The Cultural Collision between folk Performing Arts “Molam” and Culture Industry

Prayut Wannaudom

Ph.D candidate of Faculty of Communication Arts
Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

In the past , Molam is a form of folk performance of the north-eastern region of Thailand. It was performed in special occasions such as in a traditional ritual or ceremony. At present, due to the more advance technology in mass communication, Molam is more popular. This is because mass communication, which is the Culture Industry acts as media through which Molam can reach various audiences. Mass communications play significant roles in producing more Molam and transforming Molam into a modern performance.

Finally, Molam is promoted to be global performance because it is managed to be cultural commodity by mass communication. Many entertainment enterprises and industries bring efficient management system to serve every process of the production of Molam, for example, Molam becomes live show recorded in to the VCD format, tape cassette, audio CD, VCD karaoke for mass distribution into the market.
Nowadays, we can witness the cultural effects of the phenomenon of Molam as Global performance as follows:

1. The more Culture Industry exercise its roles in society, the more Molam displays its unique identity because Culture Industry contributes in distinguishing the differences between global performance and local performance. As a result, we can better perceive the differences of these two forms of performance.

2. When the rise of Culture Industry brings the Western performance to Thailand, there is the resistance from conservative Molam artists. Especially the traditional Molam artists try to maintain their identity by negotiating with the Western culture in order to keep their traditional performance and Molam’s spirit, for example play the local musical instrument “Kaen” and “Pin” along with their show.

3. The trend of Culture Industry allows Molammore spaces to show more of its identities. The spaces are largely in mass communication media such as press, magazine, TV, Radio, tape cassette, VCD, even cyber space where there are websites setup by fans of famous Molam artists.

4. However, The Culture Industry also affects local performing arts to be distorted from its original style due to the enterprises’ urgent need to produce plenty of Molam for their market. This makes the young generation of Molam artists ignore the roots and spirit of the performance.

5. When Molam becomes cultural commodities due to mass production, its values and its duration as a classic art form seem to be reduced continually. The tasks of the artists are to produce the performing art for the sake of business transaction instead of for the aesthetic values of the art as the Molam artist in the past do.

As mentioned above, we witness the phenomenon of cultural collision between local performing arts and Culture Industry which brings both advantages and disadvantages to the performance art of Molam.

Remark: Molam’s meanings are:
1. The performer mastering in dancing and singing in a type of northeastern or Isan Lao folk performance.
2. The form of one of the most popular local performing arts in the Northeast of Thailand which carries the unique characteristics of singing and dancing in the style of Northeastern folk performance.