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At Lowell Festival, the Tastes of a New Generation

  • Pin Sisovann
  • VOA Khmer

“I prefer traditional dance and music over hip hop,” said Hoeun Chhliv, a 52-year-old who fled Battambang province during the war and settled in the US in 1985.

“I prefer traditional dance and music over hip hop,” said Hoeun Chhliv, a 52-year-old who fled Battambang province during the war and settled in the US in 1985.

Thousands of people attended the 15th annual Southeast Asian Water Festival in Lowell, Mass., last weekend. They were treated to a wide variety of music, from traditional and folk to rap and hip hop. The music was as diverse as its fans, the divide indicative of two different generations of Cambodian-Americans.

“I prefer traditional dance and music over hip hop,” said Hoeun Chhliv, a 52-year-old who fled Battambang province during the war and settled in the US in 1985. “I’m not interested in rap. It’s music for the youth, or younger generation, only. I can only understand a few words of the rap lyrics. Rap uses curse words. It’s painful to the ear and painful to the eyes.”

But at this year’s festival, which also included a boat race and other ceremonies, a younger crowd emerged in favor of the new music, which requires less costuming and is more casual than older forms.

Addam Long, a race rower for the LaoBodian team, said he liked the rap music on offer.

“I’m of the younger generation, so I grew up with all the rap and the hip hop,” he said. “I like hip hop, but I listen to other Asian music too.”

Preferences were not just divided by age, however.

Mao Chansoknea, a Cambodian studying at St. Laurence University, in New York, said she liked the traditional coconut dance as well as the modern music.

“Which do I prefer?” she said. “I prefer Cambodian folk music.”

There were others who couldn’t decide.

“I like all kinds of music,” said Luch Em, a Cambodian refugee. “I enjoy watching any performance.”

She added, however: “I don’t understand rap lyrics.”

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