The Sounds of Cambodia

Cambodians are generally a joyful people. And as music brings people joy, you should have it as loud as you can. This was something that took a bit of getting used to; now generally I quite like it.

Sometimes, however, the music seems a bit incongruous to the surroundings. Like this tune being played in March, in a very hot, tropical country.



But I expect you wanted some Cambodian sounds, didn’t you? So, I’ll introduce some of the music, when you might hear it and why.

The first is ceremonial music, mainly the traditional music played at weddings or funerals. The music for this starts early. I was told funeral music begins before you can make your hand out in the dark of night. So about 4:30am the somewhat jangly, eerie music starts being pumped out on loudspeaker. The video below was recorded at about 5:50 this morning; the music had already been going on for about an hour. The lack of image is because it’s still night. You can also hear the cockerel and some of the locals already at work in the workshops behind my house.


Khmer weddings don’t just start early, they tend to go on all day, finishing at around 10 or 11. The evenings are filled with a lot of drinking and dancing to very loud music. I’m pretty sure the following song- or at least a repetitive instrumental version- has been played at every wedding since the song was written. Notice the traditional kroma (a checkered scarf) all the musicians are wearing, the dance moves and the short segment of traditional Apsara dancing. Click the link below to have a gander.

There is of course a vibrant pop scene, especially with two seasons of Cambodia Idol under its belt (just google Cambodia Idol if that sort of thing floats your boat). Pop songs either appear to be about the clichéd love and loss, or some fun aspect of Khmer life, like buying coffee for 30p.