Mahori isn’t just for men

Traditional Thai mahori court music ensembles consist of gongs, xylophones and strings, though not oboes, which are central to piphat, another classical genre from Thailand. Centuries ago in the Kingdom of Siam, performing mahori on these gongs, xylophones and strings — but not oboes! — was exclusively the task of males, though bit by bit women from royal families trained as classical musicians and were welcomed into the ensembles. In the mid-19th century the Siamese King Rama IV decreed that women would be permitted to not only perform in the mahori ensemble but could act onstage as well. Initially many women left mahori ensembles and chose to act rather than make music…but why? Look at this video of a performance of a mahori ensemble from Bangkok’s Ramkhamhaeng University. How could anyone ever choose to act instead?