Cambodian flutes, Bob Marley, and European choral music

By Elizabeth Doyle

Luc Viatour / http://www.Lucnix.beLuc Viatour / Sarus Crane

Yim Sang  — I think Cambodia has an interesting history. Once upon a time, it boasted the largest urban center in the world. Angkor was the envy of the lands for a long time. Hinduism thrived, then later Mahayana Buddhism, and the society was apparently relatively prosperous, comfortable, and I even see hints a great deal of respect for both genders.  They had ups and downs, including some wars and a Dark Age, and a little period of being owned by the French.  But in many ways, including musically, they really continued to thrive. They switched to Theravada Buddhism, they continued along.  And then in the 1970s, the absolutely unimaginable happened.  The Khmer Rouge rose up from within and killed …. Everyone.  Anyone who wore eyeglasses (because they looked smart) … anyone who sang a song … anyone who danced …. Anyone who prayed … anyone Chinese or Vietnamese … anyone who wasn’t marching fast enough …. anyone.  Torture became commonplace. The once mighty and prosperous Cambodia was reduced to … something unthinkable.  They’re recovering – but can you ever recover completely from something like that?  It’s no wonder that today, there’s a movement to “Save Khmer (Cambodian) music.” The Khmer Rouge did everything they could to wipe it out!  But the Cambodian Living Arts is working hard to try to revive the artistic world of Cambodia, and to teach people how to sing and dance again. They post a lot of videos on YouTube, so let’s help them get authentic Khmer music out there again, for people to see.  Here’s a look at one they’ve put up of a grand master of Cambodian woodwind instruments, Yim Sang, now 85 years old, who somehow survived it all.  Click here.

Bob Marley in concert, Zurich, Switzerland

Bob Marley – A lot of people wouldn’t know what Rastafarianism is if it hadn’t been for Bob Marley.  It’s a religion that originated on the small island of Jamaica, which proclaims that all humans came from Africa, and that basically (I’m going to get this a little bit wrong), the farther they’ve gotten from Africa, the more they’ve strayed, and become Babylon (an evil place) instead of Zion (a good place – the original Africa.)  They also believe that Ethiopia’s final emperor was a prophet or a special son of God.( I now apologize to all Rastafarians for not getting it quite right!) But it had been a much more obscure religion worldwide before Bob Marley came along. His music and his soul moved so many people, that in many ways he put both his country, Jamaica, and his religion on the map for all time.  I’ve always heard him as more of a singing spirit than a musician.  Here he is, singing a classic:

And no Bob Marley fan would forgive me if I didn’t also post a link to him singing No Woman No Cry, now that he’s on their minds. Here you go!

Bodiam Castle, East Sussex, England

Anonymous 4 – Choral music has been a European tradition since Ancient Greece. It’s singers singing a song in unison, often in many different vocal ranges simultaneously.  It can be all men singing, or all women, or most commonly, a mix of men and women in order to get the full effect of high voices and low voices singing the same song at the same time.  Choral music flourished a lot during Medieval times and the Renaissance, and the female chorus, Anonymous 4 is dedicated mainly to choral music of the Medieval era.  (Though they do pay homage to choral music throughout time.)  Most people I know who love music own at least one album by these ladies.  Their music is widely regarded as a staple in any respectable music collection!  And they really do bring an older, slightly more nervous, but also more haunted age in history to life with every song. Click here.


Top photo: Wikimedia Commons / Luc Viatour / www.Lucnix.beLuc Viatour  / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / Sarus Crane, native to Cambodia and other Asian countries

Second photo: Wikimedia Commons / Ueli Frey / http// / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. 

Third photo: Wikimedia Commons / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / Attribution: Bodium Castle, East Sussex, England

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