Muay Thai Music – Sarama

The muay Thai music or Sarama that accompanies the Thai boxing fight is a unique and unmistakable sound which sets the tone and creates atmosphere at muay Thai stadiums across Thailand. It is a form of traditional Thai music which is played live (in Thailand) by four musicians playing percussion instruments, oboes and symbols.

The musicians don’t follow a written piece, instead they improvise the entire performance through years of mastering the art.

The Sarama muay Thai music is played during the wai kru ram muay and the fight itself. However, the tempo during the wai kru is slow and mirrors the graceful and dignified act of the ram muay. The music that accompanies the fight itself has an increased tempo.

During periods of inactivity such as between rounds or when a knockdown occurs the music is paused. It then resumes once the action is picked up on the signal of the referee.

Muay Thai Music History and Origins

Although Thailand has never been colonised, it has been influenced by many surrounding countries. Thai music largely reflects it’s location between India and China, as well as its historic trade routes which included Africa, Persia, Greece and Italy.

The instruments used during a muay Thai fight also reflect this outside influence, and may include the following;

Klong Khaek – a pair of male and female drums played by one or two performers. The instrument gets its name from Klong (meaning drum) and Kaak (meaning India or Malay).

Chhing – Cups made from a variety of metals attached by a chord. These are struck together to produce the symbol sound you here during the muay Thai fight and act as the timekeeper of the ensemble.

Kong Mong – a traditional Thai drum named after the sound it produces. The Khaw-ng mong has long been part of the Thai ensemble and was historically used to notify civilians of the time of day.

Pi Kaek – an Indian clarinet refined by the Javanese. This ancient instrument was formerly played to soldiers in an attempt to boost morale within the army.

Muay Thai Music Misconceptions

Contrary to popular belief in some western countries, Thais do not play this traditional muay Thai music while they train. It is reserved for the fight only.

When Thais train they’ll usually listen to popular Thai music or rock music.

I always think that there are two things that can instantly prepare me for a fight – the music and the smell of Nam Muay oil. These two things are part of the ritual before every fight.

For more Muay Thai Tradition Misconceptions visit this post I wrote about it a while ago – Muay Thai Traditions that Westerners Practice (But Thais Don’t).

About Aaron Jahn

Aaron is an active muay Thai fighter and coach from the UK. He holds a BSc (hons) degree in Strength & Conditioning and is currently studying a Sports Therapy Master's degree in Leeds, UK. Aaron has fought over 20 times in Thailand and has spent years training at different muay Thai camps all over the country.
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