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By 19. May 2006 Asia No Comments

21stFeb-5th March Cambodia.

From the States we travelled due west to Thailand …(would you believe a 17.30hr flight) and on to Cambodia. We were helping with a gathering of musicians in Phnom Penh, with representatives from Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.


We had an amazing few days learning about the disturbing history of the Khymer Rouge led by Pol Pot, who imprisoned and executed many artists and musicians leading to a loss of much cultural expression. In his short 4 year reign, his brutal regime claimed millions of lives. Those who were thought to be intellectual, even people who wore glasses were killed. During this terrible season it was interesting to find out that music still inspired people. Some would hide away from the authorities in the forests, making instruments out of their natural surroundings and singing songs to keep their spirits up.


We spent a day searching around markets and stores, collecting various traditional Khmer instruments. With the aid of these newly bought acquisitions, the musicians who had gathered spent 4 days composing many new cultural songs of praise and worship. Check out the workshop pictures here. ♥

Below is a clip of a roneat in action. This classical instrument is very prominent in Khmer music.
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On the last day of this gathering a team from Vietnam joined us, a country where independent churches are outlawed, and only a controlled state church is allowed. There were many stories of underground churches, writing songs undercover, studios that have to move after each recording and a song writer that has to change his name each time his songs get known, in case of imprisonment. A far cry from the freedom we enjoy in England.

See more photos here. ♥


We also visited a shadow theatre. This form of expression dates back thousands of years, and is a form of storytelling using ornate leather shadow puppets. It is still one of the most revered and loved art forms in Cambodia and is finding a popular comeback after being nearly destroyed during the Khmer Rouge period of control.

See pictures of Khmer musical instruments here ♥ and the puppet theatre costumes here. ♥

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