Chapey-maker promoting, not just preserving, traditional instrument

Um Chanraksa / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Mr Borarith, 36, has run the business for two years. KT/Um Chanraksa

The chapey dang veng is a two-stringed, long-necked traditional Khmer instrument that is usually plucked. It has two double courses of nylon strings.

The instrument was approved as a World Heritage on 30th November last year, said Long Borarith, an electrical engineer by training who also runs a business manufacturing and exporting chapey dang veng.

Mr Borarith, 36, has run the business for two years.

YT: What made you decide to open this business?

Mr Borarith: The main reason was to preserve the instrument; to keep it from dying out in Cambodia. Initially, I wasn’t motivated by financial reasons; I just wanted to preserve our heritage, as there were almost no places still making the chapey at that time. This was because there were so few people still playing it.

YT: Are you aware of any other places still producing chapey?

Mr Borarith: I only know of a few. Aside from my business in Phnom Penh, there are others in Svay Rieng, Kompong Thom, and Siem Reap.

YT: How much does a chapey cost? Are there any discounts for students who want to learn?

Mr Borarith: The price varies according to the customer’s demands. If they order a custom-designed one, it will cost more than the regular price. The minimum price is $280 for a chapey dang veng, and if they order a chapey with electronics inside to allow amplification, it costs $380. I do offer discounts to students.

YT: What are the main difficulties in making a chapey?

Mr Borarith: The most important thing is that the instrument creates the right sound. Making an instrument is not like creating a piece of furniture, even though they both come from wood. It needs to have the right sound, and be easy to play.

YT: How long does it take to make one? How many different materials are used?

Mr Borarith: My group and I take almost two weeks to make a chapey, with three or four people working on it. Also, each instrument is not crafted from just one type of wood. Several different kinds are used in each.

YT: As a chapey dealer, what is your message to Cambodians?

Mr Borarith: I want all Cambodians to help preserve and promote this World Heritage instrument, because it is part of our Khmer heritage. If we really waFnt to keep the instrument alive, we should make it part of the music people listen to nowadays, such as in songs performed at bon phum [village festivals]. Chapey should be incorporated into other types of music, too, and players should work with modern songwriters.

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