Japanese musician Miwako Fujiwara has found inspiration in Cambodia utilising her talent to support disadvantaged children through her choir, Musica Felice.
Fujiwara’s choir is also set to hold a charity concert on November 30, for which she has gathered a team of multinational artists who will put on a performance for 1,000 people in the outdoor garden of the Sofitel hotel in Phnom Penh.
The event is being organised with the assistance of Sofitel and will support two organisations in the capital – Happy Chandara Vocational Training Center and music school Phum Pleng.
“My passion is charity work through music. I have organised many charity concerts for homeless people in the Netherlands. Since I came to Cambodia [in 2010], I’ve wanted to know what the real situation is in society. What are the needs of locals and how are NGOs addressing them?
“To do this I visited orphanages like Pour un Sourire d’Enfant, Friends International and other rural areas in the provinces. Then, three years ago I started my own choir Musica Felice”, Fujiwara said.
Fujiwara spent eight years studying at music and dance school Hague Royal Conservatoire in the Netherlands, in addition to her two diplomas obtained through four years of music study at a Japanese university.
Prior to Cambodia, she had been living in the Netherlands with her UN-employee husband and two children for a number of years.
But when her spouse became part of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal located in Phnom Penh in 2010, the family moved with him.
Before establishing the Musica Felice choir three years ago, Fujiwara had given up her career to act as a full-time mother.
“I called a halt on my career recording, making CDs, TV, radio recordings and teaching. I think it’s important sometimes to sacrifice for your family,” said Fujiwara.
But while in Phnom Penh, many people have asked her for piano lessons, while others have requested she start a choir. Encouraged, Fujiwara built her multinational choir community from scratch.
The mother of two believes it was important for her to return to work.
“Just waiting and sitting at home, chatting only just about family life . . . my daughter told me it was unhealthy,” she said.
“When we get together with a group of other singers, it becomes more than the sum of its parts – we sing in perfect harmony, which is what we need in this world.
“Since we came to Cambodia, I have always felt a special energy, power and happiness. Music holds the power to inspire. Through music, art and dance, humanity has made, and will continue to make, great strides forward.”
Inspired by talented local musicians, vibrant Cambodian culture and beautiful Khmer traditional instruments, Fujiwara established the Musica Felice choir in 2016, with the first Musica Felice Charity Concert held in September 2017.
“My first charity work was only one small step, but it started a ripple effect . . . I believe these actions can stir a bigger ripple.”
The first concert attracted more than 500 people, with attendees increasing each year. This year, the charity concert is expected to attract 1,000 people.
For November’s upcoming concert, Fujiwara has 33 choir members from diverse ethnic and geographical backgrounds. The choir consists of professional and non-professional musicians from all parts of the world, all of whom live and work in Phnom Penh.
“Although they come from different countries, backgrounds and professions, they all have one thing in common – a love for classical music,” she said.
Besides gospel and classical music, Fujiwara has also invited Khmer pop singer Rath Rachana and Khmer guitarist Khian Sam to join the performance.
“I have always respected Khmer music and would like to create a mixed programme for the audience made up of individuals from different ethnic backgrounds. This time I really want to encourage them to dance as Sofitel’s garden has a big enough space.”
A pianist, choir conductor, producer, composer and piano teacher, Fujiwara enjoys collaborating with local traditional musicians and combining Western and Eastern music culture by reviving traditional instruments.
Having lived in Cambodia for nine years now, Fujiwara is also committed to arranging piano pieces and composing contemporary music for traditional Khmer instruments.
All funds raised from her performances go to charitable causes in the Kingdom to provide opportunities for talented young musicians who would otherwise be unable to afford music tuition.
“I inherited a good heritage of music education from my parents. Now is the time for me to use it to create positive impact in other people’s lives,” she said.
Fujiwara has selected two schools as recipients of the funds for each charity concert.
“I don’t do free concerts but I organise charity concerts. For each concert, I try to give $3,000 from the ticket revenue to each school.”
In addition to her musical endeavours, Fujiwara and her daughter support an orphanage called the Light of Mercy children’s home.
As the children grow up and pursue their studies at university, Fujiwara says money earned from Musica Felice choir is essential to meet their needs.
“I really need more well paid performances to support these children. If I become famous, I can support more young and talented Khmer children,” she said.
The Musica Felice Charity Concert will take place on November 30 at 5pm.
Tickets are available at Sofitel and Socials Coffee on Norodom Boulevard at $10 for adults, $5 for children aged five to 15 and $3 for Khmer students. The concert is free for children younger than four.