Texts, photos, videos: © Patrick Kersalé 1998-2020, except special mention.
In 13th century, the neck of some harps ends by a Garuda head (Elephant Terrace, Bayon, Banteay Chhmar (?)). Garuda is the mythical bird of Hinduism, Vishnu's vehicle. Among the Karen of Myanmar and Thailand, the harp and the bird are intimately linked. Often, the top of the handle ends with a bird's head or simply evokes it. Other Karen see the instrument differently: the sound box represents the body of the bird and the neck its tail.
In Banteay Chhmar temple, two harps have figurative ends. One is too eroded to distinguish its motive. The other one would be decorated with a set consisting of a chest, head and leg (?) of a horse. But for now, it's an enigma. Unless the harp itself evokes the mount of a Gandharva?
Since its reconstruction by Patrick Kersalé, the Angkorian and Garuda harps are taking a new lease on tourists visiting Cambodia, on television sets or on stage. They also adapt to other forms of repertoire than traditional Khmer music. With their boat shape, they are now able to sail and to make stops (ESCALES) anywhere in the world!