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Sovann Khon

"Music saved my life" said Master Musician Sovann Khon. When the Khmer Rouge took over in Cambodia, "they picked me to play music. My three brothers and one sister, they didn't know how to play, and they died of starvation."

Music kept Sovann going, waiting for resettlement to the United States in a Thai refugee camp even though there was only one instrument for ten people. As a child he had started playing drums, but his love grew for the two-stringed troson, its piercing high-pitched tones making it the perfect lead for wedding music and country dancing. Playing a key role in the UMass Lowell Vongpleng Khmer, a band of traditional Cambodian instruments, keeps alive memories of his culture as well as the role music had in keeping him alive.

Alan Williams leads this extraordinary ensemble consisting mostly of music majors at UMass Lowell. The sounds of plucked and percussive instruments, plangent strings and woody winds are penetrating as well as lively and perfect accompaniment for the country dances being prepared by the mischievous monkey and elf kids of Angkor Dance Troupe to be performed as part of the "Celebrate Cambodian Arts" Festival at UMass Lowell's Durgin Hall, 35 Wilder St., on Thursday, April 3. Angkor Dance Troupe will perform together with Vongpleng Khmer starting at 7 p.m., with a repeat of Angkor's successful 2012 production of Apsara Dancing Stones to follow at 7:30 p.m.

General admission is $25, UMass Lowell students free. To purchase tickets, visit mktix.com/adt.