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Music of the spirits
For millennia, Cambodia's pleng arak musicians have summoned up the Kingdom's countless spirits through their songs. But with more and more Cambodians turning to doctors instead of deities, will the country's sacred spirit musicians fall silent?
July 12, 2019
“Reamun, reamun ey,” intones the singer in a high, throaty tenor. “Spread your magic. Invite your spirit friends to join us this night.” I’ve heard this song at least once a night for the past week while attending Laeng Neak Ta and Laeng Arak spirit possession ceremonies in rural Cambodia, but it always gives me chills. And Cambodian people tell me there’s good reason for the goosebumps: they are the mark of the spirits called by the music to commune with us mortals for the evening, written in our flesh.
Some spirits are benevolent and some better kept at arms’ length, but none can resist the sounds of pleng arak, or spirit music – so long as the musicians play well, that is. And I have to say that I understand the appeal. For nearly two months, I travelled around Cambodia chasing these sounds – and, with them, the spirits themselves and the mediums that they possess. In doing so, I learned of how people’s spiritual beliefs, musical practices, and ideas about health and healing intersect – and how, in the face of contemporary Cambodia’s rapid development, beliefs and practices are in some cases disappearing, or shifting in complex and fascinating ways.
Full article: https://southeastasiaglobe.com/music-of-the-spirits/
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