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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rappers beat path to Mexico City

Rappers beat path to Mexico City

13-hip-hop.jpg
13-hip-hop.jpg

VANDY RATTANA

Boomer, a KorMix luminary who produced all the music featured in an upcoming documentary about anti-drug group Korsang, is pictured at the Korsang headquarters in Phnom Penh. Kormix, a hip-hop program run by Korsang, will be represented at an international Aids conference in Mexico this August.

Two years ago, Korsang, a grassroots organization in Phnom Penh that works with the Kingdom's drug users, established a creative arts program called KorMix.

The idea was to give young drug users the opportunity to build character and leadership abilities to acquire life skills in a safe and supportive environment, said Wicket, a Korsang director.

"People make changes in their lives based on the relationships they have with others and how they see themselves fitting into the world," he said.

KorMix works with both current and former drug users, letting them create hip hop music; participants can write their own beats and lyrics and record the song in the Torsou, or "Survivor", studio. 

But the songs they are producing are a far cry from the standard hip hop fare - instead of drive-bys and beat downs, Korsang's rappers lay down tracks about drug prevention like Why, Why, Why, a song that is featured in an upcoming documentary about Korsang made by filmmaker David Everhardt.

"Some KorMix kids have even stopped using drugs through the program alone - with no additional detox treatment, just compassion," said Holly Bradford, Korsang's founder.

The KorMix kids will be bringing their talents to the Global Youth Village at the International Aids conference in Mexico City which will run from August 3 to 8.

The organization has three scholarships for children to attend and is looking for more sponsors to get as many participants as possible to perform at the event. 

"This is a huge thing for the kids," Bradford said.

Korsang, which relies on peer education to promote harm reduction strategies, is run by a group of young Cambodians who were deported from the United States after September 11, 2001 because of their involvement in crime.

Most of them lived in Long Beach, California, where they had developed a following among young people as hip-hop and break dancers, skills they have used effectively to reach out and assist young addicts in their homeland.

Since it was founded in September 2004, Korsang has worked with more than 2,300 users of amphetamine-type stimulants, such as yama and ice, and more than 1,000 injecting drug users, Wicket said.

Keo Borey, 22, is not among the group going to Mexico City but his life is heading in a more positive direction thanks to Korsang.

Borey said he had stopped using drugs three months after joining the program.

"You can do it if you love yourselves, your family and your country," Borey said.

An addict for three years before he went clean, Borey told the Post he used to steal money from his parents to feed his craving for yama or ice.

"I felt happier, stronger and braver, and had a much stronger desire to have sex" within 30 minutes of using the drugs, Borey said.

Borey said the peer education program at Korsang had helped him to realize the risks he was taking with yama and other drugs.

"Drugs can really harm my health and my future and bring disgrace to me in society, especially in my village," he said.

Chear Vannarak, 17, said the support he had received from Korsang had helped him to sharply reduce his use of yama, which he once smoked twice a day.

Vannarak said he was still using yama at least once a month "but I hope I will be able to stop it completely soon."

On June 24, the KorMix kids will be performing at Talkin' to a Stranger bar in Phnom Penh at a benefit for Everhardt's documentary.

Thirty minutes of the 90-minute documentary will be shown at the event. All of the music in the upcoming documentary is produced by Boomer, one of KorMix's founding members.

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