Mekong musical heritage on show this weekend in Siem Reap

Vietnamese group Dong King Co Nhac, who will perform tonight and Saturday at REPfest.
Vietnamese group Dong King Co Nhac, who will perform tonight and Saturday at REPfest. Photo supplied

Mekong musical heritage on show this weekend in Siem Reap

For many, an airport is considered a place of hassles, delays and general annoyances. But for Song Seng, the director of Cambodian Living Arts’ Heritage Hub, it’s where cultures converge. Hence the name REPfest – after the acronym for the Siem Reap International Airport – a three-day music festival beginning today that has brought traditional musicians from around the region to Temple Town.

The festival features three days of public performances and workshops at three venues in Siem Reap, including CLA’s Heritage Hub inside of Wat Bo, Sala Thoam Chas and Krousar Thmey. Performing will be a shadow theatre troupe from Laos, Japanese flutist Kohei Nishikawa, the group Law Ka Nat from the Anyar region of Myanmar and Vietnamese ensemble Đông Kinh Cổ Nhạc, among other artists. There will also be two newly-formed groups playing from Cambodia – all-female drumming collective Medha and the group Yaksao.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Medha, a Cambodian all-female drumming group formed earlier this year. Photo supplied

According to Phan Chamroeun, the leader of the seven-piece Yaksao, the group formed just five months ago, and this will be its second time performing. They have backgrounds in traditional music but, fitting with the theme of the festival, they experiment with new forms and compositions. Both Yaksao and Medha emerged from workshops organised earlier this year by CLA .  

“Especially these few years, we can see that young people and young artists want to move on with their own identity, but with the resources they gain from their ancestors, their masters,” CLA’s Seng said.  

Especially confident in their own identity is Medha, which means “resourceful woman” in Khmer. Drumming in Cambodia has typically been a male domain, but Sang Sreypich, 26, and her team are challenging that notion.

“Before we never knew if women could play the drum instrument,“ she said. “My teachers said women can’t play the drums because when they hit them it is very painful on the hand, and women don’t have enough energy.”

During an artist residency, the group practised with one instructor to learn the basics of drumming. CLA then commissioned them later on to create more work from what they had learned.

“The quality is just ‘wow’,” Seng said.

So far the group has put together three compositions, which include some singing and chanting. Their performance this weekend, Sreypich said, is to convey the message “there is no division between man and woman”.

“We want to encourage and break through the challenges.”

Public workshops and performances in Siem Reap begin today and will be held through Sunday. For more information about REPfest and a full schedule of events, visit https://www.cambodianlivingarts.org/repfest/  

MOST VIEWED

  • Kem Sokha’s daughters slam ‘liar’ Sam Rainsy over ‘smears’

    The daughters of former opposition leader Kem Sokha hit out at Sam Rainsy on Tuesday, accusing the newly nominated “acting president” of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) of leading a “smear campaign” against their father and “repeatedly lying to the public”. The Supreme Court-dissolved

  • US Embassy urges reconciliation

    The US has urged Cambodia to restore the independence of the media, drop charges against Kem Sokha and other political prisoners, and end the prohibition of political activity by opposition parties. However, senior government officials see the request, issued by US embassy spokesman Arend C

  • Phnom Penh authorities ban march for Human Rights Day

    Phnom Penh authorities have banned a planned march as local NGOs and workers’ unions gear up to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Monday, with a youth group leader saying they would march nonetheless. The UN

  • Government deports 235 Chinese scammers

    THE Immigration Department of the Ministry of Interior on Thursday deported 235 Chinese nationals, 35 of whom were female, via the Phnom Penh International Airport for their part in a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) online money extortion scam. The deportees were arrested on November 26 over the