Music is one of the dominant parts of Cambodian life thousand years ago. All families normally have their own musical instruments playing by themselves or having musician to play for the rich family including royal palace. Traditionally, there are usually the musical group to entertain the local residents for all the ceremonies and festivals, especially religious and marriage ceremony. Khmer music has gone so far through the peak of modernization before and during Angkor period doing the sculpture on the wall of the ancient temples; there are many types of musical instruments found and only some remains until today.
Falling down the power of Angkor Era, Cambodian lost her own music instruments and documents as well as the musician being killed and flowing to the newly kingdoms such as Siam Kingdom (Thailand) and Lao Kingdom. It should be noted that Lao Kingdom still keep the original music standard from Angkor Empire since a Lao King used to live and got heritage from Angkor along the marriage with a princess of Angkor. Anyway, some musicians in Cambodia were luckily alive scattering throughout the remaining territory, but the war still proceeded for hundreds of years later.
Longvek and Udong era had opened the new age of musical conservation along with local wars. Cambodian music got a bit influence back from Siam Kingdom after she lost the war ending the Longvek era in exchange of flowing Khmer documents and music into Siam. Some people confused Cambodia gaining the music completely from Siam Kingdom. In fact, Cambodian still preserved their own traditional music very well; only that some had to learn in Siam Kingdom because of the musical documents collection mostly kept in Siam Kingdom with their new remix.
Until France came to Cambodia as requested by King Ang Duong to let this country remained independent from Siam Kingdom and Annam Kingdom which tried to divide Cambodia into two parts for their control. However, Cambodia was colonized later by France as the opening water gateway towards China through Mekong River and at last France could not complete their mission since there are many obstacles in the upper Mekong River. In contrast, France started to use the Indochina Region including Laos, Cambodia, Annam, Tongkin and Cochinchina (Kampuchea Krom or South Cambodia) for political power, trade and slavery. Fortunately, French found the interest in Khmer music and preserve them among residents. Music is in peace at the moment with the inflow of western music.
After French colonization had gone, western and traditional music was remixed as popular among teenagers during Sangkum Reastr Niyum regime (1955-1970) and Khmer Republic. Many musical teams were established by King Norodom Sihanouk and local authority to popularized Khmer and western music; famous singers and musicians came to Phnom Penh for the nationwide music popularity including Sinn Sisamouth, Ros Sereysothea, Pen Ran, Huy Meas, Sos Math, Im Songseum, Pov Vannary, Kong Bun Chhoeurn, Norodom Sihanouk, Chhim Chhuon, In Yeng, Oeung Nary, Chhuon Malai, Sieng Dy, Norodom Sereyvuth, Mao Sareth, Chhun Vanna, Mol Kamach, Duch Kimhak, So Savoeurn, Kol Sem, Vor Sarun, Has Salorn, Ma Laopy, Voy Ho, Sin Keat, Sim Touch, Pen Ram, Nou Nhong, Kim Sam El, Svay Sam Oeur, Oum Dora, Chum Kem….
Stopping completely to year zero, popular artists and musicians were vanished one by one in Pol Pot Regime (1975-1979). There was only music group from Pol Pot team broadcasting only for the political ideology. After the fall of this regime, Cambodia restarted the musical preservation with the musicians alive to gather as the group transferring their knowledge to next generation. What an amazing! The oldies musical and song records have been found gradually nationwide and imported from neighboring countries with Khmer community. This is the good lesson for next generation to study for both golden voice and musical heritage.
Recently, there are many musical schools providing the opportunity for teenager to learn, especially in international school. Since then, music writing is now en route to create the original one for Cambodia and stop the copy from foreign countries. Not only music, but singer groups have been registered to entertain the teen. One of the very famous song is Or! Tung Cheat Khmer played by Small World Small Band; another admirable group is Animation Plus! We are still motivational to encourage Cambodian to establish something original to promote Cambodian prestige to the world.