Cambodian Traditional Music

When you’re visiting a foreign country, one way to appreciate the local culture is by by listening or watching traditional performing arts like dances and music. Some cultures have traditional music instruments that might be unique only to their culture, while others may have traditional instruments that are similar to other cultures in the same geographic region. Some of the music pieces are performed among the common people, while others are more for formal, royal functions.

When we were visiting the Royal Palace complex in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, while walking around the Silver Pagoda we heard some sound of music playing in a distance. We walked towards the sound source, and found a pavilion where several people were playing traditional musical instruments as an ensemble. Later on I learned it’s called the pinpeat ensemble, which plays music during ceremonies at the royal court or the temples. The ensemble includes wooden xylophones, a circle of small gongs, and a couple of drums. The music sounded similar to the gamelan ensemble from Indonesia.

As we stood near the pavilion and listened to the group performing, several more tourists came to join us enjoying the performance. Then one of the performers looked at the crowd, and motioned to one of the visitors to come over, and he let her played the instruments for a little bit. I thought that was a wonderful way of letting visitors learn and appreciate your culture.

The photo below was taken as we listened to the group performing. I thought it was great that one of the guys actually looked at us while playing and smiled — showing that it’s not all about being serious and the music was meant to be enjoyed.

Pinpeat ensemble

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