Music of Cambodia

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The music of Cambodia is derived both from traditions dating back to the ancient Khmer Empire and from the rapid Westernization of the popular music scene in modern times.

Folk and classical music[edit]

Cambodian Art music is highly influenced by ancient forms as well as Hindu forms. Religious dancing, many of which depict stories and ancient myths, are common. Some dances are accompanied by a pinpeat orchestra, which includes a ching (cymbal), roneat (bamboo xylophone), pai au (flute), sralai (oboe), chapey (bass banjo), gong (bronze gong), tro (fiddle), and various kinds of drums. Each movement the dancer makes refers to a specific idea, including abstract concepts like today (pointing a finger upwards). The 1950s saw a revival in classical dance, led by queen Sisowath Kossamak Nearyrath

The roneat has been described as a bamboo xylophone.
Close-up of the Roneat, Cambodia, September 2005

Popular music[edit]

Cambodian pop music, or modern music, is divided into two categories: ramvong and ramkbach. Ramvong is slow dance music, while ramkbach is closely related to Thai folk music. In the province Siem Reap, a form of music called kantrum has become popular; originating among the Khmer Surin in Thailand, kantrum is famous for Thai and Cambodian stars like Darkie.

Modern music is usually presented in Cambodian Karaoke VCDs, usually of an actor, actress or both making the actions, usually by mimicking the lyrics to the background song by moving their mouth as if they were actually singing the song. Noy Vannet and Lour Sarith are some of the modern singers who sing the songs for use with the Karaokes usually of the songs composed by Sin Sisamouth or others, in addition to the songs sung and composed by Sin Sisamouth himself.

Lady dancer, Siem Reap, September 2005.

Popular music singers[edit]

Famous Cambodian singers include: the very famous composer/singer Sinn Sisamouth, Ros Serey Sothea, Pan Ron (both of them being Sin Sisamouth's main singing partners) and present day singers: Noy Vannet, Meng Keo Pichenda and Lour Sarith.

Other Cambodian singers include Chhet Sovan Panha and Preap Sovath.


  • Clewley, John. "Heavenly Dancers". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 2: Latin & North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific, pp 20-23. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0

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