Perspectives of Culture-Bearers on the Vitality, Viability and Value of Traditional Khmer Music Genres in Contemporary Cambodia
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Previous studies have explored the historical and social context for the endangerment and subsequent revitalisation of Cambodian performing arts, but little work has focused on music, or the views of culture-bearers themselves on these issues. By thematically analysing qualitative data from semi-structured interviews conducted in early 2013, this research explores the perspectives and motivations of a group of mastermusicians, teachers and performers who are making efforts to sustain and revive their music traditions. Participants emphasised five factors that they believed significantly interplayed with the vitality of traditional Khmer music genres. Four of these were generally perceived to have an overall adverse effect on vitality: 'outside' influence; loss of interest and knowledge among younger people; low market demand for performances and teaching; and perpetuation of limiting constructs and belief systems. Only one factor identified was perceived to have a beneficial effect on vitality: the strength of infrastructure for learning and teaching. Somewhat surprisingly, then, opinions about the viability of traditional genres were on aggregate highly optimistic, though with some concern expressed about the impact of government action (and inaction) on this issue. Justifications given for sustaining and revitalising traditional Khmer genres included the role of these traditions in education and ritual, Cambodian national identity and musicians' livelihoods. The study confirms the perceived value, among one group of culture-bearers, of revitalising Khmer music traditions.
The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology
© 2014 Routledge, Taylor & Francis. This is an electronic version of an article published in The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, Volume 15, Issue 1, 2014, Pages 26-46. The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology is available online at: http://www.tandfonline.com with the open URL of your article.
Musicology and Ethnomusicology