As with history, art, religion and food, music is one of the components that defines specific cultures. Here are some of the new interactive and immersive musical experiences that Southeast Asia tours is delighted offer to our clients:

Visit The State School of Fine Arts at Chin Tsong Palace in Yangon to learn the basics of playing traditional  musical instruments, singing and dancing. Your instructors will be the school’s 14 year-old to 17 year-old students. Not only is this a fascinating way to learn about local music, but it gives travelers a unique opportunity to interact with young people. Instruments taught at the school include Burmese harp, saing (Myanmar drum circle), piano and violin. Visits are available from June to March, except on weekends and public holidays.

Private visits can also be arranged with one of Myanmar’s most famous harpists, Aung Pyae Son. The son of famed harpist U Win Maun, and now a teacher at Gitameik Music Institute for Myanmar, Aung Pyae Son is a multi award-winning musician who has been playing harp since the age of seven.

The Thai city of Amphawa is home to a number of well-known Thai musicians. Baan Dontree, located in the temple compound of Wat Pummarin Kudi Thong, was founded to keep alive the history of Thai traditional music. Music classes for tourists take place each weekend morning from 8:00am to noon. A guide will accompany you and will serve as your interpreter, as the teachers don’t speak English.

Pay a visit to the Khlong Toey Music Program in Bangkok. KTMP is a non-profit organization that teaches music and art to underprivileged children of the Khlong Toey slum communities. Classes are free to these children.

When visiting Cambodia, meet with one of the foremost experts on Angkorian musical instruments. Patrick deciphers and remakes ancient musical instruments by studying carvings from temple bas reliefs. He has a workshop at Theam’s House in Siem Reap, where visitors can learn about the history of the instruments. Patrick, who speaks fluent English, is available for lectures to groups of visitors.

Khen is the culturally significant Lao music played on unusual handmade bamboo mouth organs. Lao traditional music consists of both classical and folk music. In Luang Prabang visitors can meet with a local Khen music expert to learn the basics of playing Khen music. Classes are available for either a half day or a full day. Or, simply enjoy a one-hour live performance.

Visitors to Sarawak, in Malaysian Borneo, have the opportunity to meet Mathew Ngau Jau, a member of the indigenous Long Semiyang ethnic group. A professional sape performer, sape maker and sape teacher, Mathew Ngau Jau is a recognized authority on the sape instrument. Sape is a traditional lute of the Orang Ulu community. It was originally played in longhouses during healing ceremonies, but is now used for entertainment. Sape instruments are masterfully carved from the tree trunk of white wood.

Muay Thai Sarama is the rhythmic music heard at Muay Thai boxing matches. It is played by a group of four musicians and features a type of oboe and a pair of drums or cymbals. Performances are improvised and the tempos change to reflect the mood of the pre-match Ram Muay, as well as the mood of the fight itself.

Rock ‘n’ Roll! played a big part in the culture of 1960s and 1970s Vietnam. Not only did famous rock artists reference the Vietnam War in their music, but their music filled the military barracks and bars in Saigon. Think “Good Morning Vietnam“. Visitors to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) can take a tour of the city’s Rock & Roll history with guitarist guide Kevin Gallarello. Visit Guitar Street, an alley with a wide range of iconic guitars (knock-offs as well as good quality instruments). Learn the meaning behind rock songs of the era. Browse and chat with shopkeepers. You’ll also visit a local café where Trinh Cong Son music is played. Trinh Cong Son is a Vietnamese composer who wrote songs during the war. The tour ends at “Saigon Saigon” rooftop bar at the Caravelle Hotel.  The rooftop bar was a hangout for foreigners during the 60s and 70s.

Diane Embree
May 29, 2019