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Listen to Cambodian Master Performers

Meet the last generation of surviving Cambodian masters and listen to recordings of their performances of traditional songs from the Cambodian Master Performers Program archive.

Chek Mach, vocalist, Phnom Penh

Chek Mach, vocalist, Phnom Penh

Chek Mach began her vocal training at the age of ten, studying Bassac opera in Phnom Penh. Before the Khmer Rouge came to power, she toured all over Cambodia, performing traditional songs as well as works in Chinese, French, Vietnamese, and Laotian. She joined the Cambodian Master Performers Program in 1999, and for three years she taught students near her home. Chek Mach passed away in January 2003 at the age of seventy.


"Bohvaskam"
Chek Mach, vocals
Youen Mek, tror so (two-stringed fiddle)
Recorded November 1999

"Jao Dawk"
Chek Mach, vocals
Recorded April 1999

Kong Nai, chapei dang veng and improvisational singing, Phnom Penh

Kong Nai, chapei dang veng and improvisational singing, Phnom Penh

Kong Nai plays the chapei dang veng, a two-string long-necked guitar. He also practices the Khmer tradition of improvisational singing while he plays. Improvised lyrics were traditionally satirical or humorous, but this was forbidden by the Khmer Rouge, and he was forced to sing songs of praise for the government. He now performs less controversial songs, mostly stories and fables. Kong Nai has been a teacher at the Cambodian Master Performers Program since 2002.


"Khemin Chum Nom Dai"
Kong Nai, vocals and chapey dang veng (long-necked guitar)
Recorded November 2000

"Pritia Cha Khmer"
Kong Nai, vocals and chapey dang veng (long-necked guitar)
Recorded November 2000

Nong Chok, 55, vocalist, Banteay Meanchey

Nong Chok, 55, vocalist, Banteay Meanchey

Nong Chok began performing as an actor and singer when he was a young boy. He frequently performed with the touring opera company run by his uncle, Arn Chorn-Pond's father. During the Khmer Rouge's reign, he was allowed to perform only revolutionary songs. After the Khmer Rouge fell from power, he founded a new opera company devoted to telling traditional stories and fables, but he couldn't keep the company open. He became a teacher at the Cambodian Master Performers Program in 2000, and hopes to rebuild an opera company.


"Lom Toueng"
Nong Chok and Chek Mach, vocals
(with ensemble)
Recorded April 2000

"Lom Jom Heng"
Nong Chok and Chek Mach, vocals
(with ensemble)
Recorded April 2000

Yim Saing, 80, woodwinds, Phnom Penh

Yim Saing, 80, woodwinds, Phnom Penh

Yim Saing's first instrument was made for him when he was sixteen by his grandfather, who was also a musician. He plays five different woodwinds, and prefers to play ajai, a kind of ancient 'rap' music in which two speakers improvise a discussion from the structure of the music. Although mistreatment by the Khmer Rouge left him partially deaf, he continues to perform and teach. His daughter Chanthy is also an accomplished flute player. Yim Saing joined the Cambodian Master Performers Program in 1999.


"Dom Noeur Khmer"
Yim Saing, khloy (bamboo flute)
Recorded April 1999

"Traw Yawng Yom Tgno"
Yim Saing, khloy (bamboo flute)
Recorded April 1999

Yoeun Mek, 63, <em>tro so</em>, Battambang

Yoeun Mek, 63, tro so, Battambang

Yoeun Mek has played the tror so since he was fifteen, when he built his first instrument. While a prisoner of the Khmer Rouge, he met Arn Chorn-Pond, and taught him the kind of traditional songs that were then forbidden by the government. After the Khmer Rouge fell from power, he worked in the state department of art and culture. Yoeun Mek began teaching at the Cambodian Master Performers Program in 1999.


"Mai Boksroeur"
Yoeun Mek tror so (two-stringed fiddle)
Recorded April 1999

"Khai Ronoch"
Yoeun Mek tror so (two-stringed fiddle)
Recorded April 1999

More about the CMPP
The Cambodian Master Performers Program supports the revival of traditional art forms of Cambodia and inspires contemporary artistic expression. Started in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1998, it has since flourished into an organization that works with a wide range of Cambodian, Cambodian-American and western artists in performing arts that range from music to shadow puppetry to dance. For more information, visit cambodianmasters.org.





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