The recordings of the Reamker epic by Takrut, a famous 1960s storyteller, are the earliest known audio documents of an oral Khmer tradition. The recordings capture this ancient story in its full integrity. The ancient art of storytelling was nearly extinguished during the Khmer Rouge period in the 1970s; remarkably, the recordings survived that era thanks to the fact that they were taken to France by scholars Alain Daniel and Jaques Bunnet for their research and analysis, and Takrut’s rendition of the epic is accepted as the authoritative one as the best surviving exemplar of the art.
Deriving from the Indian Ramayana, which arrived in Cambodia around the 2nd century AD, the Reamker evolved into one of the principal elements of Khmer culture which, at the height of the Angkor empire (from the 9th to the 13th century AD) covered most of mainland South East Asia. It is considered to be a fundamental epic of the Khmer people, embodying their memory, perception of the world and their culture. It is widely reflected in Khmer art forms including theatre, literature and dance from ancient times until today. For centuries, oral tradition was the primary means of transmitting knowledge, values and ideas.
The documents as inscribed were restored and digitized by the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center in 2011 , with the support of Cambodian National Commission for UNESCO, UNESCO Office in Phnom Penh and guidance from Professor Alain Daniel. They consist of a digitised master file, a 10-hour reconstruction assembled from incomplete analogue audio tape sources which are now degraded and no longer accessible. The digital file is therefore considered the authoritative preservation copy.