at a glance
Sovanna Phum Art Association. Shadow puppet and drum performances every Friday and Saturday. Number 111 Street 360.
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On any given weekend, the Sovanna Phum Art Association on Street 360 is alive with music, song and dance.
At a recent Friday performance every seat in the house was filled while a captivated audience enjoyed “Hanuman and Giant Drum,” an entrancing drum and dance performance.
The show is crafted for pure pleasure, says Mann Kosal, who leads the group.
“We just do something for the audience that they like,” Mann Kosal adds.
In the opening act, performers entered the stage with lively chants while banging drums and playing flutes, horns and a takhe, the traditional Cambodian equivalent of a slide guitar. Most of the instruments consist of various types of drums ranging from the smaller ones strapped around the performers while they dance about the stage to the large guard drums that look like large wooden beer barrels.
The performers danced around burning incense and candles while dressed in colorful costumes that were unmistakably Khmer in style.
At one point four of the artists entered the stage, two with fake swords and two with sticks. They squared off in a playful form of mock combat. The athletic artists concluded their act with the four of them jumping on each other’s shoulders in a well-choreographed sequence.
The performers moved off the stage just as four more entered dancing and banging on drums.
One of the funnier moments of the Hanuman and Giant Drum group’s performance occurred when some of the ensemble entered the stage wearing monkey masks and danced about behaving like the obnoxious real-life monkeys that make their home at Wat Phnom. Other performers chased them off the stage as laughter broke out in the audience.
Toward the end of the show, Mann Kosal took to the microphone and sang the “Grandmother’s Song,” as the clearly entertained audience of adults and children clapped to the rhythm.
The group can’t be accused of being repetitive in their performances.
“If you come tomorrow it’ll be different than today,” Mann Kosal points out.
The group typically spends about a month in rehearsals before taking to the stage. It is the drummers’ collective creativity that determines the end result.
“We find what the drummers like,” Mann Kosal says.
Some members come from the National Theater and others are from the Royal University of Fine Arts.
Mann Kosal himself was once involved with the National Theater. But these days he prefers to do his own thing and use his own ideas.
“We do everything for the audience — not for the government, not for the Ministry of Culture,” he says.