Kandrim Music Documentation Project

This participatory documentation project stemmed from Peter Vail and Panuwat Pantakod’s research addressing Northern Khmer literacy in the context of heritage and cultural rights. It aimed to document intangible cultural heritage among Khmer speakers in northeastern Thailand, specifically in the provinces of Burira, Surin and Srisaket. The focus was on traditional forms of kandrim, an art form that is quickly vanishing as aging musicians pass away. Important both in terms of ethnomusicology and linguistic anthropology, kandrim features the extemporaneous production of lyrics connected to traditional meters and is regarded by its practitioners as a vital component of Northern Khmer heritage. Traditional kandrim has not been well recorded, because it is considered unviable for commercial marketing; as such the form is quickly fading into obscurity. Nor has kandrim been well researched academically; only a handful of publications address it. But because kandrim makes explicit links to Northern Khmer ancestral heritage, it constitutes a concrete link to the past instantiated and transmitted as cultural practice. With cultural revitalization and preservation projects’ increasing utilization of digital video technologies for documentation, kandrim is a prime candidate for recording. This project recorded not only the musical output of elder kandrim masters, but also extended interviews with musicians, documenting insights, philosophies, cultural beliefs, individual histories, and even the fashioning of musical instruments.

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