Last update: December 5, 2023
In the course of our research, the scraper was the most difficult instrument to identify. It still exists in Cambodia but it is now little used. We propose in opposite a reconstruction that combines a Khmer and a Vietnamese influence.
An instrument presented by the authors who preceded us as a buccal resonator fiddle or even the khmer fiddle named tro Khmer remains enigmatic. There is certainly a fiddle without physical resonator among the minorities of the high plateaus at the frontier borders of Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, but this instrument, despite its apparent resemblances to the Angkorian representations, cannot be confused. We present below three photographs taken in three different ethnic groups in Vietnam (A: J'rai, B: Bahnar) and Cambodia (C: Kreung). Our long observations of the bas-reliefs, our hundreds of hours spent cutting musicians and instruments, convinced us of the relevance of iconography. Even if imperfections are noticeable here and there, the playing position is generally correct. A few rare bas-reliefs cannot be retained because of their general mediocrity, but when the redundancy of a quality image is required, there can be no doubt. Here are the reasons that lead us to abandon the idea of the buccal resonator fiddle:
A Khmer version also exists a scraper named krap chmol.
The ancient Khmer instrument is associated with the playing of the harp in cases 1 and 3. In case 2, the sculptor made the choice of this minimalist representation because of lack of place it seems. A person whose head can be seen behind could be the harpist. The orchestra is associated with dancers.
In the pre-Angkorian period, in the donation lists of the Lolei temple, there is talk of an instrument called chko played by "string players". It is practiced during the clear weeks alternating with the trisarī played the dark weeks. Having exhausted all the possibilities offered by the Indian, Khmer and Cham iconography, this instrument could be either a scraper or a wooden clapper similar to those still existing today in Thailand and Cambodia. The onomatopoeic character of the word would reinforce this hypothesis. In addition, the female player is called Can Cān. It is perhaps a nickname related to the practice of his instrument as is the case for singers. According to Saveros Pou, this term indicates the redoubling of something. It could be the back and forth of the hand on the scraper. But this is only a hypothesis.
Another hypothesis could be a known instrument in Thailand under the name of phuang krap (กรับพวง), a small hand percussion consisting of a wad of fine slats of hardwood and brass, tied together at one end.
A fourth bas-relief reinforces our thesis. The musician is standing. The stick with which he strums his instrument is short and the angle formed by the two elements is incompatible with a fiddle playing. The two protuberances at the top of the instrument could represent metallic noises as they exist on contemporary South-East Asian scrapers.
For the skeptics, we add below this picture of a female singer playing scraper in Central Java (9th century). The instrument seems to be made in a single wooden board and the grooves are perfectly visible here.