Season of Cambodia: A Living Arts Festival Opening Ceremony

Credit: Shelby Doyle

Article by Bak Keung Ko
Photo credits to Season of Cambodia

To celebrate the Cambodian New Year on April 13, Cambodian Living Arts (CLA) held an opening ceremony and festival at the Rubin Museum of Art.

Credit: Ada Khun

Founded by Arn-Chorn Pond, a genocide survivor, CLA aims to promote Cambodia through the arts under its master-student program. Over 100 performers, filmmakers and visual artists from all over New York City came to the event to display their talents and celebrate the New Year. The first of its kind, this year marks the beginning of a special initiative to empower a new generation of Cambodian artists.

The program consisted of many traditional Cambodian music arrangements such as the Mahori, Pin Peat and Smot chanting. These were also accompanied by the Cambodian Dhamma, the teachings of Buddha.

Some interesting musical forms demonstrated were: Smaut, Arakk, kar and Pin Peat Ensemble which made the event unique and quite enjoyable. Smaut is an intonal recitation without rhythmic pulse. It is often accompanied with traditional music, dance and theater. Arakk is a musical ensemble done to allow a medium to go into a trance to determine the cause of an illness. Kar takes place at Cambodian weddings, often in April as an auspicious month. Last but not least is the Pin Peat Ensemble with different wind and percussion instruments. The goal is to accompany dance and ceremonies.

Credit: Shelby Doyle

Cambodian music is known to bring about harmonic sounds which allow it to be present at many different occasions, including weddings, spiritual rites, Buddhist festivals, among others. It has deep sacred and religious significance, among others. Most of these were featured at the opening ceremony.

The festival and ceremony ended with two sold out concerts featuring various music performances. Although the ceremony has ended, there are various CLA-sponsored events throughout the city from April to June, including film festivals, conferences, master classes, ballets, performing arts, and more!

If you are interested in learning more about Cambodia Living Arts, feel free to visit

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Credit: Shelby Doyle

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