There’s something about smot that gives me peace and calm. I close my eyes and at once I am in a trance. For most Khmer people, young and old, smot is an eerie type of traditional music, one that beckons the dead. Just saying the word is enough to give some people the creeps.
I did not grow up listening to smot. I only heard of it last year when my parents listened to it constantly as my father’s health was deteriorating. My mother would play the CDs of smot music for my father to comfort him, to comfort both of them. Since then, I have been fascinated by this unique traditional music. Though I have limited understanding of the verses, it’s the sound that captivates me the most. The melodies are melancholic and heavy, unlike most traditional Khmer music, which are upbeat and light. The voices of the smot singers are mature and hauntingly beautiful.