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A day in the life of songwriter Sok Chanphal

A widow living in a rural village gives up everything to ensure her children get the opportunities she was never given. Through times of hardship and penury, her children grow up to be strong, grounded individuals and deliver all their gratitude in verse.

This is the story told in the song Chheam Pich (Diamond’s Blood), the masterpiece that catapulted songwriter Sok Chanphal to fame.

Sung by Chorn Sovannareach, the song was produced by the Hang Meas Production Company, one of Cambodia’s largest music firms.

“Diamond’s Blood was the first song I wrote for Hang Meas, and it really solidified my desire to be a lyricist,” Sok Chaphal says.

Sok Chanphal has worked for Hang Meas since 2009 and has written the lyrics for more than 80 songs, most recently Krouk Chhor (Stand Up), sung by Ouk Sokunkanha.

In an interview with LIFT, Sok Chanphal said he drew on his experiences, his emotions and his imagin-ation in formulating the lyrics for his songs.

“I carry around a notebook where I jot down all the little facts and happenings I come across in my day-to-day life, such as when I meet new people or hear a funny story,” he said.  “Later, I will draw on these notes for inspiration.”

Watching movies and listening to loads of music were also essential for fuelling the creative process, Sok Chanphal continued.

Sok Chanphal normally does his writing in a calm setting, concentrating on placing himself in the shoes of the characters he writes about.

“I spend only a few hours writing the actual lyrics of any given song,” he said. “But I can spend whole afternoons, even multiple days, brainstorming what I’m going to write about.”

Writing lyrics could be broken down into a step-by-step process, he said.  First, he listens attentively to a song’s melody to discern the emotional cadence his lyrics will take on.  Then he begins brainstorming the song’s content, writing whatever comes to mind.

“The last step is to carve my writing into actual lyrics, making the words rhyme and the rhythm consistent,” he said. 

Before he became a lyricist, Sok Chanphal published three short novels in consecutive years: Gentleman’s Love (2009), Winter Love (2010) and The Tale of the Lamp (2011).  Luckily for us, he’s chosen to put his linguistic talents to use as a songwriter.

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