The Angkorian Music and Musical Instruments (from the 7th to the 13th century). A Talk by Patrick Kersalé



In ‘The Kingdom of Cambodia’, we know very little about the development of Khmer musical instruments. The humid monsoon climate has destroyed all organic traces through the passing of the centuries.

From the Pre-Angkorian period, we know about the name and shape of some of the lost musical instruments from three sources: archaeological objects, iconography, and epigraphy. The very first instrumental iconography found so far dates back to the 7th century. In the 9th century, written texts bring us the names of some instruments. In the 10th and 11th centuries, rare instruments are depicted on the walls of the temples. However, in 12th and early 13th centuries, we see iconographic representations of many musical instruments in all forms of Khmer activities such as martial, palatine, entertainment and worship. In the 16th century, Angkor Wat offers two frescoes and large bas-reliefs on which appear new instruments of exogenous origin.

Beginning in 2009, Patrick Kersalé has been researching the history and development of Cambodia's ancient musical instruments. He has led many projects, reconstructing many of these lost instruments, drawing on his expert knowledge of traditional instruments from across our globe and in accordance with the bas-reliefs and the objects found in archaeological excavations here in Cambodia.

Patrick Kersalé will share his knowledge of, and enthusiasm for this amazing subject. Using images and animations, he will provide a unique opportunity to hear, see and understand the sounds and sights of a fascinating long lost musical world.

Born in 1959, Mr. Patrick Kersalé is both an ethnomusicologist and a music archaeologist. He spent the past 30 years traveling around the world (West Africa, Southeast Asia, India, Nepal and Europe) to seek traditional music at risk of disappearing in order to preserve the memory and to develop programs for cultural conservation.

He has carried out many missions in Cambodia in order to collect audiovisual footage on archaeological sites, and the music of the aboriginal peoples of Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri. Since 2009 he has studied the musical instruments from the Angkorian era through the iconography, inscriptions and archaeological objects. Based on that research, he has rebuilt extinct instruments from the 7th to 13th centuries. Several kinds of harps, zithers, cymbals, drums, trumpets, and conchs have thus literally been brought back to life.

Currently, Patrick Kersalé is researching for UNESCO about the Khmer Chapei Dang Veng lute and also the Thai Kracchapi (กระจับปี่).

Date: Thursday, 25 April 2019
Time: 7.00 p.m.
Place: The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Rd, Sukhumvit 21

Non-members donation: B200. Siam Society members, members’ spouses and children, and all students showing valid student ID cards are admitted free of charge. For more information, please contact Khun Arunsri or

Office Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 9:00am. – 5:00pm.

The Siam Society is deeply grateful to the James H.W. Thompson Foundation for its generous support of the 2018-2019 Lecture Series.