The effects of globalization on the status of music in Thai society
Globalization tends to be accompanied by two contrary processes: the one a celebration of newly opened international communications, the other, resistance to what is seen as an invasion of foreign culture. This research examines such processes in terms of perceptions of the status of music in Bangkok. The focus is on three main musical categories each of which, if vocal, uses Thai language in its lyrics: Thai classical, Thai country popular and Thai popular music. These musical categories, and the changing relationships between them, are examined in terms of three interconnected areas of perceptions of musical value: the position of music in education, the status of musical careers and the role of music in affirming national identity. Two sets of questionnaires were completed by 100 undergraduate students from 5 universities and 108 secondary-level school music teachers from 108 schools; and interviews were held with 10 respondents from 9 record companies. Whilst the students valued Thai classical music and country popular music as national symbols, they identified themselves with Thai popular music, which has become the main local musical product as a result of the globalization of the music industry. Contrastingly, the teachers understood Thai popular music as a capitulation to foreign culture. They used Thai classical music as the most common extra-curricular activity, but they nonetheless incorporated Thai popular music most often in classrooms. Careers involving Thai classical music were perceived as offering fewer rewards compared to other types of music. Very recently the nationalist campaign following the 1997 economic crisis in Thailand has drawn attention to national cultures, with `modernization' as the key word. This has led to an adapted form of Thai classical music which has been used in official ceremonies. Historically a low ranking career, but a hobby of the upper classes, music has been upgraded to a higher career status and as a hobby, it has become available to a larger proportion of the population. The educational value of music continues to be related to cultural conservation and to the status of music in general. The findings suggest that despite the tension between modernization and conservation, globalization has improved the status of music in education, in career terms and as a symbol of national identity.