In the Sala house, where religious followers, monks, and nuns stay, 7 Khmer boys are playing music on bamboo and stone musical instruments and bronze gongs. Lam Minh Cuong, who teaches music to the children, says the boys, aged 7 to 13, are laypeople in Doi pagoda: “They learn and perform music at the same time. Young people learn more quickly than older people. They can play some songs after just one month. I want them to play traditional musical instruments to preserve our tradition.”
Teacher Cuong introduces each musical instrument: “This genre of music is called five-tone music and the musical instruments are varied and have different names. They are roneat-ek or xylophones. The boat-shaped instrument over there is called solo and it is the main instrument made of iron. Gongs are made of bronze and the drums are made of buffalo leather.”
In Cuong’s ensemble, there are two sets of gongs made of bronze called Cuong Touch and Cuong Thom. Each set has 16 large and small gongs fastened together in a half-moon shape. Two little musicians play the gongs with two drum sticks.
Outside the Sala house, another ensemble consisting of men aged 40 to 70 is playing a traditional Khmer song.
Mr. Trinh Tien, a member of the ensemble, says this song is often played during the Peace Praying Ceremony of the Khmer. Tien says his ensemble plays the typical musical instruments of a five-tone ensemble: “This instrument is called a cum in Khmer and a 36-stringed zither in Vietnamese. There are also other types of zithers, flutes, fiddles, and cymbals. Some instruments have disappeared because no one plays them or teaches them to the younger generation. We perform here every day at major ceremonies and festivals to promote the Khmer culture.”
Tien’s ensemble also plays foreign music for visitors such as Lao melodies.