After attracting an estimated 30,000 visitors last year, the Bonn Phum festival is back for its fifth annual Khmer New Year celebration of traditional arts and youthful creativity.
Bonn Phum, or “village festival”, will this year be held at Kok Ampil pagoda, which is located on the new Hun Sen Boulevard.
The three-day festival begins Friday just after dawn with a Buddhist ceremony. From 9am onwards, it’s a rowdier scene, with food stalls, traditional New Year games, dances and other activities.
At this year’s festival will be an “art house” where performers will be taking the stage. There will be a headlining performance each night beginning at 7pm, with the first show Lakhon Yike – or Khmer spoken theatre – the second classical dance, and a sbek thom, or shadow puppet, performance on Sunday.
Rithy Lomorpich, Bonn Phum festival director, said this year’s main focus is on music and on creative technology. To celebrate the fifth anniversary, the Bonn Phum collective will be releasing an album of songs that blends traditional Cambodian and modern music, which will be debuted on the second day of the festival.
According to Lomorpich, each year the organising team tries to combine the traditional arts with new, creative ideas, exploring different mediums like music, dance, film and, this year, technology.
“We think the art should not be alone, there should a collaboration with something more,” Lomorpich said.
The festival director described the “black box” as one area inside the pagoda where people can buy pay 5000 riel ($1.25) and experience things like video games and quizzes related to arts and technology.
“With this black box, it will give chance to the audience to experience arts through technology,” she said. In future editions, she hopes to further integrate tech and the arts “because it could help the younger generation to have more interest in the culture”.
Another special activity for Bonn Phum this year is the Smart Mega Concert on the Saturday – the second day of the festival. The show will feature contemporary artists performing traditional songs followed by sets of their own original songs. In the line-up is Small World Small Band, with Lomorpich’s sister Lomorkesor as lead singer; pop-rap stars Kmeng Khmer; Cambodian-American Laura Mam, who has spearheaded the “original” pop music movement; artist Oun and pop stars Adda and Chet Kanhchna.
The arts and music should amply satisfy one’s spirit, but if you’re looking to fill your stomach there’s no paucity of options with some 170 food stalls available at the festival.
“Mostly, there will be typical Cambodian foods, the type of village cuisine,” Lomorpich said.
Continuing in the tradition of past festivals, shared transportation will be provided with buses arranged at the Olympic stadium to the venue.
Ridesharing behemoth Grab is also collaborating with Bonn Phum, providing a 50 percent discount to rides with the destination of Bonn Phum.
Bonn Phum will take place at Kok Ampil Pagoda, Friday through Sunday, from 6am to 10pm. Entry is free.