If you visit the Chatuchak weekend market you're bound to run into people playing on the walkways for spare change, or busking to those of you in the UK. The two boys above were working as a team one late morning, standing in the already hot sun and going at it almost non-stop.
|Another boy performing at|
Chatuchak one morning
The variety of melody and tones used has been better with some older players I've heard - I can say that much.
The instrument the boy in the red shirt in the clip is playing is called a khaen; also spelled "kaen" and "khen", transliteration being the imperfect process it often is. There is also a close relative in the same family known as the khene; nearly identical, but tuned to a different (pentatonic) scale.
The khaen is a set of bamboo pipes, carefully cut to different lengths to produce different notes, and I say carefully because unlike a stringed instrument it's nearly impossible to "tune" it once the pipe is cut. There are five basic lai, or modes, of tuning for the khaen. This is beyond my musical knowledge, so forgive me for quoting a bit here from Wikipedia to explain them to those who'll understand:
"The khaen has five different lai, or modes: Lai Yai (A C D E G), Lai Noi (D F G A C), Lai Soutsanaen (G A C D E), Lai Po Sai (C D F G A), and Lai Soi (D E G A B). Lai Po Sai is considered to be the oldest of the Lai Khaen and Lai Soutsanaen the 'Father of the Lai Khaen.' "
More common in the Isaan region of Thaland, it's also a common woodwind used in the music of Laos and Cambodia.
I confess, when I hear this at an outdoor restaurant as part of the entertainment it's difficult to stay seated and not join in with the others who get up to dance. Thankfully, decency usually keeps me seated.