Tiny jams with local musicians

Something that we enjoyed about the approaches to different temples in the Angkor Wat complex was the chance to stop and listen to traditional Cambodian music being performed by musicians who had been injured by land mines. They were skilled performers, and their signage explained that their injuries rendered many professions inaccessible to them. But they loved to play, and performing in these groups gave them a means of earning money to support their families. One group was happy for Tiny to play with them awhile – they passed him a flute and he jammed with them, taking a solo that they responded to with big smiles and nods and presumably Cambodian versions of “Yeah!”, just like you hear here when someone takes a solo.

On one occasion, the audience included a group of monks, and a group of elderly Cambodians. Both groups stopped and listened to the music, clearly completely absorbed by the music. Then one by one, the monks approached, and each took notes from their small carry bags and gave money to the musicians. Then, the elderly Cambodians followed suit. Then we did.

I was moved to see the way the local people allowed the music to touch them, to halt them. So many foreigners listen and smile as they walk past, but often don’t even slow down, let alone stop. As tourists in Siem Reap, visibly ‘not from there’, it can sometimes feel like everything you see beyond the temples has been put there to get you to spend more money (the same is probably true in every place you visit. But in Siem Reap the accompanying exhortations to “buy from me! you buy scarf from me!” can make it feel more in your face, and more difficult to avoid). So we get good at averting our gaze, and not engaging with things or people that are demanding us to spend. And then miss some of the more beautiful and sincere efforts and contributions.

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