A songwriting contest launched earlier this month asks young lyricists to turn to a subject usually left out of Cambodia’s songs: suffering under the Khmer Rouge regime.
The competition is run by the Youth Resource Development Program (YRDP), an organisation focused on empowering young Cambodians.
The topic – ‘Remembrance: Khmer Rouge Regime’ – is an exercise in intergenerational understanding, says Chhit Muny, a program manager at YRDP. “We organised this contest because we wanted youth to be reminded about the Khmer Rouge, to [share] the experience of Khmer Rouge survivors,” he says.
Contestants between 15 and 30 years old are encouraged to submit original songs based on dialogue with survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime, including family members. The first-place winner will participate in a cultural exchange focused on reconciliation in Myanmar.
The contest is one of 19 cultural reparations projects for the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s ongoing Case 002/02. Dy Chhunsong, a representative of the tribunal’s Victim Support Section, says that music offers a unique means of remembrance: one of considered art that is empowering, not just sad.
“We are trying to integrate a more positive solution, to make [civil parties] happy,” he says. “We believe that survivors will relax when they hear these new songs.”
Chhunsong says that a song could have the added advantage of preserving collective memory for the next generation. “It’s important to have this project,” he adds. “When youth apply, they also have to learn, and to understand survivors’ suffering.”
The contest’s winner will be presented at an event in December.
YRDP’s songwriting competition runs through November 7. Contestants can email entries to [email protected], or contact 023 880 194 / 070 262 001 for more information.