Chapei Dang Veng
- Prach Chhuon Performance
- Smean Pe duet wirh Lady Sin Say (Pouthay Dai Style)
- Ouch Savy Performance (Pouthav Dai Style)
Chapei is a Cambodian traditional musical instrument that looks like a guitar. Some people refers to it as a long-neck two string guitar. This name says it all. It has long neck, two strings and 11 frets. There is a third sting running in between the playing strings, along the neck only. The purpose of the third string is unclear. Chapei is used in a lone sit-down vocalist or duet with other player. It is very rarely used in any Khmer music ensemble. In a lone sit-down performance, a vocalist is singing while strumming the string up and down just like a guitar player. The song is almost always a story of some sorts, a Khmer legend, a folktale story. The performance could last hours with few intermittent. The vocalist have to complete the story telling. They never end without concluding the story.
When duet with other vocalist, the context of performance is changing. Instead of story telling, they engage in a quest for a right answer on any topic ranging from social issue, moral issue or religion. They seem to be competing for who is the best to know the right answer for an issue, though, people are not sure they talk to each other off-stage before the performance. However at the end, they compliment each other respectfully. They never enter into a situation where there is a winner or looser. Usually but not always, the elder vocalist (the one in the profession longer or has more experiences) is being asked or tested on knowledge by the younger, less knowledgeable vocalist. Sometimes, they take turn ask or being asked. Once asked, the vocalist must attempt his/her best to answer with reason.
Chapei vocal may performed at any public or national festivals with thousands attending as well as the performance is broadcasting via a public/national radio or other media. Private festival or party could hire them to perform. Chapei vocalists are predominantly male. Nowadays, there are female vocalists entering the profession.
Historically, there are not many Chapei vocalists in Cambodia. It is even true today. There are few well-know old vocalists such as Prach Chhuon and Pouthav Dai. Prach Chhuon is still living his legacy. Pouthav Dai already passed away, some believed he was killed by the Khmer Rouge. Pouthav Dai legacy is hard to find. His vocal style differs so much from Prach Chhuon counterpart. He is known to be a great exaggerator because in many of his stories, he exaggerates a character so much that people laugh. For instance, in Viyol Vong story, he describes a nose of Ausura (yeak) as very big that if an army tank falls into that hole, it takes it half-day just to cross it. Another episode in his story, the Yeak is so big that when he flies (in Cambodian story, Yeak knows how to fly like bird), he blocks the whole sun making earth dark half of the day. The 'half of the day' is his theme style of exaggeration. Another story, Samnab Yong Dey, Srey Yong Pros (rice plant needs dirt, man needs woman), he describes a man is so lazy that his wife feeds him while he sleeps and he poohs in his sleep as well.
Prach Chhuon, on the contrary, is more serious, educational and less humorous in his style of performance. He has his fan of his own and become well-know to the national stage.
Currently, Master Kong Nay and his student Ouch Savy have adopted Pouthav Dai singing style with educational context.
Here is the video show of Prach Chhoun duet with Pich Sokha. The context of this performance is 'what do you know about the teaching of Buddha', produced by Entree Tep Production telephone (Lowell) 978-902-6065 (Long Beach) 562-257-8809.
Here is one of the students of Pouthav Dai, Smean Pe duets with Lady Sin Say ស្មៀន ប៉េ និង អ្នកស្រី ស៊ីន សយ. At the beginning, Smean Pe says that he is a congressman of Yeak country. He never looses an election. Now the Yeak asks him to go around singing the chapei dang veng. This is a typical comic lyric of Pouthav Day, the comic fantasizing exaggeration, just to make people laugh. Lady Sin Say sings the mixture of Pouthav Dai and Prach Chhuon style.