UNESCO bid to save dying music style

Kong Nai plays chapei, an instrument used in the Arak ensemble

Kong Nai plays chapei, an instrument used in the Arak ensemble. Photo: Phnom Penh Post

The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts of Cambodia plans to seek UNESCO cultural world heritage status for the traditional music known as Khmer Arak, an art form they believe is in danger of disappearing.

Arak originates from animist spiritual beliefs. The music is a ritual form that was thought to drive out illnesses. But as the country adapts to modern medicine, Arak is in danger of dying out, and few young Cambodians know about it.

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Treasures of Cambodian traditional music

Cambodian Living Arts (CLA) has been working since the late 1990s to revitalise the traditional performing arts in the country, since the enormous human tragedies and cultural losses of the 1970s. It collaborates with musicians, communities, and other stakeholders to create an environment where Cambodian arts empower and transform individuals and communities.

These CLA-produced videos are compelling introductions to three musical genres that are still at some risk without intervention.

Smot: Enchanting Sound:

Song for the Death:

Cambodian Classical Wedding Music:

Nou Samnang

This one of a series of blog posts featuring people who are making efforts to strengthen the vitality of their music. This one introduces Nou Samnang, born in 1993 in a village in Kandal province in Cambodia.