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Pia

Items
Pia
Designated in
2011
Region
Northern
Overview

           The Pia is an originally one-stringed musical instrument which dates back as far as the Phraya Mang Rai Dynasty (1296 A.D.) during which Chiang Mai City was occupied.  The shape of Pia is derived from a one-string gourd lute and is similar in shape to the Kasae Deo lute from Cambodia.  Evidence affirms that the ancient one-string gourd lute originated from Indian civilizations and was found in many areas throughout India and Southeast Asia. Depictions of it are found at the Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Borobudur Pagoda in Indonesia and stucco designs in Ratchaburi Province.

          More strings were added during the reign of the Lanna Kingdom (1292–1558 A.D.). Also its string binding peg-heads, usually of wood, were made of bronze and beautifully decorated.

          Pia music nearly disappeared from the former Lanna Kingdom and it was the American Gerald P. Dyck, an ethnological musician, who assumed that no Pia players were active anymore in Thailand.  Also several articles published during 1967-1971 assumed that the Pia and its music were disappearing from Thailand. However during that same period, Dyck discovered active Pia players in Thailand. In later years (1979–1987 A.D.), Pia music became more popular as four former Pia players transferred their knowledge and playing skills to new generations of musicians.

          To play the Pia properly, it is necessary to learn the unique resonant playing technique.  It is more difficult to learn than any other technique but it produces a resonant sound which is very pleasing for listeners.  The soothing sound can be compared to the sound of bells ringing from afar which grabs people’s fascination immediately upon hearing it.

           Presently most of Pia players are people who received higher education and possess excellent musical background. Some of the players are experimenting with different and more uncommon styles and using the Pia together with other instruments. This modern practice is not wide spread yet and only geared towards the interest of specific groups. The Pia is a typical example of the diverse Thai cultural heritage and further development and future should be safeguarded for the enjoyment of next generations.  

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