Dienstag, 9. September 2008

Cambodia's Music Trends

If you ever drive down the Cambodian capital city of Phnom Penh or the streets of Long Beach or Stockton, you will probably hear a rhapsody of ethnic music. There are of course the traditional music that are played as a way of presenting national pride. Then there are the oldies which is often listen to by older people and is reminiscence of the 20th century and the war times era in Southeast Asia. Then there are the modern music. These are now played predominately through out the Khmer music. But there is something odd about it.

I remember having had listen to a Khmer song entitled "Mice Loves Rice" and "Better Days." But later I would see a music video of "Mice Loves Rice" in Mandarin. Upon research I have found out that Better Day was Korean, and that Khmer has also copy a lot of other artist as well (Jay Chou, Black Eyed Peas, etc.)

The male version in Khmer.

Mandarin female version.

Of course there is nothing wrong with making a language adaptation of a song. In fact A LOT of Asian song is copied from another original, which has been on going for a long time. But the problem is that a majority of Khmer Songs are not written by Khmer composer. Most of its hip-hop and pop sector is replication of songs that existed already.

The problem with this is that there now exist a lack of artistic personality amongst Khmer singer. There is no originality in the composition of the song or the lyrics. It appears that most Khmer singers are happy to sing the same mundane songs over and over. If there is an attempt at originality it is changing the lyrics of one song in to a Love song. What a big insult to the original artist. When the song is taken out of the original context its like saying that the original artist work is worthless.

There is another problem Khmer songs these day; its almost always about love. Love and heartache is what you will here over and over again. It is almost as if that is all that happens in Cambodia. (If anything we need to reduce "love" to prevent over population.) The few others themes mostly spews out staunch nationalism, something else that ought to be avoided.

So it seems the trend in modern Cambodian music is to promote "love" through mimicking other artists and conformity. Its almost an antithesis to the modern trends of music else where in the world.

Korean Hanja

Hanja (한자/漢字) is basically the Korean word for Chinese character (Hànzì). (the Character Han (漢) refers to the Han people which is the main and largest ethnic group in China.)In specific, its those Chinese character that is used in Korea as the dominate writing system even after the invention of the Hangeul (한글) alphabet by King Sejong in the Choseon dynasty.

In modern times, Hanja has been replaced by Hangeul. There are some very valid reason for this:

1. Hanja often represented borrowed words from Chinese and thus does not address the native Korean words. This is a hindrance when trying to understand the Korean language which is polysyllabic and not tonal unlike Chinese which is monosyllabic and tonal.

2. Hangeul is much easier to read . . .(at least to those who knows how to read it.) The adoption of Hangeul

But for all these reason, Hanja still is a valuable part in Korean culture and thus should not disappear from Korea all together. Many ancient art and literature requires some understanding of Hanja to appreciate. It has been a integrated part of its government system and religious structure. Sure it's foreign, but so are cars yet those are kept. It provides diversity in language. And from an academic standpoint it shows diligence in study. Plus it prevents confusion. Take the Vietnamese Quốc Ngữ. While it allows readers to understand the sounds of the words, but it creates confusion because a single syllable can have different meaning by changing the slightest accent. For learners this can mean difficulty in remembering certain words. For Korean, its worst! Korean is not a tonal language and this there is no way to discern a syllable that has different meanings. Trying to change Chinese based words would be to cumbersome as it is already part of the society. It would be like the convoluted practice of replacing Latin base words with native English words or Japanese On-yomi (音読み) with western equivalents to fit in. The solution is to allow some hanja (certainly not all!) to remain part of the Korean language much like how Japanese Kanji is written with Hirigana (平仮名) and Katakana (片仮名). Hanja is an undeniable part of Korean Culture.