The Soul Of the People

By Thim Rachna


Cambodia has a remarkable history of music: a combination of artists and their creative compositions communicating with the crowd.

Cambodian music is lively and diverse, often considered as the soul of Cambodians, the source of knowledge and happiness. In Cambodia, the genres vary uniquely, ranging from traditional style, middle-age style, to original and modern. People often listen to music and interpret different meanings enhanced by the amazing creativity of the composers. To illustrate, people who listen to the traditional songs of ‘golden-voice’, Sinn Sisamouth, can both enjoy his dulcet voice and learn more about some well-known provinces in Cambodia, which is what Sin Sisamouth sang about.

John Pirozzi & Linda Saphan/2010

The highlight of the Cambodian music scene was during the ‘golden age’, mainly in the 60s and 70s, which allowed the introduction of many types of music by Cambodia’s most influential musicians, ranging from the King of Khmer Music, Sinn Sisamouth, the melodious Ros Sereysothea, the funky Yul Aularong, Cambodia’s first psychedelic rock and guitar boy-bands, and many nameless singers. They were once the core of national vibrant music and art scene of a young Cambodia.

The genocidal regime of Pol Pot (1975–1979) claimed millions of Khmer lives, including those of artists who were accused of emitting aristocratic influence. A great number of golden-age musicians were slaughtered, and most of survivors went into hiding, and did not return to performing. The industry that once faded into darkness, is now taking a long time to get back on its feet.

Rather than dwelling on the sadness, young Cambodian artists are determined to bring the majestic music of Cambodia back on the scene. The image of Cambodian music became hopeful with the introduction of many different genres vividly brought together, originally composed by talented young locals. Through the young musician’s artistic gaze, the Cambodian music scene is optimistically hopeful that will once again rise to its peak.

Cambodian music represents the cultural and civilized spirit of this society. Additionally, for all the remaining artists and newly rising artists who have been working hard in preserving and upholding the musical essence, they deserve more acknowledgement and recognition from the crowd. Even with the flow of foreign music in Cambodia, preservation alone is not enough to uphold our music scene. We should encourage and support the creativity of the young Cambodian musicians that might eventually lead to a large-scale development in this industry.

Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.

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