Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Apathy rules in PP

Nam Sothea and his Takhe at Meta House
I used to think that the Birmingham public in England was apathetic when it came to getting off their arses and watching live reggae, as I would often be at a gig and very few would bother to escape the comfort of their own living room to enjoy what invariably was a great night of entertainment and quality music. Unfortunately, apathy seems to have afflicted the Phnom Penh public too. The Meta House on Street 264 is now open six nights a week and is busting a gut to put on a variety of entertainment, be it in the form of films, documentaries, exhibitions, discussions and music. Tonight, it was the turn of the latter under the Khmix It! banner and the weekly introduction to students and their music from the Cambodian Living Arts program. Numbers in the recent past had been low but tonight it hit rock bottom with just two people in attendance, and I was one of them. For goodness sake Phnom Penhites, its free, its an opportunity to listen to extremely talented musicians who deserve the support of the public for maintaining traditional Cambodian music and culture, and its a chance to ask questions and find out more about the music and the individuals who play it. I implore you to get off your comfortable chair or bar-stool and get to the Meta House to support these events, or they will most likely disappear altogether.

Nam Sothea and his crocodile-shaped wooden zither called a Takhe
Tonight it was the turn of 23 year old Nam Sothea and his crocodile-shaped fretted floor zither called a Takhe, or Krapeu, which is an integral part of traditional Cambodian music and is played at new year, weddings and other ceremonies. Sothea has been playing it seriously for the last four years though his father and grandfather before him were both experts on this instrument. He's still a student at the Fine Arts school as well as a teacher himself and is in great demand at a variety of functions. Without an audience, I was given a one-on-one masterclass in the various styles of music that can be played on the Takhe, from classical and traditional through to pop. At times it sounded reminiscent of Irish folk music and at other times, something at the opposite end of the musical scale. Sothea played for over an hour and talked about his love of music and of the various instruments that make up the pinpeat orchestra, of which he is adept at most. I enjoyed my introduction to the Takhe, it's just a pity more people weren't present to enjoy it too.

No comments: