Ms. Koung was born and raised in a family of performing artists. At the age of five, she began to learn Cambodian classical and folk dance and folk opera. At six, taught by her father, Koung Peang, in the refugee camps in Thailand and the Philippines, she began playing Cambodian traditional music. Now she plays 13 Cambodian musical instruments and many different types of Cambodian traditional music. Weddings, funerals, classical dance, and folk dance call for different instruments and different styles of play, all of which Ms. Koung has mastered.
Ms. Koung began to learn Cambodian classical dance by watching the dancers practice while she accompanied them with music. Later Ms. Koung joined the dance group. At 15, she began learning how to make Cambodian costumes: those worn to the temple for special occasions, such as a New Year celebration, clothes for musicians performing traditional Cambodian music, modern evening gowns, sequined dresses and costumes for classical dance, weddings, and folk opera. She acquired these skills by observing other artists' work and asking them questions.
One of these artists is Ms. Koung's mother, Sipom Ming, who has been a costume designer for more than 30 years and who taught her daughter how to measure, cut, and sew. Ms. Koung also began to experiment and design her own styles. Active in community work, she is a strong leader working with youth and adults in the Cambodian community in Philadelphia. Koung teaches in Folklore Project artist residency programs.
Folk Arts of Social Change (FASC)