Concepts : Pentatonic minor scale, Ostinato, Drone, Minor 3rd, Perfect 4th and Perfect 5th

Background : The ostinatos presented in this lesson come from three Isan folk songs. Isan is the Northeastern region in Thailand and most Isan people are ethnically the same as the Lao from Laos just across the famous Mekong River. These songs are usually played by a pong lang band or folk music band. The Isan word for song (in Thai is phleng) is ‘lai', e.g. lai pong lang, lai toei Khong etc.

The first song is known as‘Lai pong lang' because it is played on the pong lang or Isan xylophone.

The second song is called ‘Lai soeng Phuthai' because it uses the accent and style of the Phuthai tribe, an indigenous Northeastern people group.

The third song is ‘Lai toei Khong', which means that the composer has been inspired by the Mekong River.

Listening: Have the students listen to each of the songs completely through. Ask them to explain features of the songs such as major or minor key and how many chord changes there are (they should answer that the songs do not change chords). Have the students listen for minor 3rds, perfect 4ths and perfect 5ths.

Performance : Teach the students to sing the three ostinatos. Divide students into three groups. The groups will practice one song each and will then perform one after the other and then simultaneously. The melodies will sound very nice when sung simultaneously. Then have a couple of students supply a drone using voice or bass instrument. Have the students walk in a circle while they are singing with one step per beat. This will introduce them to the concept of ramwong or circle dancing, which use pentatonic minor melodies based on these folk melodies.

Composition: Have students write a short melody or ostinato using a pentatonic scale. The beginning of each bar should use a tonic chord note and the final note should be the tonic.




The Phuthai


Khong river