Arts & Culture, Visions of Cambodia

Angkor around Khmer New Year 2020: Some Sights and Insights

Apr 04 2020 by maads
Time to reflect, and cherish natural and cultural treasures more than ever.
Tags: covid-19

A few sights and insights on how Cambodia is dealing with the global crisis.

"Angkor is meditating"

That's how photographer Oyen Rodriguez describes the eerie quietness at Angkor Archeological Park, with tourist crowds now vanished. Ancient temples are getting a respite from overcrowding.

Worldwide, geologists and seismologists have noticed that surface vibrations around the planet are notably down.

The local population is suffering, economically speaking. Solidarity and social cohesion are more important than ever.

(Photos by Oyen Rodriguez)

Rediscovery

This commercial for a popular drinking water brand, released 2 April 2020, is remarkable not only for the production quality but also for the message it conveys.

Temples, Apsara dance, handmade silk, these magnificient assets of Cambodian culture are not viewed anymore merely as "things for tourists". The pause in the economic rush is inductive of a profund reassessment of priorities.

(Photos below: behind-the-scene moments during the video clip shooting, by SunRethy Kun/Seang Sileang)

No dance this year...

In Cambodia, there is no celebration without dancing. And, for Khmer New Year, many games played by groups on the pagoda grounds.

Due to the virus threats, the country will not dance this year. This is a request from public health authorities and the Cambodian government, yet people had already decided to abstain from large gatherings. Social distancing is also a matter of indivual and collective responsibility.

...but music everywhere

Online solo concerts, but also small private trucks driving through the calmed-down Phnom Penh to broadcast traditional and pop songs: with its 19.4 millions of smartphones (120 % of the entire population), Cambodia was ready to develop social distancing without giving up on music.

Every day, we hear of some famous singer or actress who has been donating to the pandemy-relief fund. And even before Cambodia prime minister Samdech Hun Sen publicly invited composers, singers and filmmakers to express their creativity in raising the virus awareness, songs about Covid-19 and the need to 'protect and love your family' have been released, like this one by singers Chhye Srey Lis (F) and Mul Sideth (M), with the lyrics so you can sing it at home...before the karaoke places reopen:

Meanwhile, the Facebook groups dedicated to legendary singer Sin Sisamuth are growing everyday, while herewe learn about his youngest granddaughter, Sin Sochheata, herself a singer and musician.

And we're all waiting for the publication of the illustrated novel that will recall the life and art of another pop-music icon, Ros Serey Sothea.

(Photos below: Sin Sochheata singing with her grandfather's portrait in the background (photo Khmer Times) | Sin Sisamuth when he was a member of the Cambodian Royal Ballet orchestra | an illustration from 'The Golden Voice' by Kat Baumann and Gregory Cahill)

Learning more about Angkor online

In a time of self-confinement, The Web is not only about compulsive TV-series watching and unsecured video-conferencing -- it can be a fantastic tool for researching and learning.

Try Angkor Database, the online resource developed at Templation Angkor Resort. With two clicks, you can read at home about that small temple you remembered from a past trip, or a particular topic that keeps coming back to your mind.

With the current global crisis, for instance, did you know that back in the 12th-century, Angkor had an elaborate social healthcare system, some kind of "Medicare-for-all"? Here is one of the several publications on the subject.

(Main photo and the two above by Sakphearoth Kea)

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