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Youth of the week: Oum Rattanak Oudom

Young people now hardly ever listen to the old Khmer rock and roll songs. But Oum Rattanak Oudom, who is known as Oro, is the exception and is obsessed with old songs sung by Sinn Sisamuth, Ros Serysothea, Peb Ron and others.

Dressed in a stylish uniform, Oro is not very up to date at all. He does not like any of the modern songs that the young generation sing along to right now because they are always love songs.

Oro has spent a great deal of time collecting old songs and has recorded them off the radio. He also buys cassettes and old vinyl records from a store near the Psar Chas, or old market.

He said he loves those old songs and he has never been influenced by the music of other modern singers. “I love those songs because of the music, the meaning and the style of composition. The composers described places, lifestyles, love and education.” he said.

“I admire the old singers and composers who write their own songs, have high potential and talent like Mr Nhem Tol, Pov Sithou and Svay Sa.”

Because of his love of old songs, Oro collects old vinyl records that are mostly extinct. He is something special because no one helps him or supports him at all. He does it because he is obsessed by it and simply loves the music.

Oro wants to conserve old Khmer rock and roll songs and has spent a lot of money doing it, but gets nothing back. He does it because he thinks that old Khmer songs should not be forgotten.

“Though I do not have much money to spend, I still buy them because life is a challenge and I used to be a waiter, a coffee maker and I did other jobs to help. I hope that our younger generation can still hear these songs in 100 years,” he said.

Oro said his project is long-term because the old songs are part of Cambodia’s heritage. He does not know when his project will finish and when it becomes a success. Now he plans to go abroad to pursue his master’s degree and that may take 19 months.

“I am well prepared to have a seminar and train others who are really obsessed with old songs if they have a solid commitment to the work, which is not easy.”

After he finishes his master’s course, he will produce some songs and give the money he makes to the old singers’ relatives and the old composers, some of whom are quite old and not well.

However, Oro is concerned about some reproductions of the old songs that have been made for commercial purposes, because sometimes they change the lyrics and sometimes they add some new lyrics.

“I feel sad when I hear these songs because these productions take something away from the original writers. They just want to get money from selling the old songs, but they do not care about copyright.” he added.

So far he has collected about 300 old vinyl records. Oum Rattanak Oudom is project manager and also co-director of the Elastic Cambodia organisation.

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