Cambodia's sound and music heritage celebrated on World Day for Audiovisual Heritage 2009
On 27 October 2009 the UNESCO Office in Phnom Penh and the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Centre celebrated the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage. The one-day conference, discussions, screenings and concerts focused on the Cambodian sound and music heritage.
In accordance with the 2009 theme of the Day, Ephemeral Heritage, the Phnom Penh event started with a presentation about one of the Cambodian indigenous minorities, S'aoch. Currently less than 10 people from this community can fluently speak their language and their musical heritage has been lost for ever.
The cultural event that followed featured, for the first time, two Cambodian communities, Tompoun and Cham (Khmer Islam). Two musicians from the Tompoun indigenous minority living in Ratanakiri province and a group of seven Cham musicians and singers from Kampong Chhnang province attended the celebration of World Day for Audiovisual Heritage in Phnom Penh.
The musicians never travelled outside of their indigenous villages before. They filled the Audiovisual Resource Centre with their colorful traditional clothes and smiling faces of surprise and excitement. Before the performances started, the Tompoun and Cham artists and elders practiced together their songs. It marked an unforgettable moment as it was the first time that the Tompoun and Cham people met with each others and felt so much linked by their traditional sounds, music and instruments, which they eagerly shared.
The concert started with the presentation evoking the history of the Cham community. Energetic drums, a gong and a bamboo player accompanied the voices of a man and a woman who sang an old Cham song, moving their hands around the incense smoke. Then the moment came to reveal to the audience the Tompoun traditional clothes and the sounds of Chapei kluok, wooden hand-made instruments. This music immersed the room into remote woodland, elucidating the meaning that traditional sounds have in the life of indigenous people.
The traditional Cambodian music was highlighted throughout the conference with a huge variety of instruments, clowns and traditional dances that represented different characters from Cambodian traditional folktales. Films from audiovisual archives featured Cambodian contemporary music.
The celebration highlighted the importance of Cambodia's sound and music heritage as part of the country's history, and the need to preserve it and make accessible to everyone. This heritage is an expression of the traditional cultural identity that has an outstanding value from the historical, artistic, ethnological, linguistic and literary points of view. It has an important role to play as a means of disseminating knowledge and culture. By bringing together Cambodian traditional artists from different communities, UNESCO wanted to demonstrate the importance of cultural exchange and communication for mutual understanding.
In addition to this, a contribution was made to the preservation of the country's sound, music and audiovisual heritage. On 27 October in Phnom Penh, the Tompoun and Cham communities performed their unique testimonies of living cultural traditions. The opportunity to learn about the Cambodian communities' musical heritage was truly exclusive and certainly enriched everyone who attended the celebration.
<- Back to: News articles