Diker Hulu is a traditional folk singing that is popular in the three southernmost provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala provinces. “Diker” is Persian for: (1) a hymn to God; (2) a sung verse often performed in groups in response to other groups. “Hulu” means the source of stream or a countryside village. Here it probably means the area where the Pattani river originates, which is called in local dialect “Thit Hulu” or “the South,”.
Diker Hulu is mostly performed by men. The performers comprise one to two mae phleng (lead singers); 10 to 15 luk khu (chorus singers), and five to six musicians. All are clad in Muslim folk costume. The chorus and the musicians don similar clothes, while the lead singers and other solo singers wear clothes of different design. The musical accompaniment comprises one medium-sized gong, which is alternatively called mong yai; two rammana drums, and one to two pairs of maracas. Later additions are krap (a pair of wooden blocks), chap (a pair of medium-sized cymbals), and mong khu (a pair of medium-sized twin gongs).
Diker Hulu performance begins with an overture. After that a Karo is performed to pay homage to the teachers and to greet the host of the event and the spectators. Later on the singers sing to announce the objective of the event through the songs in various tempos, alternated with the comments and responses between the singers, which depict the current actualities. The songs end with the singing of the farewell verse called Wabulae, followed by a finale music. Usually Diker Hulu does not feature a story line or narrative structure, but mainly focuses on entertainment and amusement, which depend on the lead singers’ witty comments and responses.
In addition to providing entertainment to the people, Diker Hulu reflects, through its performance customs and Malay language, the unique characteristics and identity of the Muslim Thai people in Thailand’s southern provinces.
The Diker Hulu troupes that continue to preserve the ancient performance customs and maintain their popularity among the local communities are: Mayaha troupe, Anoh Puyu troupe, Slindong Bayu troupe, and the Bu-nga Tani troupe.