Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Delving into Khmer Cultre

            On the fourth of April, University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Cambodian American Student Association, CASA, set up a celebration for Khmer New Year at Lowell. This celebration consisted of many different performances from many local sources, ranging from the Angkor dance group to Lowell High School’s step team. The MCs for the event were two members of CASA’s eboard:
Random Angkor Dance group found on Google
Sokreth and Lucky. The duo guided a packed audience of many local Cambodians and people of other cultures through a night of cultural celebration. In addition to the Cambodian community, students from UNH, UMass, UMB, and UConn also arrived for the fun. Furthermore, State Representative Rady Mom and Mayor Rodney Elliot also showed their faces to bring on the fun. Throughout the night, many traditional and modern performances linked together the older and younger generations of Cambodian Americans. Meanwhile, the event also immersed the non-Cambodian portion of the audience into Cambodian culture. Overall, the celebration of Khmer New Year successfully integrated an eager audience into the diverse Cambodian culture through various traditional and modern performances.
Random Coconut Dance group found on Google
            One of the strangest occurrences during the celebration was the fact that the least culturally-oriented performance was cheered on the most by the audience. Lowell High School’s step team seized the crowd’s attention by performing their routine dance that involves clapping, stomping, tapping, and snapping. Although the night was technically dedicated to celebrate Cambodian culture, this group which had nothing to do with Cambodian culture managed to successfully outperform every other performer on stage. However, that is not to say that the other traditional performances, such as the Angkor dance, coconut dance, or the playing of the khhim, a traditional instrument, were not good. Because this step team was allowed to perform at the Khmer New Year celebration, the goal of the event was probably not just to celebrate Cambodian traditions. Rather, the overarching goal was probably to integrate not only Cambodian culture into an American society, but also to integrate more modern American culture into Cambodian society. Thus, CASA’s event combines the different cultures of a single community into one melting pot that brings everyone closer.

Khhim - a traditional instrument
            CASA’s Khmer New Year celebration integrated a whole local and distant community into a night of celebrating Khmer New Year. The traditional performers such as the Angkor dance group and the khhim player
introduced culture brought from the motherland to America, demonstrating a different dance style and an interesting instrument. The modern performers such as the Lowell High School step team and the UML Urban Choreography Club showed the older, more traditional audience new forms of dance which Cambodian Americans and the rest of the community have picked up from their years in America. Both sides were largely successful in capturing the audience’s attention as cheers exploded in the hall after every performance. One of the problems with the event, however, was that the food was free for all, but the entrance fee was $3. Three dollars is very cheap, especially since food always costs more than that. For that reason, a portion of the audience was probably there just to steal a great dinner deal and not to watch the actual show. In addition, there was not enough food for everyone, so some volunteers and performers didn’t get to eat. Nevertheless, the Khmer New Year celebration was very successful in integrating cultures and teaching its audience of many Cambodian traditions. I would definitely recommend everyone who has time to attend the event next year.

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