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Unique Khmer pentatonic scale

Mon, 04 May 2015 . Last updated Thu, 25 Jun 2015 09:06

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The imprint of the traditional Khmer ethnic culture is very special, in which the Khmer pentatonic scale is always the symbol of the vibrant cultural space, the soul in the cultural life of Khmer people in the South.

Living with different Vietnamese ethnic peoples in the Mekong Delta, Khmer people has a long lasting history with special cultural identities. Khmer people mainly live on wet rice farming. Despite their hard life, they have created many special art forms to turn toward better life. Pentatonic scale is typical for musical instruments of Khmer people.

The perfect traditional pentatonic scale can be compared with modern musical instruments. The bucket-shape tool is seen as the key item as it creates the first note of a piece of music. After harvesting season, Khmer people often hold celebration to drive hardship away with the hope for better crops. Pentatonic scale is an integral part in such celebrations and brings excitement to the whole region. Before, pentatonic scale was used to serve the kings and the royal class only. But now it is played in all festivals and special occasions of Khmer people.

To preserve and promote the traditional cultural values, artisan Ly Phat teaches his children and local people how to use pentatonic scale. Pentatonic scale symbolizes the spiritual power and cultural identity of Khmer people. It bears the meaning of Theravada. It goes through the human life from birth to death. The instrument brings all levels of sound and represents the spiritual desire of Khmer people. Khmer people realize people of their nation through this sound. Pentatonic scale has been existing for long and well developed in Khmer community early in the 20th century.

This instrument was formed for Khmer people to tell story through music. This instrument symbolizes the spiritual life of Khmer people in the South. Singer must know how to play the instrument. This instrument is similar to the plucked lute with three strings of the Vietnamese but the box is bigger and longer. The two strings are made of silk. Lyrics might be about a story. Lyrics can be prepared in advance or composed by singers. The cohesion is needed to create unique features of the works. Pentatonic scale is a free-style art genre so it can be played anywhere.

He plays instrument in the place he visits to give useful advice to young people and inspire others to love their hometown and family members. For better life, please send our kids to school. Well-trained people will develop a good country. Before any performance, artisans often worship the founder. Despite not having altar for the founder, they still conduct this ritual to show their gratitude toward the creator of this art genre.

Offerings include cotton tree, banana tree stem, incense, read thread, rice, chicken or pork, tea, cakes, fruits, wine and a light which represents the master. Their performance in wedding party and other festivals can last one – two hours. This song is an indispensable part in the wedding ceremony of Khmer people. Artisans will sit in front of the wedding room, playing this song. The wedding song shows the gratitude of kids for their family members. The song reminds young people to preserve good tradition of the community. The song honors the faithful love and gives advice to couples on how to fulfill their family tasks.

The art genre is handed down in form of word of mouth. Only few people are interested in this art genre. The image of pentatonic scale artisan has come into the mind of Khmer people in the South. They sing to give good advice to young people. However, this special art genre is fading away and needs preserving.

Given its historical, cultural and scientific values, in 2013, MoCST recognized this art genre to be a national intangible heritage in form of folk art genre. This is the first step in preserving this genre of art. Obviously, this art genre is a part of the spiritual life of Khmer people in the South after their hand farming works.

Each musical instrument bears the unique features of each group. Pentatonic scale is a precious spiritual treasure of Khmer people over their development course. Pentatonic scale artisans are rustic farmers. Despite working hard, they still love their life, nature and people. This inspires them to create long-lasting cultural values.


Source: VTC10 - NETVIET

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