Tai Khampti. Folk Genre of Talking and Singing. By:- Chau Khouk Manpoong


     There are, broadly speaking, two types of songs traditionally practised by the Tai-Khamptis - one is ceremonial, and it is sung on the occasions of festival, ceremony, special function. The other is recreational, and may be sung at any time by young boys and girls to please themselves. Both types are unaccompanied and sung solo b man or woman.

     Ceremonial songs are either narrative or dialogic are sung during the melodramatic performance called 'pung' by the actor and actress in varieties of intonational tune befitting the role in the play ranging from melodic to plain dialogue is verse, interposed with dancing by the players to the accompaniment of orchestral music that gives rise and fall of rumbling sound amidst joyous cries by the drumers 'Olou-Olou Ola-Ola'. On certaing festive occasion group song is also sung with the clapping of hand by the singers, male and female, while slowly moving round in graceful gait in which the leader leads the singing narrating the myth of the creation of universe, the traditional epics of the race or the significance of the events, followed by the rest in chorus.

      The recreational song, so to say, is a preserve for young boys and girls to sing and one may hear them sing at their best when traveling through the forests, breaking out into spontaneous burst of song that stirs the heart. Such songs are often inspired with poetic imagination and sung in a long-drawn beautiful tune.

     But it is not easy to hear them sing, because, by social custom, it is taboo to sing such 'Pali' song in public in the sense that it is considered discourteous. So when young boys and girls go outing in nearby forests, quiet isolated fields away from the glare, a boy or girl sings to his or her hearts' content expressing emotion, imagining that it is enjoyable while walking in the company of forest gods(Fi), describing beautiful surrounding hills and forests that protect his lovely village, reminding loved one to be faithful while he is away, expressing his inability to go to 'Tusita' heaven because 'you come in my way' and so on. In responding girl may sing saying 'you yourself failed to go to 'Tusita' heaveen because of your fault of not doing any meritorious act in your previous birth, so blame me not'.

     Tai-Khampti people having stayed in isolation for many, many generations is early periods with little or no social contract with other branches of Tai family and passed through process of development in an independent line acquired some distinctive characteristics in their social behaviour, language and culture. Though the Tai-Khampti vocabulary and language have close similarity to that of other Tai-branches, some dialectic differences exist in the manner of speaking, pronunciation of words and intonation although the root words remain the same.