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Music and song are an essential part of life in Cambodia and accompany important stages of an individual’s life, from birth, to coming of age ceremonies, to marriage, to death. As explained in a program from the 1988 opening of the United Cambodian Community (UCC) Vocational Center, “…music is the Cambodian’s soul. It is with him in happiness and in sorrow. It is the expression of his being, of his humanity, of his Cambodian-ness”.


Recreating Cambodia’s musical tradition in Long Beach has been difficult. In the beginning, the instruments were not available and only a handful of individuals had expert knowledge of the various music styles and their instrumentation. Those who knew anything taught others and a few orchestras were formed to perform during special occasions, such as New Year and weddings. When possible, an orchestra will accompany a dance troupe, but because there are so few musicians in Long Beach, dance is usually performed to recorded music.



Although there are only a few experts in traditional music in Long Beach, there are many individuals who play western instruments, such as key board, guitar, and drums. Rock and roll was popular in Cambodia in the 1960s and 70s, and forming bands and performing music has been part of Cambodian cultural activities in Long Beach since the early student days. This section provides a glimpse into all forms of music in Long Beach, from the traditional to the new forms being created by a new generation.



Further Reading

Catlin, Amy (1992) Khmer Classical Dance Songbook.   Van Nuys, CA: Apsara Media for Intercultural Education.

Kays, John (2000) The Music of Chinary Ung: a synthesis of Asian aesthetics and western technique.  Thesis, Ph.D.: University of Kentucky.

San, Sam-Ang (1988) The Pin Peat Ensemble: Its History, Music, and Context. Thesis, Ph.D.:Wesleyan University.

Sam, Sam-Ang (1991) Silent Temples, Songful Hearts: Traditional Music of Cambodia.  Danbury, CT: World Music Press.