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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sin Chanchhaya, son of iconic singer Sin Sisamouth dies, 58

The late president of the Sin Sisamouth Association, Sin Chanchhaya
The late president of the Sin Sisamouth Association, Sin Chanchhaya (far left), and his mother, Khav Thorng Nhot, the widow of Sisamouth, register Sisamouth’s music for copyright protection with the commerce minister. Heng Chivoan

Sin Chanchhaya, son of iconic singer Sin Sisamouth dies, 58

Sin Chanchhaya, son of legendary Cambodian singer Sin Sisamouth and director of the Sin Sisamouth Association, has died. He was 58.

Chanchhaya, who was also a musician and music teacher, passed away about 10:30am yesterday after suffering a fall and hitting his head at his Tuol Kork home. He is survived by a wife and three children.

Over the past decade, Chanchhaya had been fighting to protect his father’s legacy by having Sisamouth’s songs registered as his family’s intellectual property.

In May last year, Chanchhaya told the Post he wanted control over the rights to his father’s songs in order to maintain their integrity and quality

“Many of my father’s songs are romantic and gentle, and now they change the songs and make them impolite,” he said. “It’s like a cook has already made the food and added the spices and then they come along and put more spices in and it’s not tasty anymore.”

He said his worst fear was that the younger generation wouldn’t know who was responsible for the songs.

In December, the Ministry of Commerce held a ceremony to officially recognise the family’s copyright over 73 of Sisamouth’s songs. However, it’s believed the prolific songwriter penned hundreds during his career.

Chanchhaya’s daughter Sin Sethsochhata, 21, yesterday said the family was busy making preparations for her father’s funeral and had not yet decided who would take over as director of the association.

“It was very sudden,” she explained.

Eldest son Sinn Sethekol, 33, said he regretted not being able to hear his father’s last words because the death was unexpected.

“I’d like to ask for the Khmer artists attendance [to the funeral] and generous contribution to my father’s funeral expenses,” he said. “We’re poor and would appreciate help to overcome the difficulty.”

The late Sin Chanchhaya
The late Sin Chanchhaya, son of the "Elvis of Cambodia"

News of Chanchhaya’s death came as a shock to many in the Cambodian music scene with many condolence messages posted on Facebook.

Khmer Artist Association president Sos Mach, a close friend of Chanchhaya, said he was upset by the news.

“He’s gone forever,” Mach said. “Chanchhaya and I made songs for each other and consider each other as siblings. Now he left me and never come back. I wish his soul is going to nirvana.”

US filmmaker Chris Parkhurst, who is making a documentary Elvis of Cambodia about Sisamouth’s legacy, yesterday paid tribute to Chanchhaya for his selfless devotion to preserving his father’s legacy.

“I think his contribution was always about the legacy of his father,” Parkhurst said. “Sin Chanchhaya, he was a professional musician, he was a teacher, he ran the association – but it always seemed like it was about the legacy of his father and he always explained it that way.

“He was never trying to be a musician himself in a way of trying to compete with his father or he never even thought he was in his father’s shadow.

“By what he was doing with the association and teaching students here in Cambodia he felt like that was the best way to honour Sisamouth.”

Chanchhaya’s funeral will be held at 9am at the Sin Sisamouth Association which is located at #50B, Street 204.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY WILL JACKSON

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