trained under.
In the video below you will see the boxer in yellow performing the Garuda posture in which the dancer extends both arms over his head like wings. (Garuda is the mythical eagle, a very important Thai symbol). Other common poses invoke the god Narai (a Thai version of Vishnu), the monkey god Hanuman and animals such as the peacock.
Also notice the headband. Called the mongkol, this sacred item forms an important part of the boxer’s gear. Historically they were worn into battle by Siamese soldiers. The mongkol is ritualistically removed before the fight commences.
Also worth a listen – some retro Japanese music.