Students on Service Trip Stunned to Find Many Villagers Have Never Heard Their Own Culture’s Music; Chaperone Builds Crowdfunding Campaign to Bring Traditional Cambodian Arts to Countryside
West Hartford, CT -- (SBWIRE) -- 05/06/2013 -- The Khmer Magic Music Bus Project seeks to help Cambodian master musicians return traditional music performance and education to the people of rural Cambodia through a grassroots online fundraising (“crowdfunding”) campaign to purchase a bus and send it on tour. The attempted elimination of culture by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970’s has jeopardized the artistic heritage of an entire generation, particularly in rural provinces where poverty is widespread. A chance encounter during a school service learning trip last summer sparked this effort to extend the work of Arn Chorn Pond, a Cambodian-American refugee, musician and human rights activist who dedicates his life to restoring traditional arts to his people. The campaign ends on May 28th.
“It’s incredible to witness people reconnect with their own heritage,” said Stephen Riege, who has led students on a service learning trip to Cambodia with Mr. Pond every summer for the last nine years. “Our group needed to take a short break during a long drive, and so we chose to stop on the outskirts of a small village near the Thai border,” he said. They asked one of the master musicians they were traveling with to get out and play something while they waited. First, curious kids popped up to see what this unique sound was. Soon, the adults joined in, transfixed as everyone stopped to watch the performance.
“We learned that many of these people had never heard a live performance — or even their own culture’s music — before,” Mr. Riege continued. “I couldn’t imagine what that must feel like, and knew that we had to do something to help these master musicians return traditional music to these areas.” As a result of this experience, the idea for The Khmer Magic Music Bus was born. When successful, contributions will fund the purchase of a twenty-five passenger bus that will carry Khmer musicians, crew, and a videographer through the villages of rural Cambodia to share the experience of listening to and learning about their musical heritage.
The project is the latest effort in Arn Chorn Pond’s continuing mission to reintroduce traditional arts into Cambodia as the country seeks to rebuild itself after the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. Mr. Pond is the subject of both the 2012 National Book Award Finalist Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick and the Emmy-nominated documentary, The Flute Player. He is also the recipient of the Reebok Human Rights Award, the Anne Frank Memorial Award, and the Kohl Foundation International Peace Prize.
Contact: Stephen Riege