BonnPhum By Plerng Kob
BONN PHUM, its literal meaning is ‘Village Festival’. BONN PHUM or also known as Darlien in most areas in the country is a tradition celebrating the Khmer festival which aims to create a joyful moment for villagers to enjoy their time after the harvest session. BONN PHUM is a free-entry festival, normally held at pagoda or within the village itself, celebrating for all local people in the whole village to enjoy food, local products, and to entertain a variety of traditional art performances.
This festival is open to all with free entry – offering tastes of different food and local products from different provinces across Cambodia. Not only will a variety of local food and products be ready to be displayed and tasted, but a lot of fun Khmer games such as Choal Chhung, Boh Angkunh, Tenh Prort…etc, will be brought to audiences to be taken part. More importantly, it also features the scarce and rare shadow performance of ‘Khmer Sbek Thom’, performing in the ancient way at night by using the campfire lit by coconut cells, and a lot more of Khmer precious art performances. Moreover, the workshop about ‘Khmer Sbek Thom’ and art exhibition will be presented there as well.
This BONN PHUM is a special initiative of PLERNG KOB to celebrate as well as to recall the Village Festival at pagoda in the modern age, which to bring back the old concept of Khmer culture, and give moments to travel through the passage of time on what makes Cambodia a Cambodia. In addition, the Plerng Kob team see the crucial role of this festival as part of creating a broad and dynamic platform for Cambodia’s cultural treasures to be shared with local and international audiences.
A platform and A bridge – to showcase and raise awareness of Cambodian art and Culture; to connect old and young people, past, present and future.
An investor in art “Conservation & Development” – to sponsor programs to artists, art association, and researchers.
A creative community – to build the network and to unlock the “Khmer soul” of Cambodian young teengers through art and culture, music and film.
About Plerng Kob
PLERNG KOB (Campfire), a group of Cambodian art lovers, is a non-profit organization formed by senior students of Department of Media and Communications (DMC) – RUPP and Royal University of Fine Arts (RUFA) and some other found-minded young people based in Cambodia.
Our vision and mission:
are to connect and unite Cambodian people through Khmer arts and to promote our arts to local and international audiences.
We collaborate to create a place where a variety of Khmer arts forms could be found and experienced, mostly those that are almost wiped out from Cambodian people’s memory especially from our new generation.
We aim to bring old art forms back to life and to support Khmer artists in any way either financial or mental support. Hence, we believe that through the activities we take action will create a sense of value and understanding of what it means to be Khmer. Plus, we hopefully believe to inspire our Cambodian youths or the new generations to make a move on what they could share hands in.
Journey of Bonnphum
BonnPhum was originally a traditional festival founded by fourth-year students of the Department of Media and Communication of the Royal University of Phnom Penh and the Royal University of Fine Arts, including young Cambodians who passionately set their heart on preserving Cambodian art in a form of capturing hundred years old of settings, documenting videos about Khmer art forms, for example, puppet theater, Khmer shadow theater, and so on.
Village festivals are usually held at different pagodas according to each year, and the selection of pagodas depends on the theme of each year’s festival. For the 3 days event, many traditional activities are held which includes vendors selling local cuisine and suvenire in the stall, using bamboo to build. It is built by a group of young volunteers- so called Lele BonnPhum. And many other traditional dance performances.
Bonnphum by PlerngKob was inaugurated in 2014, which was the year of Horse, held at Wat Prek Thleung, located in Kandal Province, Takhmao City. For the first year, the festival program performed only a few types of Khmer art, such as puppet theater, Khmer Shadow theater, and some traditional games. For the first year, there were the participation of local villagers around Wat Prek Thleung. The villager brought cakes, food, and some souvenirs to sell in the event setting. The unforgettable moment is the night scene where we had a theatrical performance. The locals who lived around the pagoda brought along their sons and daughters to watch the play from the evening until the play ended late at night. These are all wonderful scenes that we wanted to see from the Cambodian, and love to see them carry on the tradition of laying the mat to watch this play to the next generation of Cambodians.
BonnPhum is also gradually becoming well known as the second year of 2015, which was the year of the Goat. We composed a song for the first time that described the events in the whole program, such as the ceremony of Trod traditional dance, tug of war, and so on. For the second year of BonnPhum we still celebrated at Wat Prek Tloeng, with more volunteers from the Cambodian youth than last year. In addition, that year included more activities than the previous one.
The third year was the year when the villagers of Bon Phum knew more about Bon Phum through Bon Phum’s song, Bon Phum Chhert Chhert. Through the momentum of support for this song, we could see another beauty of Bon Phum, Bon Phum music. From then on, we also started composing each annual song, which showed the reality, aspects of events of the year’s festival. 2016, which is the year of the village festival, was held at Wat Chroy Ampil, located on National Road No. 1. This year too, the momentum of participation was more than expected. Khmer youths participated in traditional games, danced to Khmer folk songs, visited Cambodian food exhibitions around the country, and at night watched puppet and bassac performances, which confirmed that many Cambodians spiritually support, and love of Khmer cultural art.
The village festival has entered its fourth year, which is the year of Roaster, and this year we have covered the annual theme of salutation. In the annual song “Kok Kro Village Festival” also mentioned this salutation. This year, we have made the village festival bigger according to the pagoda area we have chosen. The pagoda where we have created up to 4 stages, including a big theater stage that opened the performance 3 nights in a row. The first night we had a Yike performance, the second night a puppet show, and last night we also had a big skin show. In addition, this year 2017, the festival of the selection of Lele more than the previous years, up to 100 people, and what we get is that these young volunteers are all individuals who love and want. Preserve, protect and preserve all Khmer cultural arts. They are very creative in decorating, designing the pagoda to be highly aesthetic in line with the reality of the festival. They brought Khmer ideas to innovate and refine the whole program to be more lively and fun. What is special about the three stages of the village festival and the stalls selling drinks, food and pure products made from bamboo, which is the work of Lele Bon Phum himself. What is strange and different from previous years is the star of the village festival, with the cooperation of Lelay Bon Phum. The unity of Lele Bon Phum really shows the strong struggle of the Cambodian people.
The 5th year village festival was also different from previous years. In 2018, the village festival would be held at Wat Kork Ampil, located along the 60-meter road. For this year, we saw three big points that made Bon Phum more festive than last year. First, Bon Phum song had up to 4 songs. Second, Village Bon Phum, and lastly, Smart Music. The first point was that in 2018 BonnPhum have up to 4 songs, the first song is the song Anuksa Bonnphum, which describes the five years of memories with BonnPhum, and this song also shows the identity of BonnPhum 2018. The second song is Rorm vong Pdam Mae, which is the rhythm of the Rorm Vong dance, the third is the song Talong Chhlang Chhleu, which is the rhythm of the Talong dance, and the fourth song is the song Chok Kampers BonnPhum, which is the rhythm of Chok Kampers dance. We can see that this year there are a lot of songs that describe the Khmer rhythm, and each song has its own meaning. The second point is BonnPhum Market, which every year we made a small stall for BonnPhum residents to sell food, drinks or local products, but for 2018, we have created BonnPhum Market. Many BonnPhum villagers bring unique Khmer food to compete in our BonnPhum market. However, we also set the food, drinks and products that he sells to ensure quality, aesthetics, hygiene, environment and in accordance with our program. The third point is that this Smart Music Stage is the first time that we have a contemporary music stage that performs only one night, the last night of the festival after the Khmer shadow theater is finished. This music scene is composed by many stars, including Small World Small Band, Manith, Kmeng Khmer, Laura Mam and many other Khmer stars.
In 2018, BonnPhum flew to Japan to show off the beauty of our Cambodian art at the Tokyo Festival in Tokyo. It is an honor to have the opportunity to bring Cambodian art to the outside world to see and know more about Khmer.
For 2019, which is the sixth year of our village festival, it was held at Wat Preah Theat, which is located around Takhmao. The purpose and motto of this year is National Heritage, where we focus on our national heritage, which has been inscribed on the World Heritage List. We also composed a song related to this topic, entitled “Japey BonnPhum”, in which Japey Dorng Veng, is recognized by the world as a Khmer treasure, is mentioned. Japey was also present at the village festival. This pagoda is bigger than any year, which makes this Pig year’s program even bigger. This year, we have up to five stages, including the Bonnphum Pleng Concert. What is special is the three consecutive days of theatrical performances and concerts. This year, we saw the participation of a large number of villagers, up to 200,000 people. The momentum of growth every year is due to our promotion through BonnPhum Facebook, Youtube and Instagram. We have strengthened our media to the point where all Cambodians understand and recognize our purpose in celebrating this event and join us in conserving and developing together. When BonnPhum residents come to visit Bon Phum, they will gain a lot of knowledge through each music scene, which is the source of information about this festival. All of them have researched the history of each folk dance clearly and accurately about the stories related to traditional dances, how to play and folk games to be played to avoid providing and disseminating information to the villagers of BonnPhum. In addition to the 6th Village Festival, there is also an art house that trains participants on how to fold flowers, make lanterns, carvings and sculptures.
For 2020, the seventh year, we have a lot of new plans for the whole program, but unfortunately this year there was a devastating epidemic, Covid-19, which forced us to suspend the entire program. After all, our team does not hesitate to give up this commitment. We have turned this situation into a time in history where BonnPhum is still practiced on Facebook. We acted as interviews, concerts and entertainment that we had never had time to tell the villagers like this before.