Music with a past

By Elizabeth W. Wilson

The light notes of the wind instrument found my ears first. As we followed the music down the long dry dirt road in between the temples, the other instruments became clearer. There was a hand drum with beads attached to its wooden side. Each beat shook through the beads, keeping the pulse. A single stringed instrument plucked the melody as the notes of the xylophone followed suit.

Rounding a bend, I saw a group of five men sitting Indian style on a mat on the dry dirt road. They were dressed in vivid blue button down shirts and each had a smile on his face and an instrument in his hand. Their upper bodies moved with the music and people walking by would place change in the gold plate that sat in front of them.

I wondered who these men were.

As the question ran through my mind, my guide, Lounh, explained that Cambodia has been through multiple wars in the last three decades, which has left landmines throughout the country. These men were soldiers wounded by landmines. They are incapable of working the jobs that they used to have, so they learned to play instruments. Many land mine victims do this to earn a living.

We has long passed the music group when Lounh has finished his explanation. The music of the victims was just barely audible as we approached the busy street, but their story was repeating in my mind.

Feeling a bit guilty today from not giving them money, maybe tomorrow I’ll buy their CD.

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