Heading east on our trip through south-east Asia we stopped off at the infamous Angkor Wat, home to the largest religious monument in the world. Previously the site of the ancient Khmer Kingdom for many centuries, the area is stooped in age-old culture and religious tradition. Many of the temples we visited were crumbling after years of weathering and many thousands of trampling tourists’ feet. Although this issue adds to the increasing need to find a way to preserve these temples, for us it added to the majesty of the place.
Whilst exploring the many temples on this site we came across a number of different strategically positioned music ensembles. Each congregation about 6 men strong could be found on the main routes to the most famous temples and played traditional Cambodian music as tourists walked passed. On closer inspection signs propped next to the ensemble revealed their full purpose. Victims from the many landmine explosions that still litter Cambodia in the aftermath of the war lasting throughout the 1970s and 1980s had come together to sustain themselves through music. Many of the players were missing limbs or in wheelchairs.
Their presence was an abrupt reminder of the atrocities conducted within Cambodia’s recent past: 3 million dead in three decades of a brutal war, bombings conducted by America, the Khmer Rouge reign, and now coping in a country where a third of the people earn less than one dollar a day. However as the survivors of the killing fields and the minefields put aside their artificial limbs and began to play with the hope of raising enough money to feed their families at the end of the day, a glimmer of hope and a process of healing however small was evident through their music. This sounds recording I took as we listened to a band outside of Ta Prohm temple.