Chhe Dany, 22, a Khmer literature student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, has loved traditional Khmer music since, at the age of 6, she first heard the sound of the kse diev (literally “one string”), a long-necked traditional instrument with a single string that is plucked to produce a haunting, low-pitched sound. She was totally fascinated and wanted to learn.
“I tried to find a place to study when I was living in the provinces. But the opportunity didn’t come until I moved here [Phnom Penh] in 2015. Through Cambodian Living arts, I knew instructor who is a student of Sok Duch , [considered a master of the instrument]. I asked him to teach me because he was the only kse diev master left alive after the Khmer Rouge regime,” Ms Dany said.
She added that she is the only woman among the current group studying the instrument, which
also includes four male students.
The fact that it only has one string makes playing the instrument especially challenging, Ms Dany said. “There are five types of sound made by the kse diev. It took me three months [studying only on Sundays] to learn each type; it’s quite hard to get the correct sound. But I was motivated by my teachers, parents, and classmates, and I didn’t give up,” she said.
Some members of her family have reservations about her decision to study the kse diev.