Special Report: Lakhon Bassac Remains in People’s Hearts

There are many types of Khmer theatres that have survived and been preserved to this day. Among them, Lakhon Bassac continues to be valued and appreciated by the masses, especially by middle-aged citizens.

Mrs. Sun Kalyan, a 57-year-old resident of Phnom Penh, said she was still interested and supportive of Lakhon Bassac and many other forms of Khmer traditional arts, but she rarely had the opportunity to watch them.

"When I was young, I used to often watch it (Lakhon Bassac), but rarely now. When my village has a big festival, the artists are hired to perform, but we are too busy to enjoy it, anyway I still support it," she said. “I like it.”

Mrs. Sun Kalyan said when she was young, when she and other villagers heard that there was a play of Lakhon Bassac, they would pack pillows, mats, and cooking stuff to enjoy the performance. Now, from time to time, we have less opportunity to watch it because we are no longer in the countryside, we live in the city with our children and husband who come to work in Phnom Penh.

Another Phnom Penh resident, Mr. Tuon Sarom, 62, shared the same support and appreciation for Lakhon Bassac. For some forms of traditional art performances such as Royal Ballet, Lakhon Bassac and so on, we will not feel interested just to hear them, but when we watch them directly, we will enjoy them much, he said.

“I have not watched a Lakhon Bassac play for many years. But at the end of last year, my villagers invited a Lakhon Bassac troupe to perform and I found it still good and interesting," he added.

Lakhon Bassac is a form of spoken and sung theatre that incorporates all tastes: comedy, tragedy, singing, dancing, music, almost all at once.

This is of interest to middle-aged people, as young people seem a bit hesitant, especially those who have never seen this kind of classical art performance.

Tep Vong Piseth, a 16-year-old student, said he had learned about the Lakhon Bassac, but had never watched it. “I used to study, but I have never seen it, so it is difficult to say whether I support it or not. At school, teachers say it is a cultural value that should be protected and preserved," the young student said.

It is known that Khmer ancestors left behind many different art forms besides Lakhon Bassac, such as Yike, Ayai, Chapey Dang Veng, Royal Ballet and many other traditional dances and theatres that represent the soul of the nation.

Regarding the Lakhon Bassac, Ol Sam Ang, Team Leader of the Ol Sam Ang Lakhon Bassac Khmer said it was difficult to compare Lakhon Bassac with other modern art forms, including film, music band, but if the artists have a clear vision, are well organised in accordance with the culture, we can continue to gain support and protect our traditional values.

He said his troupe had just experienced hardships during the two years of the Covid-19 outbreak and that good signs have now returned.

“Before Covid-19, we could have more than 60 performances a year, but the two years of Covid-19 spread were very bad. Now, the situation seems better after the resumption of socio-economic activities,” he affirmed.

Regarding the efforts to preserve traditional art forms, Minister of Culture and Fine Arts, H.E. Mrs. Phoeurng Sackona, has recently underlined that all stakeholders must continue to work together to accelerate all cultural activities in a sustainable manner.

H.E. Minister also reaffirmed the ministry’s full support for cultural activities to preserve and enhance the Cambodian culture, especially the initiatives to create festivals or cultural events to promote and provide opportunities for the younger generations to experience and take part in the protection and preservation of national cultural heritage.

Source: Agency Kampuchea Press