In an attempt to reignite the discourse on Cambodian history, a group of Model Teens from the Paññásástra University of Cambodia (PUC) had organised an event dubbed the ‘Youth Spirit and Khmer Culture’ last week.
The event gave focus to four traditional instruments which are the Cambodian harp (Pin), two-stringed, long-necked guitar (Chapei Dang Veng), one-stringed fiddle (Ksae Muy) and bamboo mouth organ (Ken).
Held at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia, thousands of participants were able to learn more about these important instruments of the past. The Pin, for instance, was almost a lost art of its own and now being restored for modern times in Cambodia.
Pin was originally recovered in a bas-relief at the Bayon temple, built in the 12th to 13th century A.D. In the recent years, there are not many who are interested to learn this instrument. Now, while men are also encouraged to learn, Pin is more commonly played by women.
A performer of Pin at the event, Sngoun Kaveisereyroth, said she has been learning and playing since she was young. She even had the opportunity to take her art outside of Cambodia, having had performed in seven countries.
“When I went overseas, I gained a lot of experience and I also learned new things from other countries. When I watched other people play, it inspired me to come back to Cambodia and practice harder. I was also inspired to develop new techniques on my own,” the 20-year-old said.
Recently, the arts of traditional Khmer instruments had also made Cambodia proud. The teachers and students at Royal University of Fine Arts (RUFA) had successfully bagged one gold medal and two silver medals from a competition in Vietnam.
“I think everyone should learn or research on at least one Khmer instruments. Even if they don’t wish to learn the skills, they can just learn about them for fun. Hopefully when they are old, they can pass on the knowledge on their children. This way, we can preserve the artform forever.”
Ms Sereyroth added the soft sound of Pin touched her heart, as it gave off a romantic feeling. She was grateful that she decided to pick up this instrument as it provided opportunities for her to see the world.
The event mostly drew younger participants between the ages of 18 to 30 from the PUC, RUFA, Royal University of Phnom Penh, among others.
One of the organisers, Pov Panharith said they wanted young people to shed some light on Khmer instruments, especially since it is an almost-lost artform.
“We want to attract more Khmer youths to join our event in order to support the Khmer culture. It would be interesting for them to learn more about Khmer dance, music and instruments,” said Mr Panharith, who is an International Relations major at the PUC.
Mr Panharith added that the event was also graced by the ‘little princess’ Norodom Jenna who is known to be an art enthusiast herself. According to Mr Panharith, the great grand-daughter of the late King Norodom Sihanouk was supportive of this cultural event and was happy to help preserve the Khmer heritage.