I finally managed to see The Flute Player for the first time tonight at Meta House, as part of an evening inspired by the work of Cambodian Living Arts, who are the main thrust of a revival in Khmer performing arts, thanks in no small part to Arn Chorn-Pond
, the subject of the documentary film. Arn was a boy soldier in the Khmer Rouge and that stayed with him after he was adopted and taken to live in America. His passion to make something good from his past saw him return to Cambodia to seek out the old music masters, who survived the Khmer Rouge years and to record their music and to hear their stories. The Masters Program, which Arn supported by travelling the globe telling his own personal, and emotional story, became Cambodian Living Arts. His youthful appearance and effervescent enthusiasm belies the heartbreak and sadness that simmers just below the surface, so the success of CLA and the great work they have done in helping the next generation of musicians connect with the old masters is music to his ears. His own life was spared during the killing years by being able to play the flute, so music has been his saviour in more ways than one. Amongst the masters on show was a telling contribution from the chapei king himself, Kong Nai, who was filmed at his home in Dey Krahom, which has now been demolished, as of last weekend. The documentary was filmed in 2003.
Also, as part of the evening, a young CLA student, Sinat, played a series of traditional instruments for the audience and answered questions about both the music and himself, and a short film on the dying art of giant leather puppets was shown and featured a couple of troupes that perform this traditional art in Siem Reap. Fortunately the monks at Wat Bo in the town have been a catalyst in reviving this artform and it seems to have at least secured its future for the short term.
Arn Chord-Pond's own life was saved by playing the flute Kong Nai gave his usual electric performance in the film Giant puppetry in Siem Reap is now recovering from near-extinction The giant puppets are illuminated by a large log-fire, when performing in the countryside Sinat from CLA and his array of traditional musical instruments
Labels: Arn Chord-Pond, Cambodian Living Arts, Kong Nai