Cambodia's most celebrated karaoke crooner appreciates that style is more than skin-deep
IT would be no exaggeration to say that Preap Sovath has taken Cambodia by storm over almost two decades in the public eye.
Widely hailed as one of the most famous Cambodian singers of his generation, Preap Sovath's personal styling has also made him a fashion icon for today's Cambodian youth.
The 37-year-old started his career in the early '90s, working for Rasmey Hang Meas, perhaps the country's most progressive production company, and has recorded over 2,000 nontraditional Khmer karaoke-style songs to date.
Yet it is perhaps his fashion sense which has left an indelible mark on Cambodian pop culture.
Preap Sovath smiles with pride when he discusses his influence over youths.
"I am so happy. When I see people follow my fashion ideas, it is a great compliment, and they may not know it, but their support encourages me to work even harder," he claims.
Clad in jeans and a black corduroy cap, Preap Sovath details his latest venture.
"I have opened a tailor's shop [at Preap Sovath Beauty Center, 56AB Russian Blvd], which I hope will help me come up with new looks and also do the same for my clients.
"My style has always been largely influenced by my wife, with some ideas from me as well.
"In my profession, I have to feel confident in the clothes I wear, and I think that when you get things right in fashion terms, it gives a great impression," said the Khmer superstar.
Yet life has not always been so easy for Preap Sovath.
Before his musical career took off, there were periods of great difficulty, those times make him appreciate his current success even more.
"Before I was famous, I had a lot of struggles to endure. In 1992, I worked as a soldier during the day and sang at nightclubs in the evening.
"Everyone must push themselves and try their hardest in life, but I know there are many people who have greater struggles than me."
It is this awareness and compassion which marks Preap Sovath out as a true star in the eyes of Chan Kunthear, a 22-year-old student, who proudly proclaims herself one of his biggest fans.
"He is my favourite singer. I like his voice; it is so sweet and romantic.
"I have never heard of or seen him look down on others, even though he is so famous," Chan Kunthear said.
"He always respects people, both young and old, and that is what makes him so special to so many people."