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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Embrace Thai Music, student ensemble performance

The Thai Music Ensemble stands in matching clothes. The Ensemble recently played at Recital Hall as part of the World Music Concert Series. (Caleb Johnson | Northern Star)

DeKALB Calming beats filled Recital Hall as members of the Thai Music Ensemble gave an opening performance for the Concert of Thai and Lao Music, followed by a thunderous applause from the audience. 

Attendees were treated to traditional music and dance from Thailand and Laos by the Thai Music Ensemble, directed by Chamni Sripraram. 

According to Sripraram, this was one of two performances of the Thai Music Ensemble for the academic year. The first performance is for the Loy Krathong Festival and the second is for the Thai Lunar New Year. This concert is also a part of the World Music Concert Series.  

Thailand means “free land” in English, and the country embodies democracy in Southeast Asia, Sripraram said.  

“That’s why we try to make music like we do – to make people aware of who we are and to be strong,” Sripraram said.  

Freedom and staying united are important to the identity of Thai people, according to Sripraram.  

John Hartmann, professor emeritus who works with the Center for Southeast Asia Studies, said another vital component of the ensemble is harmony with the natural world and its resources.  

“We have instruments that have come from nature and that’s what this project is all about – to preserve nature and to preserve the environment in Southeast Asia,” Hartmann said. 

Hartmann mentioned that one of the instruments – a set of bamboo pipes known as a khaen – is made from bamboo that is now endangered. Hartmann said the hope of this program is that by playing music and raising awareness they can help save this rare bamboo species native to the mountains of Thailand.  

One student, Chih-I Hsiao, a graduate student in world music and Thai Music Ensemble member, said he was proud of being a part of the concert.  

“One thing I love about this concert is about exploring a different culture,” Hsiao said. “Because I’m a musician, it’s easy for me to be a part of it and to learn music from another culture is the best way for me to learn.”  

The concert was very engaging for the audience. During the Toei Sam Jun-wa (three folk song medley), the audience participated by clapping their hands to the rhythm of the music.  

Sripraram said these songs are often done with traditional dancers and that being involved is encouraged.  

During Rum Wong Loy-Kra-Tong (dance song), the final song of the concert, dancers from the Thai language danced in a circle around the recital hall. At the end, most of the around 30 person crowd got up and joined the circle.  

Brianna Roy, a Winfield resident, enjoyed the experience and was grateful to participate.  

“There’s a lot you can learn from these events, especially culturally and for the arts,” Roy said. “Sometimes you find out that you have an interest, and you kind of can broaden your knowledge of the world.”

The ensemble will be performing again next year on April 11. 

According to Hartmann, funding for the concert was provided in part from a $25,000 grant provided by the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. Part of the grant acceptance arrangement will also see Sripraram going to Thailand to also teach music to a school for the blind next summer.

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