In Cambodia, the spread of mass media and the internet is fuelling popularity-focused processes of transformation and change within the traditional ritual music and theatre genres. Phleng kar wedding music and lakhon bassac theatre genres are being mediated through television performances and remediated on the internet with the aim of preserving and promoting traditional genres in order to revitalize Cambodian musical and theatrical styles after the upheaval of the Khmer Rouge regime (1975–1979). By examining performances on TV and social media of a well-known phleng kar wedding ensemble and lakhon bassac theatre troupe, this talk will demonstrate the role of television as a vector of modernity in shaping traditional art forms. As well, it will focus on the role of social media in advertising traditional genres, artists, and ensembles. This advertisement mirrors new socio-cultural trends such as the role of women as musicians and entrepreneurs, the role of traditional instruments in promoting ensembles, and the inclination of many groups to communicate their political affiliation to gain more clients/audience. These processes also show how artists embrace demands for national representation and the promotion of individual creativity while remaining subject to current socio political trends and audience interests.
Dr. Francesca Billeri is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Ethnomusicology at “Sapienza” University of Rome, Italy. Currently, she is working on a research project coordinated by Professor Giovanni Giuriati on creating a digital sound archive of Master Meas SaEm’s music collection, as a tool for research and restitution to the community in Cambodia. She first worked in Cambodia in 2009 while she was a Master’s student. During her initial fieldwork in Cambodia, she was introduced to phleng kar (wedding music). She subsequently embarked on doctoral research in 2014 at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, where she completed a PhD in Music in 2019, looking at the performance contexts of phleng kar, including lakhon bassac theatre among others. She is especially interested in the impact of old and new media on traditional music in Southeast Asia, with a focus on Cambodia; the ongoing socio-cultural and political dynamics involved in processes of preservation, promotion, and restoration of Khmer traditional performing operated by local NGOs and mass media; the role and professionalism of artists and musicians within the media system and in Khmer society; music, ritual and performance; and issues relating to the concept of genre and classifications in traditional oral music. Building on research she has conducted on these topics, she has published articles in Asian Music, Asian Theatre, Asian Musicology and Sound Ethnographies among others. She is publishing her first research monograph on the mediation and remediation of Khmer traditional ritual music and theatre with Bloomsbury (London).
Ms. Samedy Suong, CKS Deputy Director