The Khmer musical instrument “Chapey Dong Veng” was given World Heritage certification by UNESCO on Nov. 30 last year.
Passionate about preserving Khmer musical instruments, Brok Tola, 22, a fourth year student of psychology at Royal University of Phnom Penh decided to become a Chapey maker in 2016 with Long Borarith, a man who runs a business manufacturing and exporting the Chapey Dong Veng.
Besides this passion for conservation, Mr Tola wants to use this instrument to heal people’s minds by singing along to the Chapey Dong Veng and conveying messages in his songs.
“There are reasons for my effort to play Chapey and study Chapey. It comes from my passion, and because it is very original, no other countries have it,” said Mr Tola.
Recalling the first time he played Chapey, Mr Tola said he faced many challenges as he had no experience or skill in designing and creating instruments. He lacked the confidence to invent sounds and content, and he didn’t know how to make them attractive.
“I think if you have a strong passion, you will be energetic and not too tired to keep going,” said Mr Tola.
As long as his major at university is psychology, Mr Tola wants to make Chapey Dong Veng interconnected with what he is studying.
Mr Tola added, “I believe this art can heal people. As people like listening to music when they feel sad or depressed, I still believe my major is very relevant to this. I can apply what I have learned such as inspiration, encouragement, and advising them to find public services when they are facing mental illness, all through singing with the Chapey.”
Mr Tola believes people don’t really support Khmer classical music yet because society lacks awareness about the classical arts. As youths like entertainment and enjoying their life, they prefer to support modern songs or pop star rather than these art forms.
“I want to make people understand and support these arts. To make them love it, I think it is important to build up a foundation when they are in school. The Ministry of Education should insert arts study into the school curriculum. And for those who have talent and have a passion for it, they can start their journey there,” Mr Tola said.
Though both psychology and Chapey are recent fields of study for Cambodians, Mr Tola maintains optimism that both skills could be beneficial and play an important role in dealing with human problems in the future.