The music of Cambodia is derived from a mesh of cultural traditions dating back to the ancient Khmer Empire, India, China and the original indigenous tribes living in the area before the arrival of Indian and Chinese travelers. With the rapid Westernization of popular music, Cambodian music has incorporated elements from music around the world through globalization.
Cambodian Art music is highly influenced by ancient forms as well as Hindu forms. Religious dancing, many of which depict stories and ancient myths, are common in Cambodian culture. Some dances are accompanied by a pinpeat orchestra, which includes a ching (cymbal), roneat (bamboo xylophone), pai au (flute), sralai (oboe), chapey (bass moon lute or banjo), gong (bronze gong), tro (fiddle), and various kinds of drums. Each movement the dancer makes refers to a specific idea, including abstract concepts like today (pointing a finger upwards). The 1950s saw a revival in classical dance, led by Queen Sisowath Kossamak Nearyrath.
During the early 1970s, the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia committed genocide among the country's citizens. During their reign, an estimated "90% of Cambodia's musicians, dancers, teachers, and instrument makers" were killed, interrupting the transmission of cultural knowledge to following generations. The country has been undergoing revival ever since, with those remaining trying to perform, teach, research, and document what they can.
The traditional music has had to compete with foreign music that has different tonal systems of scales and pitch frequency. Lack of a formal written-system of music theory for Cambodian music lent to a perception among modern Cambodians that the music was "incorrect", "out of tune" or "uncouth" when compared to western music or to Chinese music. Traditional music still exists today, but its survival is the result of formal efforts governments (both the UNESCO and Cambodian) as well as academics. These have worked to organize knowledge of the Cambodian music system and its distinct traditions.
Sam-Ang Sam, a Cambodian ethnomusicologist, wrote a brief introduction to Cambodian music on his website, part of his work to preserve knowledge Cambodian music and educating. He spoke of music in three different areas of Cambodia: villages, the court and temples. In each setting, music had a formal function or was entertainment. Village music included kar music for weddings, araak music for communication with spirits, and "ayai repartee singing, chrieng chapey narrative, and yike and basakk theaters." Court music had orchestras composed of a specific set of instruments. The pinpeat orchestra (consisting of gong chimes, xylophones, a metallophone, oboe and drums) accompanied the formal dance, masked play, shadow play and religious ceremonies. Less formal entertainment was played by a mohori orchestra. Temples had a "korng skor" ensemble (gongs and drums), as well as a pinpeat orchestra.
Additionally, Sam-Ang Sam differentiates between music made by the mainstream Cambodians (Cambodian music) and the distinct music of ethnic minorities (part of the music of Cambodia). The latter includes music made by people living in Rattanakiri and Mundulkiri provinces, the Koulen and Cardamom ranges, and the vicinity "around the great lake (Tonle Sap)." Differences of language and religion help to create the separation between the different cultures. Ethnic groups include upland Mon-Khmer language groups (Pnorng, Kuoy (Kui), Por, Samre) whose music consists of "gong ensembles, drum ensembles, and free-reed mouth organs with gourd windchests." Other ethnic groups include Cham, Chinese, Vietnamese who all potentially could have music from their home cultures, but which is "unknown."
One of the traditional music forms is Pinpeat (Khmer: ពិណពាទ្យ), in which an orchestra or musical ensemble performs the ceremonial music of the royal courts and temples of Cambodia. The royal orchestra would accompany the classical ballets, both male (Lokhon Khol) and female (Apsara), as well as the Grand Theater of Shadows, the Sbek Thom. The orchestra consists of approximately nine or ten instruments, mainly wind and percussion (including several varieties of xylophone and drums). It accompanies court dances, masked plays, shadow plays, and religious ceremonies. The pinpeat is analogous to the piphat ensemble of Thailand.
In recent years the instrument that gave the pinpeat its name, the pin, has been revived. The instrument was lost or abandoned around the 13 century A.D.
Another form of traditional music was mohori music, which was the entertainment music of the courts of Cambodia, Siam and Laos. While the pinpeat music was religious and "for deities", the mohori music was made for noblemen, focusing on themes and moods to "delight their souls." This music "favors soft instruments", including khloy flute, krapeu, tro chhé, tro sor and Tro Ou stringed instruments, and roneat ek xylophone, roneat thong metallophone, skor romonea drums and chhing finger cymbals.
Arak music was music for religious and healing purposes, dating to "animist spiritual beliefs" of ancient Cambodia. Traditionally it was used to "drive out illness," and used flute, drum, tro and chapei.
Starting in the late 1950s, Head of State Norodom Sihanouk, a musician himself, encouraged the development of popular music in Cambodia. Initially, pop records from France and Latin America were imported into the country and became popular, inspiring a flourishing music scene based in Phnom Penh and led by singers like Sinn Sisamouth, Ros Serey Sothea, and Pen Ran. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, the scene was further influenced by Western rock and roll and soul music via U.S. armed forces radio that had been broadcast into nearby South Vietnam. This resulted in a unique sound in which Western pop and rock were combined with Khmer vocal techniques.
Many of the most important singers of this era perished during the Khmer Rouge genocide. Western interest in the popular Cambodian music of the 1960s-70s was sparked by the bootleg album Cambodian Rocks in 1996, which in turn inspired the 2015 documentary film Don't Think I've Forgotten.
Classic Cambodian pop music, or modern music, includes slow, crooner-type music exemplified by songs such as Sinn Sisamouth's ឯណាទៅឋានសួគ៌? (Ae Na Tiw Than Suor?), as well as dance music. Dance music is classified according to the type of dance signified by the rhythm. The two most common types of Cambodian dance music are ramvong and ramkbach. Ramvong is slow dance music, while ramkbach is closely related to Thai folk music. Recently, a form of music called kantrum has become popular. Originating among the Khmer Surin in Thailand, kantrum is performed by both Thai and Cambodian stars.
Modern Cambodian music is usually presented in Cambodian karaoke VCDs, which typically feature actors and actresses mimicking song lyrics. Noy Vanneth and Lour Sarith are two examples of modern singers who sing songs on the karaoke VCDs, and the VCDs feature songs composed by other musicians, in addition to songs sung and composed by notable musician Sinn Sisamouth. Cambodia Jeder Künstler, jede Band und jeder Song, den Sie sich vorstellen können, vom neusten bis zum ältesten, sind über Frogtoon Music leicht zugänglich. Machen Sie sich bereit, sich selbst zu verwöhnen und der Musik zu erlauben, Ihre Seele zu bereichern, Ihre Leidenschaft zu entfachen, Ihre Emotionen zu wecken und einige schöne Erinnerungen zurückzubringen. Das Folgende ist ein Verzeichnis der Top-Künstler und Bands von Cambodia:
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