Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sur Sdei Chnam Thmei - Happy New Year!

13 of April marks the beginning of a new year for 160 million people of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma and around the world. It's better known as Songkran in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, and Thingyan in Burma, but commonly referred to as the Water Festival, which is believed to have been adapted from an Indian tradition. As the name implies, it involves lots of water and everyone is prepared to get wet. There's no escaping.

In addition to Southeast Asia, it is also celebrated by various ethnic minority groups in South Asia.

Growing up in the Mekong Delta, a stone-throw away from Cambodia, and having Cambodian relatives and neighbors, this was a major event of the year for me. There is a lot more music and dancing going on with Cambodian New Year in comparision to the relatively staid, and certainly less musical, Vietnamese New Year or Tết.

Cambodian music is meant for dancing. It's more about the graceful, subtle movements of the hands and wrists, the swaying of the hips and the back & forth motion. Since Cambodian society is a relatively conservative culture, even though the guy and the girl are dancing for and with each other, it is strictly a group activity.

Above video is with Khmerak Sreymon, the current heartthrob of Khmer pop music. He's the Cambodian Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z all rolled into one. 

Traditional music of Laos (mor lam), Thailand (luk thung), Cambodia and Burma, especially ethnic tribes, have a lot in common. There's one instrument that I instantly fell in love the 1st time I heard it -- the panflute, also known as the khene or kaen.

Found, above, on YouTube, a great video -- the costumes -- of Hmong New Year. Hmong people are a mountain tribe in China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand who, during the Vietnam War, were recruited by the U.S. military to the Vietnamese and Lao Communists or Pathet Lao. When the Pathet Lao took over Laos, many had to flee, with over 200,000 now resettled in the U.S.

A video from the Tai people of the Shan State, Burma. In Burma they are known as the Shan people, geographically-speaking.