Our Story

The Khmer Magic Music Bus project began as an idea while Steve Riege and Arn Chorn Pond watched Master Ta Hai play his gann on an isolated dirt road in Oddar Mencheay Province in July 2012. The villagers who came out to listen were hearing a live performance of their own traditional music for the first time, and were transfixed by the event. The Bus project was born out of a desire to recreate this experience throughout Cambodia.

It was clear all we needed was to provide the resources for the Cambodian musicians, and they would spread the joy of their live, traditional music. From August 2012 to April 2013, Steve worked with a new partner in the US, Tom Gromak, to develop a global crowdfunding campaign that would purchase a bus for the musicians and fund its first performances. By the time the campaign was complete, we had raised $36,000 in thirty-five days from 360 donors.  

Cambodian musician/managers Thon Seyma and Young Yorn found our bus and set to work creating buzz and itineraries in country.

The initial trip on The Bus occurred in July of 2013 to Oddar Mencheay province seeking connections with other surviving master musicians. That trip included four separate performances over 36 hours:

  • an impromptu jam over shared lunch with a farm family, where only the oldest member had heard traditional Cambodian music
  • a big concert on a sound stage in a rural school yard in the north of Cambodia, near the Thai border, for 350 people who gathered from a wide area of scattered tapioca villages
  • a mini-concert by the masters on the Terrace of the Elephants, one of Cambodia’s revered historic sites
  • a celebratory sunset concert for two neighboring villages outside Siem Reap centered around musician leaders who have played a part in keeping Cambodia’s musical heritage alive.

POSTED BY Tom Gromak IN ON December 6, 2015