Cambodia has rich oral literature that is not well known today by the general public. During the 1960s, considered to embody the golden age of Cambodia, this literature was immensely popular.

Ta Krut or Neay Maha Krut, as he called himself, was the most famous storyteller in the country during the 1960s and had a regular presence on the National Radio of Cambodia. Jacques Brunet, an ethnomusicologist, asked the Radio for a copy of the Reamker recordings in 1965 to study them. Following this, Mr. Brunet recorded Ta Krut telling Reamker in front of the Rokakong villagers. From these two sources—the radio recording and the recording in the public setting—the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center was able to reconstruct a complete version, retrieving lost parts of the stories and selecting the less-deteriorated segments. These documents, which are the only known recording of Reamker in its totality were digitized and restored in 2011 with the support of the Cambodian National Commission for UNESCO, UNESCO Office Phnom Penh and guidance from Professor Alain Daniel.

Reamker, based on Sanskrit’s Ramayana epic which arrived in Cambodia by the second century, is a foundational Epic of the Khmer people. According to ancient tradition, the recitation of the Ramayana could cleanse all sins. Closely intertwined with the Cambodian memory and perceptions of the world, references of Reamker are made in almost all Khmer art forms including classical dance, traditional boxing, poetry, painting, sculpture, and theatre. Each of its characters represents an important value of humanity: Hanuman, bravery and honesty; Ream, the truth; Seda, loyalty; Krut, strength and bravery.

Ta Krut’s recordings of Reamker are a part of the Cambodian audiovisual heritage and were included in the UNESCO’s list Memory of the World in 2014.

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