Thai Folk Music

The music industry is embracing AI, not only to write music and lyrics, but in mastering recordings, according to an ABC News report. Now AI is changing the way the music world operates in the far corners of the planet.

AI-driven algorithms that sort through Western Music when you use Spotify or Google Music, sending it to the correct outlet for music surfers. Algorithms programmed with extensive databases of pop, rock, country and other Western styles of music, however, couldn’t figure out how to categorize music from the Far East.

For instance, AI had a tough time discriminating Luk thung from other kinds of music. In story, Kyle Wiggers explains what Luk thung is and why AI needed special training to distinguish it from other kinds of music:

Luk thung, a popular subgenre of Thai folk music that emerged shortly after World War II, consists of poetic lyrics often sung with a distinctive vibrato and accompanied by traditional instruments like the khene (mouth organ), phin (lute), and saw sam sai (fiddle). Its aesthetic is distinct in the musical world, and it predictably trips up music classification algorithms trained on Western genres. That’s why researchers at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand investigated a system capable of identifying specific types of luk thung songs from lyrics and audio alone.

You might say Luk thung is Thailand’s country music of sorts. According to the researchers who co-authored this platform:

“Luk thung … is one of the most prominent genres and has a large listener base from farmers and urban working-class people,” wrote the coauthors. “For the purpose of personalized music recommendation in the Thai music industry, identifying Luk thung songs in hundreds of thousands of songs can reduce the chance of mistakenly recommending them to non-Luk thung listeners.”

Below is a sample of what Luk thung sounds like.

The researchers used a two-part system to train their AI. One part to classify lyrics and another part that classifies audio. The team then fed the AI over 10,000 Thai songs that were popular between 1985 and 2019.  Then they trained the AI to use just ten second clips of each song to accompany the entire lyric content of the song.

Thailand and the surrounding countries are huge markets for music just like in the U.S. and Europe. India has emerged as one of the largest markets for music streaming in recent years. About 150 million users in India regularly access music streaming services, research firm Counterpoint told VentureBeat. In a report published earlier this year, Deloitte and recording industry body IMI estimated that the Indian music market generated $130.7 million in revenue in 2017.

So having the tools to properly file and then offer predictive programming for listeners will open up $100 million markets in many other nations. Gaana, India’s largest music provider,with a customer count of 100 million people a year who use the service, shows that opportunities are wide-ranging.

The new AI in Thailand will start showing similar service user numbers. The Thai AI must not only get the selected Luk thung songs correct, but also recognize a wide range of dialects and regional vocabularies. Very few countries speak just one language within their borders, so recognizing the subtleties of the spoken word is crucial. AI is again proving capable of achieving that goal.