Worried by the trend towards the wholesale acceptance of modern artforms, one Khmer family has taken steps to keep its music alive with the times
IF I TURN ON THE RADIO, I JUST HEAR MODERN MUSIC. WHERE IS OUR TRADITIONAL MUSIC?
For most of us, nothing can compare with the generosity, care and guidance offered by our mother.
And it is these priceless gifts that have provided the inspiration for a concert, “Our Mothers”, which will be performed next month in Phnom Penh by the band La Compagnie Bosbapanh.
The concert will also feature songs by legendary Cambodian singers such as Sin Sisamouth, Pen Ron and Ros Sereysothea.
Panh Mengheang, whose 12-year-old daughter Bosba Panh is the main performer in “Our Mothers”, says he was becoming worried by the increased marginalisation of traditional Cambodian art, and that it jolted him into action.
He is well aware that many young Cambodians are gravitating towards modern, rather than traditional, artforms.
“If I turn on the radio, I just hear modern music. If I go to CD shops, most of what I see there is modern as well,” Panh Mengheang said.
“Where is our traditional music? This is when I had the idea of marrying modern and classical music together.”
Access to the arts
To promote and protect his beloved traditional art, Panh Mengheang has taken some incredibly proactive steps.
Most notably, he persuaded a number of experts to train his daughter Bosba Panh, and then put together a band to support her.
His idea is to allow Cambodians greater access to traditional arts.
Bosba Panh’s latest performance makes the concession of being a mixture of both modern and traditional musical instruments.
The orchestra musicians are equally divided between classical and modern instruments, and they also perform traditional songs in a contemporary style.
Bosba Panh, meanwhile, is concentrating on how good a role model her mother has been to her.
She describes how her mother always kept an eye on her and educated her in how to be a woman in the traditional Cambodian sense.
With this in mind, the young musician is quick to dedicate her performance in “Our Mothers” to her own mum.
“Our Mothers”, which Panh Mengheang picked up from a mid-20th century story, follows a mother’s fight to find a new life for her family in Phnom Penh, having been ordered to relocate from the provinces by French colonial rulers.
Bosba Panh will interpret the meaning of “Our Mothers” in her songs, images and dances during a two-hour performance at Chaktomuk Hall, on Friday at 7pm.
The child prodigy will also use material from “Our Mothers” on her planned third CD album, La Vie en Rose.
Organisers are expecting tickets to sell well, with 800 tickets available at three different prices.
The best seats in the house come in at $15 for a special ticket, $10 for premium seats and $5 for general seating.
Tickets are available from Monument Books and T&C restaurants.