Classical music is not exclusively a Western phenomenon. From Japan to Egypt and numerous points in between and beyond, a stunning variety of non-Western classical traditions have thrived for centuries. Broadly defined as music for an elite class that has been officially supported by a culture's ruling members, classical music is as much -- if not more -- at home in Java as it is in Los Angeles. On this Nimbus release, four examples of classical music from Thailand are presented. Performed by the Prasit Thawon Ensemble in 1993, these stunning tracks begin with "Homrong Sornthong." Because it's played by a traditional Pi Phat ensemble, the piece features many percussion instruments -- tuned gongs and xylophones along with drums and cymbals -- as well as the singular pi nai. The pi nai is an oboe with a nasally tone capable of cutting through the ensemble's metallic and wooden soundscape. The remaining three cuts on the CD include the stately melodies of "Sumarn Dontri Klong," wafting vocals on "Cherd Chin," and bebop-like blazing on the sword-fighting song "Sarama." All the tracks are stunning. Though some may equate non-Western music with "primitive" folk music, the refined and regal sounds found on the Prasit Thawon Ensemble's Thai Classical Music will surely smash this stereotype.
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AllMusic Review by John Vallier