REPfest warmly welcomed traditional performers from various countries including Japanese flutist Kohei Nishikawa, the group Law Ka Nat of Myanmar, Vietnamese ensemble Đong Kinh Co Nhạc, and Cambodian traditional music groups including two newly formed locals ensembles: the all-women drumming group Medha, and Yaksao.
The three-day festival featuring performances and workshops was held in three different locations: Wat Bo, Sala Thoam Chas and Krousar Thmey in Siem Reap province. It was organised by Cambodian Living Arts’ Heritage Hub and about 200 people joined.
This was the event’s first year, Song Seng, director of CLA’s Heritage Hub, so the organisers faced some difficulties. For example, some of the light and sound equipment was insufficient. But while the groups didn’t have much time to prepare, the performances went smoothly.
“Although the expense was huge, I think it was fruitful because people seem to be waking up to our art forms again. I noticed that we have made progress, as people seem to understand the performances better,” said Mr Seng.
Mr Seng continued that since there is no artistic director and funds are hard to come buy, his team is considering whether the event will be held next year, but he’s not sure. Also, he was thankful to Mekong Cultural Hub and the Japan Foundation for sponsoring the performance.
Sang Sreypich, leader of female drumming collective Medha, said her group performed compositions such as Proleong Skor Chey [the sound of victory drums] and Tes [Directions].
“Proleong Skor Chey refers to drums and players. Everybody has a soul, and I think drums have souls too. That soul attracts humans to play it. Then they will have a common soul. When the player is angry, the drum’s sound will be as strong as the emotion of the player.”
She continued, “Another is ‘Directions.’ It tells us the direction we should take. Many types of drums were used in our performance. We carried them all past the Bayon temple.”
Ms Sreypich said she used to wonder why women couldn’t play drums. One teacher told her women weren’t allowed to play them. Yet although it is painful on the hands, she said women can do anything men can if they try.
“I am so thankful to Cambodian Living Arts for giving us many chances and motivating us to compose new forms. And I hope to see this event happen again in the upcoming year because it helped artists to exchange ideas and cultures with neighbouring countries,” added Ms Sreypich.
Wai Hin Ko Ko, a representative of the Law Ka Nat team, said they brought three different types of musical genres to the performance.
“The first one is an ancient sound, which was composed by our ancestors in the 18th century. It is really old, but we interpreted it into a new modern style. It is ritual music formerly performed only in palaces. Another one is a new composition by us, but inspired by traditional music. And the third is a Western-influenced genre,” said Mr Ko Ko.
He said his team came to join the festival because they all wanted to share their traditional music and heritage from their ancestors. They also wanted to share their new musical ideas and composition styles, as well as learn their neighbours’ culture and music. He said the festival helped his team develop a good relationship with people from neighbouring countries.