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Cambodia’s biggest music and cultural centre The Gong to open soon

Smiling Gecko Cambodia, a non-profit organisation dedicated to fostering sustainable development and cultural preservation in Cambodia, has announced the opening of The Gong, a state-of-the-art music and cultural centre.

Located within the Smiling Gecko campus in the Sameakki Mean Chey District in Phnom Penh, this groundbreaking facility will serve as a hub for Cambodian arts and culture. The grand opening celebration is scheduled for June 28-29, 2024.

The Gong is envisioned as a vibrant cultural epicentre designed for a multitude of purposes and activities aimed at celebrating, preserving and revitalising Cambodian music and arts. Primarily, it houses Sonic Studio, a state-of-the-art recording studio where traditional Khmer music can be documented and archived for future generations, ensuring that these cultural treasures are not lost.

Additionally, the Gong is equipped to host a 140-seat auditorium suitable for live performances, dance workshops, and educational programmes that engage both the local community and international artists.

“Opening The Gong marks a critical moment in our journey towards cultural revitalization and sustainable development,” said Hannes Schmid, Founder of Smiling Gecko, “Designed with both ecological integrity and cultural homage, The Gong is set to become a cornerstone of cultural exchange and an emblem of Cambodian resilience.”

Designed by the renowned Swiss architectural firm atelier oi, The Gong stands as a testament to innovative, eco-friendly design infused with Khmer cultural elements. The building’s unique circular shape is inspired by the ancient Khmer gong, a symbol of resonance and cultural outreach. This design not only enhances acoustics for recording and performances but also represents the dissemination of Cambodian culture both locally and globally.

Incorporating sustainable practices, the facility features a rainwater collection system and uses local materials, reducing its environmental footprint while celebrating traditional craftsmanship.

The grand opening of The Gong is set to be a vibrant celebration of music, dance, and artistic collaboration, with an eclectic mix of international talents and local artists. Here are some of the highlights planned for the event:

* Musical Performance by Jan SEVEN Dettwyler, the Swiss Soul singer and songwriter who will bring the sweet melodies and pop rhythms to the audience.

* Interactive Performance by Austrian actress Isabel Karajan and members of the acclaimed Berliner Philharmoniker performing Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons as a staged family concert. This is created as part of a live recording at the Philharmonie Berlin with the Berliner Barock Solisten and illustrator Mehrdad Zaeri

* Solo Classical Music Performance by Luisa Imorde, a German pianist who has won several awards including competitions like Jugend musiziert and the Kissinger Klavierolymp

* Khmer Classical Dance Featuring Renata Sabongui, a Czech ballet master, teacher and choreographer, to celebrate the beauty and uniqueness of traditional Cambodian dance.

* Performances by emerging local artists and Smiling Gecko’s students, showcasing the rich cultural heritage of Cambodia. You can catch a glimpse of the students performing here.

* Culinary Delights, Symphony of Taste, at the fine dining Restaurant UN, where attendees will embark on a gastronomic journey through the rich flavors of Khmer cuisine, carefully curated to complement the artistic experiences of the evening.

Hannes shares that the Gong intends to be a gathering place for the community, where people can come together to learn, celebrate, and perform, thereby strengthening cultural identity and community bonds. “The Gong is more than a cultural centre; it is a beacon of hope and revival for Khmer culture. Inspired by the need to preserve the rich traditions nearly lost during past upheavals, The Gong aims to protect and promote Cambodia’s artistic legacy. It serves as a cultural bridge, connecting the Cambodian people with each other and with the world, thereby strengthening national identity and pride.”

The opening of The Gong enhances Smiling Gecko’s commitment to driving significant and enduring change for underprivileged communities in Cambodia. It is part of a 150-hectare cluster project that influences the lives of roughly 30,000 local residents. This cluster encompasses a diverse range of facilities, including schools that educate about 500 children, an award-winning luxury Farmhouse Resort & Spa, and an agricultural complex dedicated to cultivation and livestock rearing.

Smiling Gecko Cambodia (SGC) is a local NGO founded in 2014, operating independently of Smiling Gecko Switzerland (SGS). Co-founded by world-renowned photographer Hannes Schmid and Cambodian lawyer Sokleap Ngon, SGC embodies the mission of “Cambodians help Cambodians.”

The organisation strives to create a lasting change for disadvantaged individuals in Cambodia, focusing on fighting poverty’s root causes through education, career training, and empowering self-reliance within rural communities.

Based in Kampong Chhnang province, SGC oversees a 150-hectare cluster project that impacts approximately 30,000 nearby residents. The clusters include an agricultural complex for planting and animal husbandry, a manufacturing facility, an award-winning Farmhouse Resort & Spa, and an innovative school serving around 500 children. For more information, please visit:

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