Golden Era Cambodia / by Cyrus Moussavi

Cambodia was tough. We met some of the most beautiful people of our travels, burdened by some of the darkest stories.  Joyous music and tales of utter brutality. 

On the banks of the Mekong River an hour outside of Phnom Penh, Arn Chorn-Pond described his life mission -- recovering Cambodia's traditional music, destroyed by the Khmer Rouge.  He travels the country searching out master musicians and instruments destroyed during the Communist regime, when, according to his research, 90% of musicians were killed. Musicians were the educated, the bourgeoise, the westernized. They did not fit the Khmer Rouge's "Year Zero" mission. Over the course of 5 years they were "eliminated," and Arn has spent the last 30 years picking up the pieces.

The radiant Thon Seyma described her singing career --  her admiration of Cambodia's Golden Era singers, her refusal to bend to current demands for Korean or western pop styles, her work with the Khmer Magic Music Bus.  

When the two of them got on the crumbling stage in Arn's living room, backed by a band of friends and relatives, they were transformed. Arn's flute-playing is internationally renowned, Seyma's voice soars, and for a few brief moments, the burden of Cambodian history was lifted by their sound. I love this song and this moment in time.