"Angkuoch": Rediscovering the Cambodian Jew's Harp
mediamodified on 2022-07-07, 13:04
Although the musical instrument popularly known as the “Jew’s Harp” is found in many countries around the world, the Cambodian version is unique. Called Angkuoch (pronounced something like “Aarng-koo-oy”) in Khmer, it is a precious part of Cambodia’s living cultural heritage. Nowadays, Angkuoch and its associated practices are in need of urgent safeguarding. Social and cultural shifts in Cambodia over the last half-century, including the devastation of the Khmer Rouge era in the 1970s, mean that only a handful of people still know how to make and play Angkuoch. Supported by the Endangered Material Knowledge Program of the British Museum (UK) and by UNESCO (Cambodia), in early 2020 we documented Angkuoch and Angkuoch-making as it is practiced in Siem Reap Province in northern Cambodia. Our aim was to help preserve this rich knowledge for the benefit and pleasure of present and future generations. We are grateful to the Angkuoch makers and players who participated in this project, who so generously shared with us their knowledge and skills: BIN Song, SON Soeun, KRAK Chi, CHI Monivong, and CHI Chen. We also acknowledge LAV Mech, KOEUY Leakhena, KOEUY Reatha and the family of MONG Koeuy, whose beautiful story we share here too, with their kind permission. We hope that this project inspires people in Cambodia and around the world to appreciate the beauty and importance of Angkuoch, now and long into the future.