The daughter of legendary Reamker performer Ta Krut never thought she would hear her father’s voice again.
He died during the Khmer Rouge regime, after achieving countrywide renown for his passionate performances of Cambodia’s answer to the Ramayana. The sound had been lost, as far as Krut Morn knew.
Speaking at celebrations for the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage at Bophana Centre on Friday, Morn recalled how on July 4 last year she received the repaired audio recording of one of her father’s 1960s performances.
Krut was the most well-known storyteller of his time. He gave dramatic performances of the story of Rama’s mission to save his wife Sita, aided by the monkey Hanuman, accompanied by lead whistles.
“When I received the CD of the Reamker I was delighted because I never thought I would hear my father again,” said Morn, who is now in her seventies.
Two separate recordings by Jacques Brunet, a professor at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, ensured the performances were preserved.
The recordings, one from a national radio performance and the other from a performance recorded in a village, were badly damaged and to reconstruct the recording the Bophana Centre had to take the best parts of each and put them together.
The final reconstructed recording, contains more than 10 hours of material. The performances, the only known audio materials of an oral Khmer tradition, were registered as World Heritage by UNESCO in May.
As she spoke about her father on Friday, Morn began to cry, overwhelmed by the celebration of the Bophana Centre’s efforts to allow her to hear the recordings.
The ability to perform the Reamker in such a vivid way started and ended in Morn’s family, she said.
Only Morn’s older brother was taught to perform the Reamker in the same way as their father.
Her brother has died and Morn herself never learned the Cambodian epic.
Sopheap Chea, deputy director of the Bophana Centre said Krut’s ability to perform the Reamker may have initially spared his life, as the Khmer Rouge used him as entertainment.
Krut’s family had been in the same village for many years and he was well known amongst the local people.
“Hundreds of people listened to him, just like they watch a movie in the theatre,” Chea said.
Anne Lemaistre, the head of UNESCO in Cambodia, said it was normal during that time for crowds to gather for oral performances.
Stressing the importance of the inscription of the Reamker on the UNESCO Memory of the World list, Lemaistre said the Reamker is bound up with the Cambodian spirit.
The characters hold values people should incorporate into their own lives, she added. Rama represents truthfulness, Sita is loyalty incarnate while Hanuman is celebrated for bravery.