ICH Video Documentary Series in Thailand #2: Kan, Traditional Thai Reed Mouth Organ

The kan used as an accompaniment to dance

Kan is a traditional Thai Reed Mouth Organ originating from the Isan region in the northeastern part of Thailand. According to legend, a hunter in Isan heard the sound of a bird called Korawick in the forest and went down to the village to explain the sound. A widow, impressed by the story, recreated the bird’s voice and made a kan. This instrument is an integral part of Isan’s local community and is used in festivals, events, and ceremonies for the treatment of diseases, symbolizing the life of Isan. During the reign of King Rama IV, playing the kan was prohibited in Bangkok due to concerns that it might surpass in popularity the traditional Thai ensemble music of the central region.

Kan consisted of three parts. The wind canister, Tao, is made of solid tree root, the lead part is made of metal, and the body part of the kan, the pipe, is made of bamboo. The craftsman drills sound holes in the bamboo pipe, and the distance between these holes determines each note of the scale. Traditionally, artisans relied on their ears to tune the instrument’s sound. However, currently, they are using a chromatic tuner to tune to the international standard scale, making efforts to create a scientific and systematic instrument. Moreover, it is showing flexibility in keeping with the times, such as organizing a band with Western instruments to keep pace with modernization.

This traditional woodwind Instrument kan video is one of the 10 ICH video Documentary Series, which is the result of the collaborative project between ICHCAP and Thammasat University in Thailand. Both organizations aim to raise visibility and strengthen the public’s access to ICH in Thailand through this project.

ICHCAP shines a light on the ICH of Asia-Pacific and introduces its value to the public through video projects depicting ICH. ICHCAP conducts joint projects with member states to portray real-life scenes of ICH alongside experts, communities, NGOs, and other stakeholders in various countries. As a result, it has produced fifty videos on the ICH of Central Asia through the phase-one joint project on Central Asia and an additional fifty videos through the phase-two video project on the ICH of Southeast Asia. These videos are being screened through broadcasting companies and at film festivals in each country, in addition to distribution via YouTube and other channels.

Videos represent the most accurate method of capturing ICH as it exists in the real world, as well as being effective tools for communicating with the public. ICHCAP will endeavor to continue vividly documenting the scenes of ICH that are hidden across the Asia-Pacific region with the aim of raising the profile of ICH elements as treasures of humanity and introducing them to the public.

Please refer to the brochure below for more information on the Thai ICH video documentary.