Sunday, April 15, 2007

Chaul Chnam celebrations

One voice that will be heard everywhere during the 3-day Khmer New Year or Chaul Chnam celebrations will be the voice of one of Cambodia's favourite female singers, Him Sivorn. She is particularly well known for her sweet voice when singing modern traditional styles like Ramvong, Ramkbach, Cha cha cha and she can be found on more cd's and karaoke dvd's than you can shake a stick at. Born in the village of Ba Phnom in Prey Veng province 37 years ago, she rose to prominence when she won a major singing competition in 1989 and has since enjoyed a long stint at the top of her profession, where singers and actors jockey for position as the biggest celebrities in their country. Adored by young and old alike, she has dueted with the top male singers at home and abroad like Noy Vanneth and Preap Sovath, and has been compared favourably with the famous Ros Sereysothea. A quick search on should take you to examples of her singing.

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With most Cambodians revelling in the Chaul Chnam celebrations over this holiday period, its worth taking a quick look at their favourite dance styles. In the Ramvong dance, people move continuously round in a circle - it's a simple step that's relaxing because the movements are very easy. You fold your palms, with your fingers at right angles to your wrists, and bring your hands up from behind you in front of your face, straightening and bending your fingers in time to the music. Move your hands in opposition directions - one to the left and one to the right. Move your legs in time to the rhythm too, and in the opposite direction to your partner. The Ramkbach dance is similar to the Ramvong; palms must be folded from below and brought up as high as your eyebrow when unfolded. Both hands and legs must be moved in opposition directions, like in the Ramvong. People perform the Ramkbach dance in a circle too but the movements are slower and more gentle. Besides Ramvong and Ramkbach, the Lamliev and Saravan dance styles are also popular at festival time. Both dances are thought to have originated in Laos, and are quicker in rhythm than the other Cambodian styles.

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