Three years later, in 2018, the “Khmer Magic Music Bus” became a program of Cambodian Living Arts and received the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation Grant. Not forgetting our promise, we went to Areng again, but we worried it was a bit late for Duong Nhek because he’s over 80 years old. Fortunately, the road was much better, not nearly as difficult as before, but there were still some problems, such as water flowing over the road and so on. That time we left Phnom Penh at 7 in the morning and arrived in Areng at 5 or 5:30 in the evening, but we had not yet reached the location of Duong Nhek’s house. We still had difficulty transporting people and motorbikes across the water there because there wasn’t a bridge.
We arrived at Steung Areng Community-Based Ecotourism Association at night. This association has facilitated our opening of the “Phloy” class there. We also met with the commune chief in the Areng area and the community workteam for setting up the “Phloy” class.
With their help, we established it successfully. We put up a poster about the class at Duong Nhek’s house, and three students joined us. Those were two girls: Tith Nin and Tith Koeurn, and a boy: Prom Chen. Duong Nhek taught them to play the “Phloy” using only short melodies because he is very old and short of breath, so he could not teach that much. But we were confident in his ability because his wife was always by her husband and encouraged him to teach the three students.
In addition to teaching the instrument, he taught how to make the instrument as well. We also learned that, before he learned to play the instrument, he learned how to make it from his grandfather. To learn to play the “Phloy” at that time was to learn completely by memory without any musical notation. Only his eyes and ears helped him remember to this day.
As for his students, the two girls live near him, while the boy lives in a house about 30 or 40 kilometers away. As a result, it is difficult for them to come and learn. However, the commune authority, the community workteam, and also the people in the village help them a lot.
Duong Nhek was so glad for the “Phloy” class to open, and he would wait for us to come back. When he met me again, he told he missed me a lot, and his wife told me the same thing.
Even though it took a long time, I still came back to see him, because today he is one of only a few who know how to play and make the “Phloy”.
• Chapter 3. The “Phloy” in the village »
• Chapter 4. The “Phloy” outside the village »
• Chapter 5. Sound of “Phloy” »
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• Chapter 1. Struggling to find the “Phloy” »