Little Cambodian flute player makes big noise

Little Cambodian flute player makes big noise

Talented eight-year-old PANHLauv comes from a musical family and

took to the flute at the age of six, despite being told he was too

small to play it

LILI SISOMBAT

PANHLauv, 8, performs on the flute and (below) speaks with his teachers Hou Gongneng and Anton Isslehardt.

Little eight-year-old  flautist PANHLauv was once told he couldn't play the flute because it was too long.

But his performance with two of his teachers at the Art Cafe on

Wednesday night showed he has become accomplished on the instrument.

In a country where western classical music is not well-known or

widely practised, PANHLauv has been privileged since the age of six to

study under Chinese teacher Hou Gongneng - who is visiting Phnom Penh

for the first time - and Art Cafe owner and flutist Anton Isslehardt.

PANHLauv met Hou, a flutist from the Wind Instruments Orchestra of

Sichuan, when he was based in China during his summer holidays while

his mother, Dr Lili Sisombat, worked there for two years.

PANHLauv began his studies in the summer of 2006 and could blow

steadily and play three compositions within less than three weeks. The

younger brother of BosbaPANH, a promising Khmer coloratura soprano -

both siblings opt to style their names in uppercase letters - and

nephew of filmmaker Rithy Panh, PANHLauv comes from a talented family

and, according to his mother, has always had a very good ear for music.

"He didn't know how to read the notes but could play music just by

listening. During a concert by his sister last December, he could play

all the songs," Sisombat said.

"He grew up with his sister singing and musicians always coming to

the house, and he was always observing them. When he first tried a

flute, the Khmer teacher said he couldn't play the flute as it was too

long. But when we were in China, they had a special flute he could

easily use and hold."

It has taken a lot of discipline and determination to get to where

he is, and, when based in China, PANHLuav practised for four hours a

week with his master teacher, the director of the Sichuan symphony, and

with Hun for two hours a day.

When at home in Cambodia, he practises four hours a day during the

school holidays and one-and-a-half to two hours a day during the school

term.

According to his mother, PANHLauv is also learning to read and write music and likes to play the drums.

"I like music and what I like about the flute is playing with the

fingers. I have learned how to put my lips on the flute, place my

fingers and lots of songs from my teachers. I want to one day be a

conductor like my teacher in China," said PANHLauv.

There is little opportunity for students in Cambodia to study with

European teachers, said Sisombat. "PANHLauv is of Cambodian roots but

lucky enough to have been exposed to international musicians and

disciplines," she said.

With support and appropriate training, however, PANHLauv's talent

gives his dream of becoming a conductor a real possibility of coming

true.

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