Cham martial orchestras in Bayon

Last update : July 30, 2021

The bas-reliefs of Bayon and Banteay Chhmar depict a number of Cham's martial orchestras. Most of the instruments are the same as those of the Khmer, except for a cylindrical drum and the more frequent presence of the hourglass drum.

This page completes the one devoted to the Khmer Bayon martial orchestras.

East exterior gallery, north wing

Very rarely, three cham musicians each carrying a cylindrical drum with two membranes connected by a link passing alternately through each of them. Usually the instruments are represented alone or in pairs/couples. The fact that there are three of them here, perhaps means that there was a large number of them. There is such an instance in the north gallery, east wing (16th c.) of Angkor Wat, where three flute players walk in a row.

North outer gallery, east wing

Two musicians each carry a cylindrical drum with a strap around their shoulders. They are followed by a cymbalist playing his instrument at face level.


East interior gallery, north wing, 1

This orchestra consists of eight musicians, including the two carriers of the large drum. The representation of the instruments is approximate, to say the least. The drummer who strikes the large drum is, like most Khmer martial orchestras in Bayon, a small figure, always with the aim of letting the drum show through. Here, it has floral decorations. The points of the circumference represent the nails of skin fixing. The first two instruments of the orchestra, in the direction of the march, are two small drums of poor quality of execution. The same is true of the two trumpets from the perspective of the large drum (trumpets or conch and trumpet?). At the back of the rear carrier is the cymbalist.

East interior gallery, north wing, 2

This orchestra consists of seven musicians, including the two carriers of the large drum. The drummer is of normal size, which forced the sculptor to do a clumsy pirouette: he reduced the size of the drum and moved it away from the carrying bar, which is technically impossible. The first instrument in the direction of travel is a trumpet or horn, the second, an hourglass drum carried on the shoulder, the third, large cymbals, and the fourth, probably a conch with undefined contours.

South interior gallery, east wing, 1

In the upper register, King Jayavarman VII can be recognized by his triconical crown. He wears armor.

In the lower register, this Cham orchestra is numerically the most important in Bayon. Among the thirteen (?) musicians are five trumpets (a unique number in all Angkorian sculpture since it never exceeds two), a conch, an hourglass drum, three miniature drums that are difficult to identify (the same workmanship as in the inner east gallery, north wing, 1), and the drum on a rack. The figure striking the latter is of normal size. The sculptor has found a way to give the drumhead a good dynamic, while preserving a large visible surface for the drum. This is one of the few examples in Bayon that comes close to the spatial treatment of drummers in Angkor Wat, even if the graphic quality is far from being equalled.

South interior gallery, east wing, 2

This bas-relief is in poor condition. However, it shows cymbals, two trumpets, an hourglass drum, a large drum, a conch, and a small cylindrical drum worn around the neck and struck with two sticks. The drummer hitting the large drum is normal-sized and has his legs widely apart so that both the instrument and the trumpet player can be seen from his perspective.

West interior gallery, north wing, 1

This orchestra consists of six musicians, two of whom are porters. They wear long jackets with some floral decorations. The drummer striking the large drum is one of the smallest that can be seen; his position is ideal for striking the drum. It is reminiscent of the position of Japanese kodo players! The two trumpet players can be clearly distinguished. Closing the orchestra, a musician with an enigmatic instrument. It could however be a cylindrical drum seen from the side. One clue is missing: the carrying strap is missing; however, given the poor quality of execution of the sculpture, this is not surprising. This would be the only case, in all Angkorian sculpture, of such a drum seen from this angle. We think that the hypothesis of cymbals that are always superimposed and not juxtaposed should be excluded.

West interior gallery, north wing, 2

Another low quality bas-relief! Four musicians including two drummers compose this scene. The drum set is small in size in order, once again, to provide sufficient visible surface of the drum. At the front of the orchestra, a conch with imprecise contours. At the rear, an hourglass drum.