Cambodia’s ICH Chapei Master Transmits Public Health Messages

Chapei instruments ready for blessing at the Buddhist ceremony Pchum Ben © Catherine Grant

In Cambodia, ICH is deployed for the transmission of important public health messages. One of the traditional functions of Chapei Dang Veng artists in Cambodian society is to convey important news and information to the community. Today, Master Kong Nay honors this tradition while amplifying his reach through social media.

The 75-year-old Master Kong Nay, one of the rare great masters of the Chapei Dang Veng, sings about hand-washing and social distancing and other COVID-19 safety tips.

Chapei Dang Veng artists in Cambodian ⓒ Cambodian Living Arts

In 2016 the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage approved the granting of financial assistance totaling US$230,000 to Cambodia for the urgent safeguarding of Chapei Dang Veng, a musical tradition that features a lute (a chapei) accompanied by the performer singing. There are only two surviving great masters of the chapei, but they do not practice it actively because of their age. The safeguarding plan submitted by Cambodia, in consultation with artistic and educational organizations, includes the training of chapei teachers, fellowship programs for young masters, as well as a festival.