Marching bands in Thailand & Prince Paribatra Sukhumbhand

Marching bands in Thailand & Prince Paribatra Sukhumbhand

Siam Symphonic Band perform a concert at the National Theatre, Bangkok, to celebrate the 135th anniversary of the birthday of Prince Paribatra Sukhumbhand of Nagor Svarga.
Siam Symphonic Band perform a concert at the National Theatre, Bangkok, to celebrate the 135th anniversary of the birthday of Prince Paribatra Sukhumbhand of Nagor Svarga.

Inspired by military service in Germany, Prince Paribatra (1881-1944) wrote over 70 marching band pieces during his life. Many western brass instructors served at the court of Siam.


Prince Paribatra Sukhumbhand & marching band music in Thailand

Melalin Mahavongtrakul & Pichaya Svasti

Photograph of Prince Paribatra Sukhumbhand of Siam, Prince of Nakhon Sawan. Heir to the throne and Minister of the Interior Date circa 1900s (Source: Wikipedia)

Prince Paribatra Sukhumbhand of Nagor Svarga (1881-1944) is well-known as the Father of Western-style Thai Music.

Prince Paribatra as the son of King Rama V attended the Prussian Military Academy in his youth.

Serving in the German army, the prince was bestowed several honours and distinctions, including Kaiser Wilhelm II's special commendation.

He later returned to Siam not only with military knowledge, but also musical inspiration -- both in playing musical instruments and in musical composition.

Over the prince's lifetime, he composed more than 70 musical pieces (see list here).


Celebrating Prince Paribatra's 135th birth anniversary this year, the Siam Symphonic Band toured Germany.

Throughout their concerts, the band always started with the Paribatra March, one of the prince's most popular compositions, composed during King Vajiravudh's reign (Rama VI) for navy band concerts. Listen here:

Other of the prince's compositions and rearrangements performed were the Damrong March, Soke and Krob Jakrawal.

Aside from the prince's music, the band also included the Royal Guards March, which was composed by HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1953. Listen here:

Also featured was the Siamesische Wachtparade (Siamese Patrol March) -- a piece composed by German composer Paul Lincke in honour of King Chulalongkorn. Listen here:

The performances of traditional numbers like Bart Sakuni and Satt Chatri also featured Thai traditional dancers from the Fine Arts Department. Listen to Ram Satt Chatri here:

This music tour marks the first time Prince Paribatra's compositions have ever been performed outside of Thailand.


When Prince Paribatra Sukhumbhand returned from Germany in the 1920s, that is when the real development of Thai brass bands took off.

The prince required all members of military brass bands (marching bands) to learn to read and write Western-style musical scores and perform by using the western style musical notes he arranged.

From 1904 to 1932, he arranged the music separately for each of 16 brass instruments. 

The prince composed many songs, both in Western and Thai traditions — salutation songs, marching songs for parades and funerals, gala dinner concerts for dignitaries and more (listen to play list of his compositions here).

His masterpieces include the Paribatra March, the funeral march Soke, and Krob Jakrawal.

Prince Paribatra was the composer who transcribed the ancient tune Maha Rirk into a standardised musical score that is still used as ceremonial music. Listen here:

Until today, the sound of the bugle remains an everyday signal at military barracks, and the foundation of Western music in Thailand, like other foundations, has its roots in the military.

The Siam Symphonic Band performing at Nymphenburg Palace in Munich.


Recently, a seminar was held entitled "From Trae Wong To Symphonic Band", held to reflect on the long history of Thai music and to trace the use of horns and brass instruments — trae in Thai — in rituals and military ceremonies in Europe and Asia since ancient times.  The seminar was led by experts in music including Emeritus Prof Dr Poonpit Amatyakul, Anant Narkkong and Wisit Jitrapong

According to the book Trae Wong (Brass Ensembles), also published to mark Prince Paribatra's birthday, the first use of brass instruments in Thailand was during the reign of King Narai the Great (1656-1688).

Over two centuries later in the reign of King Rama IV, former British military officer Capt Impey and Capt Thomas Knox had introduced the use of bugle sounds as signals for training conscripts for the Grand Palace and the Front Palace.

In the same reign, brass instruments for a whole band were purchased but not used until 1862. Then the German warship Acona sailed into the Kingdom, and its brass band performed for the procession to bring the royal tidings to King Rama IV.

A military brass band performs at a palace in Bangkok.


The band conductor Master Friez offered his service as brass instructor to Siamese musicians. It took about a month for Siamese soldiers to learn and finally to play three Western-style songs.

Later, the arrival of US warships on diplomatic journeys to Bangkok, such as Vandila in 1868 and Tennessee in 1877, provided opportunities for Siamese musicians to practice and learn about American styles and songs for brass musicians. The US sailors spent over two months in Siam and taught Siamese soldiers to hone their brass playing skills. The warship Tennessee came with brass instructor Capt Michel Fusco, who stayed and taught at the Royal Thai Navy for 25 years until his death in 1902. He taught army and navy brass bands to perform as marching bands for inspection of troops and perform while sitting as symphonic bands and play Thai traditional music.

Another important brass instructor in Siam was Jacob Veit (1844-1905), a German-American who served the American army in California during the Civil War in 1866. Veit came to Siam and worked as music instructor at the Front Place of King Pinklao, the second king of Siam during the Fourth Reign, until 1885. He taught a number of Siamese soldiers to play brass as signals and to play for small brass bands. His most outstanding student was MR Chit Seniwong, who was good at writing music and also playing. He was later promoted to the rank of Phra Withitborathes and was the first Siamese to be bestowed with a royal medal for music by King Rama V in 1885.

The Royal Thai Army Brass Band was formed in the late 19th century and became popular in Siam ever since. Their performances varied from marching band to symphonic bands in concerts, playing both Western and traditional Thai music. Besides this band, there was a rise in non-military brass bands performing in parades and festivals and also in theatres for silent movies.

During 1882-1902 in the reign of King Rama V, army brass bands were formed by regional armies and their members taught the music to local people, leading to the establishment of more brass bands at the local level.

Prince Paribatra's string group (Source: Wikipedia) วงเครื่องสายบางขุนพรหม ของสมเด็จพระเจ้าบรมวงศ์เธอ เจ้าฟ้าบริพัตรสุขุมพันธุ์ กรมพระนครสวรรค์วรพินิต ในพระราชพิธีราชคฤหมงคล ขึ้นพระตำหนักเปี่ยมสุข วังไกลกังวล สแกนจากหนังสือ กรรณิการ์ ตันประเสริฐ. จดหมายเหตุวังไกลกังวล สมัยรัชกาลที่ ๗.

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  • academy: an organisation intended to protect and develop an art, science, language, etc., or a school which teaches a particular subject or trains people for a particular job - สถานศึกษา, สถาบันการศึกษา, วิทยาลัย(เฉพาะด้าน)
  • according to (prep): as stated or reported by somebody/something - ตามคำบอกเล่า, ตามรายงาน
  • adj (noun): connected with soldiers or the armed forces - ในทางทหาร,เกี่ยวกับทหาร
  • ancient: very old - ที่เก่าแก่ ที่โบราณ
  • anniversary: a date when you celebrate something that happened in a previous year that is important to you - วันครบรอบ
  • arrange: to plan or organize something in advance - จัดเตรียม, เตรียมการ
  • attend: go to a school as a student -
  • barracks: a group of buildings where members of the armed forces live and work - โรงหรืออาคารใหญ่เป็นที่พักทหาร
  • bestowed: (of something valuable or important) given - มอบให้
  • brass (noun): a bright yellow metal made by mixing copper and zinc; objects made of brass - ทองเหลือง
  • brass bands: bands with brass instruments in them such as trumpets, tubas, trombones, euphoniums, etc, usually marching bands or military bands -
  • brass instruments: musical instruments such as trumpets, tubas and trombones -
  • celebrate: to do something enjoyable in order to show that an occasion or event is special - ฉลอง
  • century: a period of one hundred years - ศตวรรษ
  • ceremonial (adj): relating to or used in a ceremony - เกี่ยวกับพิธี
  • compose: to produce music, poetry or formal writing - แต่งขึ้น
  • composer: someone who writes music - นักแต่งเพลง
  • composition: a piece of music or art, or a poem - การแต่งเพลง, การประพันธ์
  • conscript: someone who has been made to join the armed forces - ผู้ที่ถูกเกณฑ์ทหาร
  • court (noun): connected with the place where the king, queen and the royal family live - ราชสำนัก
  • dignitary: a person who has an important official position - บุคคลที่มีตำแหน่งสูง, ผู้มีฐานะสูงส่ง
  • distinctions: something that makes you special such an award -
  • emeritus (adj): used with a title to show that a person, usually a university teacher, keeps the title as an honour, although he or she has stopped working - ปลดเกษียณแล้วแต่ยังมีตำแหน่งเป็นเกียรติ
  • ensemble (noun): a group of musicians who perform together - กลุ่มของนักดนตรี
  • entitled: having the right to have or do something - มีสิทธิโดยชอบ
  • expert: someone who has a particular skill or who knows a lot about a particular subject - ผู้เชี่ยวชาญ
  • feature: something important, interesting or typical of a place or thing - จุดเด่น, คุณสมบัติ
  • foundation: supporting structure - รากฐาน
  • funeral: a ceremony that takes place after someone dies - งานศพ
  • gala: a special public occasion at which there is a lot of entertainment, usually in the form of different types of performances - งานกาลา, งานรื่นเริง
  • guard: a person who protects a place or people - ยาม, ผู้ดูแล, ยามรักษาการณ์
  • history (noun): all the events that happened in the past - ประวัติศาสตร์
  • honour: an award, official title, etc. given to somebody as a reward for something that they have done - เกียรติยศ, เหรียญตรา
  • in honour of: to show respect and admiration for somebody - เป็นเกียรติให้กับ
  • inspiration: someone or something that gives you new ideas or enthusiasm to do something - แรงบันดาลใจ
  • knowledge (noun): all the facts that people know about a subject (example: medical knowledge) - ความรู้
  • lifetime (noun): the length of time that somebody lives or that something lasts - ระยะเวลาที่มีชีวิตได้
  • march: a walk by a large group of people to a place to celebrate or protest something - เดินแถว, เดินขบวน
  • marching band: a group of musicians who play while they are marching - กลุ่มนักดนตรีที่เล่นในขณะเดินแถว
  • mark (verb): to celebrate or officially remember an event that you consider to be important - เฉลิมฉลอง, ระลึกถึง
  • masterpiece (noun): a work of art such as a painting, film, or book that is made with great skill - ผลงานชิ้นเอก,ผลงานชิ้นเด่น, ผลงานชิ้นโบว์แดง
  • member: a person, a country or an organization that has joined a particular group, club or team - สมาชิก
  • musical: a play or a film/movie in which part or all of the story is told using songs and often dancing - ละครเพลง
  • number (noun): the performance of a piece of music or dance or other entertainment -
  • parade: to walk somewhere in a formal group of people, in order to celebrate or protest about something - เดินขบวน, เดินพาเหรด
  • patrol: to move regularly around a place in order to prevent trouble or crime or to watch for an enemy - ลาดตระเวน
  • perform: to put on a show for people, e.g., singing, playing a sport, etc - แสดง
  • performance: the act of carrying out some type of entertainment or sport - การแสดง
  • piece: one work of art or music that an artist or musical composer has made -
  • popular (adj): a situation in which someone or something is liked by many people - เป็นที่นิยม, เป็นที่ชื่นชอบ
  • prince (noun): a male member of a royal family who is not king, especially the son or grandson of the king or queen - เจ้าชาย
  • procession: a line of people or vehicles moving in a slow and formal way as part of an event - ขบวน(ราช) รถในพิธี
  • publish: to make something available to the public through books, magazines, the Internet, etc. - เผยแพร่, จัดพิมพ์
  • purchase: to buy something - ซื้อ
  • recently (adverb): not long ago - เมื่อไม่นานมานี้, เมื่อเร็วๆ นี้
  • reflect: to think about something carefully - ไตร่ตรอง, ครุ่นคิด
  • reign: (of a king or queen) to officially rule a country - ครองราชย์
  • require: to make somebody do or have something, especially because it is necessary according to a particular law or set of rules - บังคับใช้ (กฎหมาย) กำหนด
  • ritual: a formal ceremony - พิธีการ
  • root: a basic cause or idea - รากฐาน, แก่นแท้, ต้นตอ
  • royal: a member of the family of a king and queen - บุคคลในราชวงศ์
  • score (noun): a written or printed version of a piece of music showing what each instrument is to play or what each voice is to sing - โน้ตเพลง
  • seminar: a meeting for discussion or training - การสัมมนา
  • signal: to be a sign that something exists or is likely to happen - ส่งสัญญาณ
  • standardise: to make objects or activities of the same type have the same features or qualities; to make something standard - วางมาตรฐาน, ปรับเข้ามาตรฐาน
  • symphony: a long piece of classical music played by an orchestra - ดนตรีวงใหญ่, ดนตรีประสานเสียงวงใหญ่
  • took off: became successful or popular very quickly or suddenly - ได้รับความนิยมอย่างรวดเร็ว
  • trace: to discover the cause or origin of something by examining the way in which it has developed - สืบหาร่องรอย
  • traditional (adj): of a custom, a way of life or a way of doing things that has not changed for a long time - เป็นประเพณี, ตามธรรมเนียม, ตามที่ปฏิบัติกันมา
  • training (noun): teaching people how to do a certain job or activity - การฝึกอบรม, การฝึก, การอบรม
  • transcribe: to write down what someone says -
  • tune: a series of musical notes that are sung or played in a particular order to form a piece of music - ทำนองเพลง
  • well-known (adj.): famous, everyone knows about it - ซึ่งมีชื่อเสียง, ซึ่งเป็นที่รู้จักกันดี, เป็นที่รู้จัก, เลื่องลือ
  • youth: a boy or a young man - เด็กหนุ่ม, วัยรุ่น
  • youth: young people considered as a group - เยาวชน, คนวัยหนุ่มสาว
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