Conference Studies Changes in Asia’s Music

Globalization, through the sharing of ideas and resources in art management, is especially important for Cambodia’s musical heritage as it re­covers from de­cades of war and conflicts, said re­searcher Sam Sam-Ang, at the conference for Asia Pacific So­ciety for Ethnomu­sicology in Phnom Penh last week. 

While the protection of a country’s traditions is important, change is inevitable, said Robert Garfias, a US scholar and former president of the Society for Eth­nomusicology.

“Change is not always better, but it is impossible to prevent or resist,” Garfias said.

Even Cambodia’s few artists who have survived war and now carry the country’s musical traditions have changed according to the changes in the world in which they live, he said.

Preventing the natural development of tradition through government policies may cause more harm than good, as the Chinese Cultural Revolution has shown, Garfias said.

This, however, does not mean giving up traditions, said Sam Sam-Ang, a Washington DC ethnomusicologist who has taught in the US, Japan and Phnom Penh, and is now moving to Cambodia.

Some Cambodians will always prefer to play traditional instruments and music, while others experiment—and there is room for all of them in the field, he said.

During the four-day conference, organized by the Khmer Culture Association in cooperation with the APSE and Pannasa­stra University in Cambodia, researchers throughout Asia discussed the effects of global influences on countries’ cultural identities.

In South India, Western/Indian fusion music is now replacing Indian classical music in restaurants and even weddings, according to Terada Yoshitaka of Japan.

And musicians in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand use both Asian and Western instruments to create new sounds or to play traditional and Western pieces, said Francisco English of the Philippines.

The conference ended Friday.

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