Unless one is visiting a place with a large expat Cambodian population – such as Long Beach, California – it is almost unheard of to hear a Khmer language song played during large festivals and parties. This is doubly true in large influential nations with their own rich culture, such as China.

Despite this, the well-known Khmer dance song Moan Srae, or “Chicken from the Field”🌃, sung by popular singer Ra Bee, is proving to be a hit in the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, in China’s Yunnan province.

Xishuangbanna is inhabited by the Dai ethnic group, who practice Buddhism. Within this settlement, there are many attractions that highlight Dai culture and traditions. One of these attractions is a large theme park called “Dai Garden”. Much like the cultural village in Cambodia’s Siem Reap province, it features performances of both traditional and modern dances.  Along with music and dancing, it offers an entertaining water fight, similar to Sangkran.

Most of the songs played by the DJ are Chinese but almost unbelievably, Ra Bee’s Khmer hit Moan Srae also appears in the mix.

“I chose to play this song because the rhythm is lively and simple," DJ Ai Wengling told The Post, as he discussed the soundtrack to the event.

Ai Wenling, who manages the music at Dai Garden. He personally selected the Khmer hit “Moan Srae” for the park’s playlist, meaning people are treated to the popular tune twice a day. Niem Chheng

“I discovered this song on social media and think its great to dance to. It is very similar to the cultural tunes from this region. This piece of music is very popular here in China, especially in this city,” he said. “People from all over this area dance to this song. It is played here at Dai Garden twice a day as part of our performances. It is fun and lively. When it comes to dance songs, we play them,” he added. The DJ explained that he has never been to Cambodia and did not even know that the song originated there. He added it to his playlist because the music is lively, not too fast and not too slow. He noted that there is no Chinese version of this song, only the Khmer language gets played. Ai added that the song has been played in the area for about four or five years. Yunnan province is in southern China. Bordering Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, it is a rich source of Chinese tea. The province is home to the Dai ethnic group, which shares similar Buddhist traditions with the people of Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.

Tourists enjoy an entertaining water splashing event at the Dai Garden theme park in China’s Yunnan province on June 27. Niem Chheng

Chhot Bunthong, head of the Culture, Education and Tourist Relations Department of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said that in general, larger countries tend to exert cultural influences on smaller ones, with Cambodia generally influenced more by others than it influences them. He noted, however, that there is always a to and fro when it comes to cultural exchanges. “Even though we generally embrace the cultures of larger societies, they can still enjoy a lot of ours, especially through things like music. If a Khmer song evokes an emotional response, whether through its tune, lyrics or even video, then it may become popular elsewhere. Generally, social, economic and political influences are exchanged back and forth, much as goods are traded,” he said. “We learn from them, and they learn from us,” he added.

Bunthong described Moan Srae as an attractive song with inspirational lyrics and music♎, but conceded it was not his favourite tune.

Regarding Cambodia-China relations, he noted that the relationship between the two countries goes back thousands of years. He explained that in recent years, the governments of both nations have grown closer and are currently examining new ways to nurture their friendship.