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Youth of the week: Pov Punisa

Youth of the week: Pov Punisa


If you are considering becoming an elite xylophone player, the experiences of Pov Punisa may help guide you on your way.

Though she is not interning with Cambodian Living Arts (CLA) at the moment, as she has in the past, the 19-year-old is still living a very active life, and learning as much as possible along the way.

Apart from her English courses at the New World institute, she spends every Saturday morning working as a secretary at the Rotary club of Phnom Penh, Saturday afternoons teaching music at A New Day Cambodia, an organisation that provides a holistic support programme for poor children in Phnom Penh, and she still finds time to teach classes with Dan, the co-director of Elastic Cambodia at CLA.

The mission of Elastic Cambodia is to listen to, observe and collect old Khmer songs and music and put them down on paper for posterity’s sake, and to ensure that at least this part of Cambodian culture does not disappear.

Pov Punisa is a perfect fit for the programme. Not only does she love playing and listening to music in general, she is one of few Cambodians who can call themselves an expert at playing the roneat ek, an instrument used to play traditional Khmer music called pinpaet. She said that her initial interest in Pinpaet happened by accident, as she overheard the music being played while on an errand to pick up something at the market. She didn’t know what the music was called, and had no inclinations to be a professional musician, but she soon began studying in earnest and now music is a big part of her career, and life, considerations.

“Before it was really difficult for me because I had to memorize all these songs and become comfortable with the beat of this ceremonial music,” she recalled in an interview with Lift.

Moreover, Pov Punisa realised that she could share and learn so much more about Khmer song and arts. In pinpeat, the roneat ek  is the lead instrument and it is a vital part of the style. There is no pinpeat without the roneat ek. No instrument is easy to master. It takes a great deal of time and patience to become a master.

Pov Punisa just arrived back from the United States and she is already prepareig to put on a performance on the traditional Khmer insterucment. She left for America in April and performaed across the US as an ambassador for Cambodian culture.

Pov Punisa said that when she was in the US with the Children of Bassac they stayed with local people in the city they were playing in that night. These stops included New York City, Boston, and smaller cities along the Eastern seaboard. “We are proud that we have Khmer music,” she said.


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