Cambodian Living Arts Class – Traditional Music


by Sam-Ang Sam
Khmer music is an important aspect of Cambodian life and culture. It is a significant component in religious and traditional ceremonies such as weddings or temple celebrations. Khmer civilization reached its peak during the Angkor period, from the ninth to fifteenth centuries when great monuments were built, with elaborate carvings depicting myths, gods and aspects of daily life. The carvings musical ensembles on bas-reliefs are nearly identical to the ensembles performing in Cambodia today, where virtually every village in Cambodia possesses a music ensemble. This continuity is testimonial to the strength of this ancient tradition.

Have you bought your ticket for JAMBODIA on 9/19 yet? First time DROP SWITCH will be headlining a show in Denver and the proceeds go toward the CAMBODIAN LIVING ARTS.

NCAS-I will be there! Come Dance with us.

Let us know and we will get a pre sale ticket to you ASAP! $7

Cervantes Other Side – Denver, CO
Doors @ 8pm, Show @ 9pm – $7/$10 DOS
JAMBODIA: A Benefit for Cambodian Living Arts


Blog written by Sue Wallingford

While in Cambodia we were fortunate to spend some time with Arn Chorn Pond, at his lovely community home right outside of Phnom Penh.  Arn shared his music and some stories of being a survivor during the Khmer Rouge, and we even got to see a live filming for MYTV (Cambodian’s version of MTV!) while we were there.  Arn is founder of the Cambodian Living Arts (CLA) and his mission is to bring back the traditional arts to Cambodia that was mostly extinguished during the rule of the Khmer Rouge, when most of Cambodian’s artists and professionals were exterminated.  To restore the rich culture of his people is one way he has found to heal the pain he and his people experienced during these horrendous years.  He lives his life to restore what was so brutally taken away.  He inspired us all.

In the next few weeks we will be sharing some more stories about Arn and the work of Cambodian Living Arts, including some videos of our time with him, and at the CLA center listening to the sounds of traditional Cambodia.  On September 19, at Cervantes Other Side in Denver, NCAS-I will be joining DROP SWITCH, for “JAMBODIA,”  a benefit concert to raise money and awareness toward Arn’s mission.  Lead female vocalist Emma Wallingford (who is also my daughter  😉 was with us in Cambodia, and was so inspired by Arn’s stories and his passion to revive the traditional music she wanted to do something about it.

Emma writes:

“30 years ago, the country of Cambodia was victim to a terrible genocide called the Khmer Rouge. When Pol Pot came to rule, he wanted to wipe out all of Cambodia’s culture and start from “Year Zero”, and establish a communist country. He did this by killing off 2 million Cambodians; all musicians, dancers, artists, educators, or people of higher class. Arn Chorn Pond, who survived through the Khmer Rouge through his talent for playing flute (he played propaganda music that played over loud speakers to muffle the noise of them killing off his people), is founder of Cambodian Living Arts. It gives kids of Cambodia the chance to rebirth culture of music, arts and dance into their country. Even 30 years later, the whole country is still suffering from the loss of their culture. A career in arts there is very much thriving and rebirthing Cambodian’s culture. Through the good vibes and night of music, we can support Cambodian Living Arts and raise awareness about this issue to help the amazing souls that populate this desolate country. Donation boxes, flyers about the school, and pictures and videos will be provided at the show!

Art Therapy comes in all kinds of packages…..  this is just another one!

Please join us for this concert on September 19th to spread the LOVE and the HOPE for the restoration of the Cambodian Arts.


Cervantes Other Side – Denver, CO
Doors @ 8pm, Show @ 9pm – $7/$10 DOS
JAMBODIA: A Benefit for Cambodian Living Arts

Shoot to Please
Rhyme Progression
Matty Mac

Be A Voice. Shine A Light.

In three days the NCAS-I will begin its journey to Cambodia.  Our main partnership with Transitions Global will give us the opportunity to help in supporting and empowering survivors of sex trafficking in a place where the trafficking industry is so prevalent.  We also hope to be a voice for survivors and shine a light on the trafficking industry as a way to combat human trafficking of the future.  Below are statistics from UN.GIFT (United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking) regarding Human Trafficking worldwide.  They are staggering.

Human Trafficking Statistics from UN.GIFT

  • 161 countries are involved in or affected by human trafficking in some way
  • Approximately 2.5 million people are forced into labor as a result of human trafficking
  • 1.2 million children are trafficked each year
  • 43% of human trafficking victims – over 1 million – are forced into commercial sexual exploitation, AND 98% of these victims are women and girls
We have posted a number of times about Patricia McCormick’s new book, ‘Never Fall Down,’ Arn Chorn Pond’s story of brutality and survival in Cambodia.  McCormick also published a book in 2006 called, ‘Sold,’ a harrowing account of sexual slavery.  This fall filmmaker Jane Charles will begin filming a moving based on the book ‘Sold.’  Expected to release in the spring of 2013, Charles has released this 60 second preview to build momentum for the project, be a voice and shine a light:

Charles’ Inspiration:  “I feel like these are all our children, whether Cambodia, India, Russia they are all our children we cannot turn a blind eye to it anymore we have to create change,” Charles said.  “These girls could be my daughter, they could be your daughter or they could have been one of us.”

We hope the information provided here on our blog is educational.  Thank you for following us!  Stay with us as we journey to Cambodia – your support is so appreciated!

(Statistics from:

(Original 60 second preview and Charles’ quote from:

FAQ – Patricia McCormick, Author of ‘Never Fall Down’

And a New York Times Sunday Book Review

FAQ interview with Patricia McCormick, author of Never Fall Down.

Read about what inspired Patricia McCormick to write about Arn Chorn-Pond’s story retold as a novel for young adults, the intensely emotional experience of learning about the Khmer Rouge, the responsibility McCormick felt in telling Chorn-Pond’s story, the optimism achieved in the end, and much more.  Click here to read the complete interview.  For more information on the book, you can read our original post about ‘Never Fall Down’ at this link.

The New York Times also included ‘Never Fall Down’ in its Sunday Book Review on May 11.  Read the review here.

(Image from

Inspired: Arn Chorn Pond’s story in ‘Never Fall Down’

We will be spending an evening with Arn Chorn Pond in Phnom Penh and hear his story in person!  Check out the article below on Patricia McCormick’s new novel detailing his story of brutality and survival in Cambodia.

An Article By Susan Carpenter, Los Angeles Times, April 29, 2012

When it comes to genocide, Hitler is obviously well covered. There are countless titles for young readers about the atrocities he inspired. The Khmer Rouge, which seized control of Cambodia in 1975 and, in its attempts to create an agrarian form of communism, killed millions of its own people, is less familiar territory, especially for young readers.

“Never Fall Down” offers a detailed look at what it was like to live under such a cruel government from the perspective of one of its best-known survivors, Arn Chorn Pond.

Pond was 11 when his village was invaded by the Khmer Rouge and his family was forced to march toward an uncertain future. Pond thought it was exciting at first, but after walking for days, passing babies left crying in the middle of the road and ditches filling with dead bodies, he began to realize: He wouldn’t be returning home in three days as his captors had said.

“Never Fall Down” is written in broken English from Pond’s present-tense point of view, which adds to the story’s authenticity and immediacy. But it is in the end a novel.

Patricia McCormick spent hundreds of hours interviewing Pond. She traveled to Cambodia with the now-45-year-old to retrace his every step during the three years, eight months and 20 days that the Khmer Rouge held power. She retraced his escape through a Thai refugee camp and interviewed members of his adoptive American family.

Though “Arn can recall certain experiences in chilling detail; others he can tell only in vague generalities,” McCormick writes in an author’s note at the end of the book, explaining her decision to write Pond’s true story as fiction. “He can describe the eerie click of a land mine being sprung and the hideous stink of a gangrenous leg … but no one, especially not an eleven-year-old caught in the insanity of genocide, can remember conversations, dates, and places — especially when the perpetrators worked so hard to distort reality at every turn.”

“Never Fall Down” is similar to Dave Eggers‘ fictionalized memoir of Sudanese child soldier Valentino Achak Deng in “What Is the What,” but it differs from McCormick’s 2008 National Book Award finalist, “Sold.” For that book she interviewed several Nepalese and Indian sex slave survivors, fusing their stories into a single, fictionalized character. “Never Fall Down” is a blend of Pond’s memories and McCormick’s research and imagination. “The truth,” McCormick writes, “is right there between the lines.”

And it is horrifying. It’s difficult to believe anyone was able to survive the atrocities Pond endured, which began with forced labor in the rice fields that often started at 4 in the morning and lasted until the dark of night, with only a bowl of thin rice soup thickened with dirt as nourishment. Eventually, as the Khmer Rouge took away professors, businessmen and anyone else with any connection to capitalism, Pond learned they were being executed and pushed into mass graves. He volunteered to learn an instrument that he played with part of a ragtag music group to cover the sound of the killings — a move that likely saved his life.

These scenes are described in horrifyingly vivid detail, but just when readers think the level of human depravity couldn’t possibly worsen, it does. Some forced laborers, whose bellies had become distended through famine, resorted to cannibalism, for which they were killed. Pond was forced to bury the bodies in an ever-growing pile. Then, when the Vietnamese invaded and Pond was forced to become a soldier for the Khmer Rouge, he too became a killer.

Separated from his family and his friends, Pond made his way to a refugee camp, where he suspected he may have survived only to die of a broken heart.

“All the time you are fighting, you think only of how to survive. All the time you survive, you wonder why you don’t die,” said Pond, who, after moving to the U.S. and enduring the usual traumas of assimilation, decided upon a third choice: to live.

It’s a marvel not only that Pond escaped but is sane enough to recount his story. Since 1984, he has been a human rights activist and champion of Cambodia’s traditional music.

Pond’s early life is an incredible story of survival against all odds, of innocence unduly robbed. By turns terrifying, heartbreaking and triumphant, “Never Fall Down” is as likely to inspire tears as it is to stick with readers for a lifetime.

To purchase  the novel “Never Fall Down,” go to

(Article from,0,2388171.story)

(Image from

The Flute Player: Arn Chorn-Pond

Arn Chorn-Pond is the founder and spokesperson of Cambodian Living Arts, an organization that seeks to transform Cambodia through the arts. He has invited the NCASI team to meet him and stay with him at his Cambodian home! What an honor and a privilege to meet this incredible man. Here’s his story:

Born into a family of performers and musicians from Cambodia’s second-largest city, Battambang, Arn was sent to a children’s work camp after the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975. He escaped death by execution and starvation by playing his flute for the camp’s guards and later fled his captors when Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia in 1979. He managed to reach a refugee camp in Thailand where Peter Pond, a Lutheran minister and aid worker, befriended and adopted him in 1980.

Educated in the United States, attending Brown University and graduating Providence College, Arn began a series of community rebuilding projects and founded several organizations, including Children of War, Cambodian Volunteers for Community Development, and Peace Makers, a U.S.-based gang-intervention project for Southeast Asian youth. In the mid 1990s, Arn returned to Cambodia on a mission to find the legacy of his family that was involved in the Cambodian Opera, his music teacher from the time of the Khmer Rouge and the stars of his early childhood. On this trip the Cambodian Masters Performers Project, now Cambodian Living Arts.


You can see the documentary that was made about his work below: