Thursday, March 4, 2010

Great gusto

The Tonle Bassac folk dancers strutting their stuff last night
Last night on an outdoor stage at the National Museum, the performance of Children of the Khmer by the youngsters from the Tonle Bassac Folk Group, supported and funded by the Cambodian Living Arts team, showed exactly why they went down a storm on their Womad and Edinburgh Festival appearances in 2008. Their combination of classical repertoire and engaging traditional folk dances, performed with great gusto and a guest spot from master musician Ieng Sithul, was lapped up by the appreciative audience in this premiere piece of a performance they will open to the public later this month. Towards the end of this year they are aiming to make the show a regular event. Ieng Sithul has trained his young group well, and their repertoire involved a variety of traditional and well-known folk style dances as well as comedy routines, all backed by their own excellent musicians and singers. You can read more about the group's performances in the UK here. You should definitely make the effort to see them perform, they are an inspiration and a great credit to the youth of their country.
Update: The two 'open to the public' upcoming performances from the Tonle Bassac team will take place on the atmospheric National Museum outdoor stage at 7pm on Thursday 25 March and Thursday 1 April. Tickets are priced at $18 per person, call 023 986 032 to book.
The show opened up with some classical Cambodian court dance
Master Ieng Sithul encourages a member of the audience to partake in some leaf whistling
The show was full of vitality and movement in last night's varied programme
The performers take their bow at the end of the National Museum premiere

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

The legendary Ieng Sithul

The man on the left with the krama is the legendary Ieng Sithul. Forget the other guy.
I mentioned last night that the extraordinary Cambodian performer Ieng Sithul was involved in the new opera Where Elephants Weep and realized you may not have heard of this particular man, even though he's instantly recognizable in his homeland. Ieng Sithul is a master of many Khmer traditional instruments and a classical and traditional singer of great repute. He is from a musical family and sang professionally as a child before the Khmer Rouge years. Afterwards, he studied instruments under his uncle, Meng Hun, the greatest instrumentalist of the last two decades. Sithul is now a familiar host on Cambodian television, radio (right) and stage and one of the most popular recording artists in Cambodia today. He has a deep knowledge of traditional culture and is a high-profile supporter of classical Khmer art with his involvement with Cambodian Living Arts. However for the last twelve years he has suffered from a heart ailment which has meant he has had to be very careful with his schedule. But that didn't stop this Khmer living legend from taking a group of young Cambodian folk dancers and musicians from the Tonle Bassac in Phnom Penh on a tour of the UK and Scotland in August, where they performed at the WOMAD Festival (WOMAD) in England and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, winning awards, rave reviews, and audience praise throughout. Now he's playing three parts no less in the headline-grabbing opera at the Chenla Theatre and gathering a new set of fans in the process. Long may he continue.


Friday, November 28, 2008

The Elephants are celebrating

The legendary Ieng Sithul and a freeloader who gatecrashed the premiere - oh that's me then!
I must say I really enjoyed the show tonight. My thanks to Anthony for the ticket and to Marie, his wife and my companion for the evening. Where Elephants Weep was my first rock-opera and I hope it won't be my last. If you suspend belief for the duration of the performance, the musical-cum-opera is a love story of course, between Sam and Bopha set in Cambodia in the mid-90s, mixing traditional elements of Cambodian music with a rock element which worked well and though it's heavily influenced by the involvement of western actors and production team, it captures its fair share of the conflict between tradition and modernity in Cambodia today. I'm the least qualified to give an in-depth critique of the show, suffice to say it was a professional performance from all concerned and one which will show another dimension to the performing arts for the local audiences next week. The show attracted the great and the good from senior government ministers to actors, actresses such as Dy Savet, singers including Preap Savath, statesmen like Son Soubert and Sichan Siv, the list was endless. On stage I was so pleased to see the likes of master musician and singer Ieng Sithul, the beautiful classical ballet star Sam Sathya and Dang Kosal as one of the bodyguards. Kosal was working at Meta House until he joined the production three months ago and its a wonderful opportunity for the young man to make his mark. The tickets for tonight's VIP world premiere topped $250 including a champagne and cocktail reception, so once again thanks to Anthony for the freebie.
The two leads - Sam (Michael K Lee) and Bopha (Diane Veronica Phelan)
Members of cast and crew celebrate their success
Ex-Meta House pal & bodyguard Dang Kosal and his PR photo above in the cap
Executive producer John Burt (front) and members of cast, crew and friends enjoying the limelight. Yes, that's BosbaPANH sat on the floor.

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