Thai Jakhee

World Music Instrument: The Jakhee

We continue our series of reports on the fascinating variety of world music instruments with an article about the jakhee, an instrument used in Thai and Khmer music.

The jakhee (จะเข้) is a plucked string instrument with three strings and eleven wooden frets, found in Thailand, Myanmar, and Cambodia. The name is derived from the Thai word for crocodile, jaurakhee, because the body of the instrument is shaped like a crocodile, and it is sometimes elaborately carved to represent one. The body is made from wood, often from the jackfruit tree, carved out of one piece and covered with a flat lid on the bottom which has sound holes and five short legs.

Crocodile Jakhee

To play the jakhee, the player tightly ties a large pick to their right index finger. The right hand rests against the body of the instrument and the hand rocks back-and-forth over the strings in an arc-shaped motion, plucking strings individually or strumming across all three. The pick is often made from hardwood, bone, ivory or ceramic. The instrument itself can be decorated in elaborate patterns with gold paint, mother-of-pearl, lighter colored wood trim, bone, white resin or ivory. It has two silk or nylon strings, tuned to Do and Sol, and one metal string tuned to Do an octave lower, and they are strung over a curved bridge that gives the instruments a buzzing timbre, similar the javari bridge on Indian instruments such as the sitar.

jakhee-supeena

Supeena Insee Adler playing jakhee

Traditionally, a player sits with legs folded back to one side on the floor behind the instrument, but today it is common for the instrument to be elevated so the player may sit on a chair. The jakhee is often played as a solo instrument, but it is also found in classical ensembles, including the khrueang sai (stringed instruments) and mohoorii ensembles.

The stringed ensemble consists of one jakhee, one sau duang (two-stringed hardwood fiddle with python skin), one sau uu (two stringed fiddle with coconut shell body covered with cow skin), one khlui (wooden vertical flute), thoon-rammanna (a set of two drums), and ching (cymbals). It originated in the royal palace and is often used in entertainment settings, at schools, universities, communities, and temple festivals, and funerals.

The khrueangsai pii chawaa ensemble

The khrueangsai pii chawaa ensemble

Another, much rarer, kind of ensemble combines the small stringed instrument ensemble with quadruple-reed oboe and a pair of drums (klaung khaek). It is called khrueangsai pii chawaa, or stringed instrument ensemble with Javanese oboe. This ensemble is closely associated with royalty and plays both entertainment and ritual music, and was the subject of my Ph.D. dissertation at the University of California Riverside, entitled Music for the Few: Nationalism and Thai Royal Authority.

Want to see videos?

Supeena Insee Adler demonstrating the jakhee at UCLA. View here

Chin Kim Yai performed by Saharat Chanchalerm and orchestra at the Thai Cultural Center in Bangkok, Thailand. View here.

Thirty-five jakhee players perform at the funeral of their music teacher, khruu Thaungdii  Sujaritkul. View here

A khrueangsai pii chawaa ensemble performing at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. View here.

Supeena Insee Adler, Ph.D., is a lecturer at UCLA, ethnomusicologist, performer, and a volunteer Thai music teacher at the Thai Buddhist Temple in Escondido, California.

Máirtín de Cógáin

Máirtín de Cógáin, 21st Century Irish Storyteller

We warmly welcome Máirtín de Cógáin, who joins World Music in the Schools as a teaching artist in residence.

Máirtín de Cógáin-drumming-2Center for World Music artist in residence Máirtín de Cógáin is a singing, dancing, story-telling bodhrán (Irish frame drum) player, who also is a noted playwright and actor. He performs all over the United States, as well as in his native Ireland. An infectious personality, Máirtín pleasantly commands the attention of all audiences, from concert halls to intimate porches.

Descended from a long line of storytellers, Máirtín is the winner of two All-Ireland awards from Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. He often tours with The Máirtín de Cógáin Project, The Fuchsia Band, or Gailfean. A true promoter of “the Ballad,” he searches for those forgotten songs of old and breathes new life into them, as well as writing some new songs of his own. Máirtín learned from many famous Irish singers such as Danni Maichi Ua Súilleabháin, Séamus Mac Mathúna, and Ciarán Dwyer. He is a fluent speaker of Irish (Gaelic) who was brought up in a bilingual home, and attended primary and secondary schools taught in Irish. Máirtín holds a degree in the Irish language from University College Cork.

Máirtín de Cógáin-drummingIf not on stage singing, storytelling, dancing, or playing the bodhrán, Máirtín is treading the boards as an actor, notably in the film The Wind that Shakes the Barley. He has co-written many productions with the Be Your Own Banana Theatre Company, recently playing De Bogman off-Broadway in New York.

Máirtín has been playing the bodhrán for many years, learning first from Eric Cunningham (The New De Danann) and later from Colm Murphy (The Old De Danann). Máirtín has taught bodhrán technique at the Catskills Irish Arts Week, Augusta Irish Week, as well as giving workshops at major U.S. festivals including the Kansas City Irish Fest, CelticFest Mississippi, Minnesota Irish Fair, and La Crosse IrishFest. He also gives private lessons in the San Diego area and along the road while touring.

Máirtín de Cógáin-dancing

A traditional brush dance with his father Barry Cogan

Growing up in a house full of dancing, Máirtín helped teach the steps at the family-run céilís (social gatherings) from an early age, and now teaches the folk dances of Cork to dancers everywhere.

Máirtín makes friends wherever he goes. In a very short time, de Cógáin has become a regular performer at some of the most prestigious Irish festivals in the U.S. Although he can often be found leading a tour group in Ireland, or entertaining guests on a traditional Irish music-themed cruise ship, he now spends most of his time in California, where he lives with his wife Mitra and their young son, who shows great promise as a dancer and bodhrán player himself.

Want to learn more about Máirtín and his career? Visit www.MairtinMusic.com. You can also catch him on YouTube telling a story or singing with friends.

 

Fandango at Eduardo's

Eduardo García, Building Community Through Son Jarocho

Professor Eduardo García, a member of the San Diego-based son jarocho group Son de San Diego, teaches in the School of Arts at California State University San Marcos. He is also, we are proud to say, a teaching artist for the Center for World Music’s World Music in the Schools program. He has delved deeply into the study of son jarocho, the traditional music, dance, and songs of Veracruz, Mexico. His focus includes the instruments, the style of music, and above all creating a safe place for learning music and building community.

cynthia-_-eduardo-garciaEduardo’s interest in son jarocho regional folk music was sparked by an immersive study trip to San Andrés Tuxtla, Veracruz, Mexico in 2002. His journey to the home of son jarocho inspired his study of the tradition, taking him through many varied experiences in community-based music.

He believes it is important for young people to have access to as many musical cultures as possible. This global arts-based approach to learning brings the world to his students, and broadens their perspectives and sensibilities.

This particular music of Veracruz—son jarocho, son abajeño, or música de cuerdas, as it is known in different areas of the Sotavento region—is important because at its core lies the central component of cultivating community. Whether playing, singing, or dancing, this music is not created as a solo venture: it is a shared social activity. The instruments, the call and response nature of the singing, and the communicative percussion of the dancing between singers and musicians, creates myriad social and musical interactions. It is a social music, and Eduardo has tried to remain true to this central aspect of son jarocho music as he continues his efforts to cultivate a similar musical community in the San Diego region.cwm-festival-5-13-son-jarocho

— Cynthia Carbajal, Teacher at Lexington Elementary School in El Cajon, CA and Teaching Artist for the CWM’s World Music in the Schools

Read more about Eduardo García’s contributions to San Diego and his bridge-building efforts through the musical tradition of son jarocho:  

Sharing Music Across the U.S.-Mexico Border’s Metal Fence, New York Times — May 29, 2016

Son Jarocho Creates Community on Both Sides of the Border, KPBS — May 30, 2012

 Wu Man Makes Pipa an Instrument of Change, San Diego Union Tribune — May 8, 2014.

Watch a video:

Wu Man and Son de San Diego collaboration at the Carlsbad Music Festival.