‘They thought they could break our spirit, but the little voice is still alive.’
What if Cambodian children and families could be given an opportunity to SING again?
Note by note in villages, schools, streets, factories and farms across Cambodia, people are starting to raise their voices and find relief!
Cambodia Sings is a not for profit organization set up to ‘rekindle the joy of singing for all Cambodians’.
We were moved to create this because the culture of singing was severely broken due to the Khmer Rouge era. Anyone singing did so at the risk of their own life. Fear was instilled instead of joy.
Cambodia was once known as the ‘Jewel of Asia’, a colourful, inventive, wealthy, matriarchal society, rich with culture, art and community life.
During the late 1970’s, 90% of its artists, musicians, teachers, doctors & professionals were killed and ravaged by civil war. The Pol Pot regime gripped the country, tore families apart and muted a nation. Labour camps and enforced marriages replaced the sacred ritual practices of treasured family life and hateful, cursive songs of the regime over took children’s lullabies.
How does a culture rise from such gagging, silencing and thievery?
Now, 40 years later, it is hard to find a grandparent playing with their children, wandering the streets. Those with grey hair who lived through war, are either sitting on crooked benches in the markets, chopping heads off fish, begging on the stony streets or hiding behind closed doors watching TV soaps, numbed down by their own secret wounds too horrific to murmur.
Finding words for the unspeakable is unthinkable. The practice of ‘swallowing down the pain to survive’ has become the norm. Shut up and survive!
Don’t express your emotion, you may risk being punished!
Today, the fear still lingers and singing is not valued. It is not part of the school curriculum and children are not given a chance to sing. Parents have forgotten about serenading their children and are focused on their livelihoods.
One Khmer teacher put it: ‘No music, no life!’
The hope lies with the youth!
An exciting young spirit propels Cambodia’s population. The majority of the country is under the age of 30yrs. Moto’s roar up and down the streets carrying burgeoning young families, sometimes up to 5 on a motorbike!
There’s a true energy of curiosity, aliveness and improvisational buzz in the cities. Harnessing this exuberant creativity and offering positive feedback is our focus.
The Khmer are loud, physical, fun and earthy. Since 2015, singing can be heard rising from the poorest areas of Phnom Penh, beside railway tracks, construction sites and shopping malls. We offer classes with NGO partner schools, to over 1000 youth between the ages of 4-17yrs.
Step by step we are providing friendly safe environments where kids, teenagers and adults can sing without looking over their shoulders. As we harmonize together we are working through the fears and obstacles that hold back true potential and open a capacity to trust and dream again.
It is happening!
Together we are changing a legacy of fear, to a legacy of love.
One voice at a time!!
by Trish Watts
Cofounder of Cambodia Sings!
Registered Voice Movement Therapy
Check out our Vision: https://youtu.be/QSnEyE6JyyI
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