With dimples and a wide smile, Phoeun Sreypov, 22, has a lot to be happy about. She is an expert Buddhist chanter and her skill has taken her all around the world.
The daughter of a farmer in Kampong Speu province, she never thought that chanting, which she started studying in 2004 via the charity Cambodia Living Arts, would give her the opportunity to travel.
Now she has performed at the world-famous Houston Grand Opera, during one of four trips to the USA, and has visited India and Nepal.
It is a long way from her childhood. She said: “Being a child of a farmer, life was not easy because of the hard work needed on the farm. I also sometimes I had to walk through my village to sell some cakes that my mother made, but I never complained about my childhood as I had a chance to study like other children.”
Classes in chanting provided by Cambodia Living Arts earned her respect from the older people in the village. “Before joining this chant class in my village, I had to do a voice test. After I passed and studied for one year with teacher Keot Ran and Prom Out, I could sing many of the chant songs, but not very well. And during that time, I was always invited by the older people to chant the Buddhist prayer song at pagodas in the village.”
In early 2008 Cambodian Living Arts gave her a scholarship to study at University in Phnom Penh. The charity covered her study, rent and food.
She was first sent to the USA to advertise a book written by a monk about the flight of Cambodians to other countries during the Khmer Rouge years. On her second and third trips she brought CDs and DVDs that she had produced herself.
Most recently she was invited to Texas to perform in the Houston Grand Opera to chant the song New Arrival, the story of Yani Ros, a Cambodian woman who helped many people in the war.
“The performers are from different country, there is only me who is Cambodian. I chanted two songs to the audience. The performance was not easy because I had to mix chanting with the orchestra music. I spent two weeks training and preparing.”
Today, Srey Pov is a second year student of International Relations at Paññ?s?stra University of Cambodia (PUC). She teaches a Buddhism chant class at Cambodia Volunteer Community Development (CVCD) and also presents a religious television program at CTN channel.
She also volunteers as a singer for Tzu Chi Association, which works with people in 70 countries around the world. It came to Cambodia last year.
She said: “I am very lucky that I have had so many good opportunities. In the future, I am keen on taking care of ancient art, and I am trying to study more about religious philosophy.”
She hopes to chant a Buddhist prayer song that she has written herself one day. This week, she will give away 300 CDs of her chant songs to the elderly.