Rong Sereyvann is the house pianist at Raffles Le Royal Hotel and teaches at the Srornos Music School in Phnom Penh. This week, he told Vandy Muong about his biggest musical influence: his own family.
Meng Keo Pichenda
My aunt is Meng Keo Pichenda. She was a traditional Khmer dancer and played the khem [a stringed instrument similar to the dulcimer] when she was young, but now she is a popular traditional and modern singer. She has recorded a lot of albums with different production companies and performed at many concerts. Before I went to study professional piano, my aunty talked with my mother and took me to register at the Royal Secondary School of Fine Arts. The tests to get into the arts school and the state school were at the same time, so I decided to skip the state school test. Luckily, I got into the arts school. I play with my aunt at concerts sometimes – she sings and I play piano for her. We’re both busy at the moment with different projects, so we don’t get much of a chance, but we still make time to have lunch or dinner together.
Meng Keo Pich Bopha and Ny Lina
My mother Meng Keo Pich Bopha used to sing traditional and popular songs like my aunt, but she learned to play a foreign musical instrument called the mandolin, which looks like a guitar but smaller. She stopped singing professionally 15 years ago, but still plays mandolin at concerts and sometimes with my aunty. My mother, my aunt and I used to perform together, and we are planning to compose our own songs and perform as a family in the future. Besides being a musician, my mother is also a housewife who always cooks and takes care of children at home. My father, Ny Lina, is a professional bass guitarist and performs on Cambodian Television Network (CTN)’s Channel 3 with 10 people in the band. Sometimes we also play together in different programs for the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.
Rong Sereyvouth, my eldest brother, is a professional guitarist. He studied at the Royal University of Fine Arts, majoring in music composition, and we graduated the same year. He plays guitar with his band, playing pop songs for the “Classic Night” program every Saturday at 8pm on CTN’s Channel 3. He can also play piano, but it’s not his profession. My brother and I are composing songs that everyone in the family can perform together. We will compose new melodies and lyrics utilising different instruments that mix Khmer classic and Western because we want both Cambodians and Westerners to be able to listen to them.
Ny Pich Ent Dara
My youngest brother, Ny Pich Ent Dara, is a professional clarinet player. Pich Dara’s passion for this Western instrument is similar to mine for the piano. He studies at a private music school, but hasn’t gone to the Royal University of Fine Arts yet. He plays with my father and brother on the Classic Night television program and he sometimes gets invited to perform other places as well.
Meng Hun and Keo Sangva Pich
We’re actually a second-generation musical family. My grandparents, traditional musician Meng Hun and ayai singer Keo Sangva Pich, were artists and professors of traditional musical instruments. My grandmother as an ayai [a form of competitive improvised song composition] singer had a very good tone and was also creative in composing songs. They have both passed away, but their achievements live on. I never had a chance to talk with them, but we believe that we inherited the musical ability in our blood from them.