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The Signal: 7.4.14

Edwin Remsberg c/o The Maryland State Arts Council

A visit with Cambodian music master Chum Ngek.

 Chum fell in love with music as a child in rural Cambodia. When his musician grandfather taught lessons upstairs in their home, Chum played along with a pair of chopsticks in the kitchen.  By the time he was 18, Chum had mastered a huge traditional Pin Peat repertoire.  He had a promising career ahead of him as a professional player.  Then Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge regime took power. Chum was consigned to a work-farm.  People around him were starving and being executed.  One day, guards dragged Chum to camp headquarters. Such a summons usually meant death.  It was a bamboo flute that would safe Chum’s life.

Chum Ngek survived to bring his music to the US, and in this special co-production of The Signal and Maryland Traditions, radio producer Aaron Henkin and folklorist Cliff Murphy pay a visit to Master Chum at his home in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Learn more about Chum Ngek and see some more great photos.

Check out Chum Ngek's CD, Classical Music of Cambodia

Learn more about the Cambodian Buddhist Society in Silver Spring, MD

Learn more aboutCambodian Heritage, Inc. in Fort Worth, MD

Maryland Traditions is the folklife program of the Maryland State Arts Council

Aaron creates and produces original radio programs and podcasts for WYPR. His current project is The Maryland Curiosity Bureau. Aaron's neighborhood documentary series, Out of the Blocks, earned the 2018 national Edward R Murrow Award. His past work includes the long-running weekly cultural program, The Signal, and the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings series, Tapestry of the Times. Aaron's stories have aired nationally on NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered.