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Life of a pipa musician travelling the globe

Marie Lamy / Khmer Times Share:
Qu Rui performing on stage for the 2020 Chinese New Year cultural performance show at Koh Pich Theater. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Have you ever dreamed of travelling the world and sharing your passion for music with millions of people?

During a recent visit to Cambodia, the Academy of the Long Opera of China’s Gansu Province performed a show to welcome the Spring Festival and Year of the Metal Rat. Accompanied by 25 professional dancers, singers and musicians from the prestigious academy, the show was warmly welcomed by fellow Chinese expats living in Cambodia and several select guests who attended the event.

Choosing to become an artist was a choice made early by one of the performers, Qu Rui who started practising the pipa also known as the Chinese lute. The Chinese traditional musical instrument, consisting of four-strings placed on a wooden pear-shaped body, is one of the most widely played instruments in China. The pipa has 2,000 years of history and is largely significant in Chinese culture.

In an exclusive interview, Ms Qu reveals what it is like behind the scenes and her life travelling the world as a musician.


Question: Could you introduce yourself to our readers?


Answer: My name is Qu Rui, I come from the city of Lanzhou, Gansu province in China. I started practising music at the age of six. I graduated from Lanzhou City College in Gansu Province and my undergraduate major was music performance, specialising in a musical instrument called the pipa. Twenty years later I joined a music group and often performed abroad to promote Chinese culture. This year we were invited to perform in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

Performers enjoying their visit at the National Museum during their short stay in Phnom Penh. Supplied

Q: Can you tell me your impression of Cambodia?


Ms Qu:  It is my first time in the Kingdom but I have already noticed that Cambodians are very friendly and always have a smile on their faces. I was surprised to see that Cambodians can speak a little bit of Chinese too. The tour guide who was with us was speaking Chinese fluently and made our short stay pleasant. However, I have noticed that Cambodians can also speak English and French, I think it is very interesting to see how open and developing the country is.

Also, I am very pleased with the weather, Right now in China it is winter and in my city, the temperature often drops to below zero degree Celsius. But here in Phnom Penh, the weather is warm and the sky is bright. I took advantage of my stay here to try the famous mangos and I was not disappointed, all the fruits here are delicious.

Q: Which landmark did you visit during your stay in Cambodia?


Ms Qu:  With help, our tour guide took us to visit the important monuments of the country to understand the culture. We visited the Royal Palace and the National Museum, I enjoyed the visits to the monuments and learned much more about the culture of Cambodia with the help of our tour guide. I think it is very important for everyone who sets foot into someone else’s country to understand the history behind their society. Unfortunately, our stay is very short, so we could not visit more places, but I hope in the future to come again and spend more time understanding the traditions and history.

Dancers rehearsing before the big showr. Supplied

Q: Can you describe your life as a musician?


Ms Qu:  It is so exciting! I feel lucky to have this opportunity at my age. Not only to perform the instrument I am passionate about, but also to combine my love for travelling with my job. So for me, this opportunity is a precious memory which I will cherish forever.

Before each show backstage we always feel nervous about our performance, but when we are on stage the anxiety disappears and we feel the support from the spectators who are encouraging us. Our next flight is scheduled for Thailand, where we will perform a Chinese cultural performance for an audience in Bangkok.


Q: Do you have some words for our readers?


Ms Qu:  I would like to thank the organisers and the Embassy of China in Cambodia for giving us this opportunity to perform our show for the special occasion here in Phnom Penh. I hope in the future to have a chance to come back. I have heard of the beauty of this country, I hope next time to have more time to visit more province such as Siem Reap.

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