Documenting the Instrument and Instrument-making of Angkuoch, Cambodian Mouth Harp

By Nik Petek-Sargeant | 15 October 2019

This project documents and makes available for future generations the instrument and instrument-making practices of Cambodian mouth harp (or “Jew’s harp”) angkuoch. The angkuoch is distinct from mouth harps found elsewhere. Highly endangered both as an instrument and performance practice, fewer than ten instrument-makers are believed to remain across Cambodia, and the process of making the instrument has never been documented in depth. Collaborating with non-governmental non-profit “Cambodian Living Arts” (CLA) and two rural village communities in Siem Riep province, where three active instrument-makers have recently been identified, this project will document angkuoch and its production cycle as found in Siem Riep province. It focuses on two types of angkuoch – those made of bamboo (angkuoch russey) and of metal (angkuoch daek). Through fieldwork involving non-participant observation of instrument-making and in-depth semi-structured interviews with angkuoch makers and players, the project will document the specific practices of procuring, preparing and manipulating source material for angkuoch; making, assembling and tuning the instruments; and the materials, tools and techniques used to produce them. The project will generate a series of edited digital assets comprising a 20-minute video-documentary in Khmer with English subtitles, as well as photographs, audio recordings, video-recordings, and a bilingual written report. These assets will be made freely publicly available through the EMKP Digital Repository (British Museum, UK), as well as two prominent archives in Cambodia: the ‘Heritage Hub’ in Siem Riep province, where the project is situated, and foremost national audio-visual archive, Bophana Center.

PI: Catherine Fiona Grant, Griffith University in Australia
Collaborators: Song Seng, Patrick Kersale