Phleng Khorat is a kind of dialogue duet singing tradition that has developed into a folk spectacle of the people in Khorat–a colloquial name for Nakhon Ratchasima Province. It is an old tradition that has been passed on, with the unique characteristics of singing in Khorat dialect. The earliest record dates back to 1913 AD during the reign of King Rama VI, when Si Phatcharinthara, the Queen Mother, visited Nakhon Ratchasima Province to preside over the opening of the Chom Surang Yat Road and to visit Phimai District. In the welcoming ceremony, a prominent Mo Phleng by the name of Mr Ri Ban Suan Kha performed Phleng Khorat in her honour.
Phleng Khorat was previously very popular because it was the only kind of entertainment and people had ample time in their hand and often listen to the songs from early evening to the crack of dawn. When the Mo Phleng sang the Phleng La (a farewell song) to bid the host and other fellow Mo Phleng goodbye, a pi phat orchestra would accompany his farewell song (Phleng Khorat uses only hand clapping and no musical instrument to accompany the singing). The group of Mo Phleng or singers will dance in a procession to the house of the host, who will promptly pay the singers and feat them and also give them food provision for their trip back home. The spectators will stay on until the end of the show before heading back home.
Today, people’s taste for Phleng Khorat has changed. The art of Phleng Khorat itself has also changed in its content, format, and its popularity among the Khorat people.
The topic depicted in the Phleng Khorat varies according with the occasion on which it is to be performed. The old masters of Phleng Khorat emphasise wit in telling the Jataka tales and are strict with moral teaching. In the past Mo Phleng Khorat were messengers who disseminated information because they were worldly wise with their wide range of experiences. In the past, the Mo Phleng and the spectators were as one, as they shared the same society and understand each other’s problem. Today, the newgeneration Phleng Khorat singers mostly cater to the spectator’s request and focus solely on the entertainment value.
Consequently, Phleng Khorat is declining in popularity. Be that as it may, it is widely believed that Thao Suranari (a local heroine who lived during 1769-1852) adored Phleng Khorat, people often hire Phleng Khorat singers to perform at night near her memorial statue as a votive offering to her spirit. This practice keeps several Phleng Khorat singers, who mostly reside in Mueang Municipal District of Nakhon Ratchasima Province, in business.
Examples of prominent Phleng Khorat troupes can be found in the Mueang Municipal District of Nakhon Ratchasima.