A Cambodian artist, regarded as one of the Kingdom’s most outstanding vocalists and composers in both classical and modern music, Young Yorn is so admired by his Cambodian and foreign fans that they bestowed the nickname “Keo Sarath II” on him.
If you have been lucky enough to hear the powerful ballads recorded by Keo Sarath in the 1980s – including “Nis Re Kam Khgnom”, “Kork Thlok Chamrok Khgnom”, and of course “Khao-I-Dang Duong Chet” – you will be pleasantly surprised when you hear Yorn’s cover versions.
Yorn has been working in the field of music and art in Cambodia for more than 10 years. After graduating from Kampong Thom High School, Yorn began to study Khmer art, both modern and traditional, at the MSL Club and at the Apsara Arts Association. In addition, he studied composition at the Khmer Writers Association in 2004.
He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2010 and a Masters of Business Administration in 2012 from Asia Euro University. Today, in addition to his performances, he is president of Pen Cambodia and a real estate specialist.
“I started my career as a singer and songwriter in 2005-2006 at the Apsara Arts Association. I also worked as a musician, singer and director of Yike drama between 2006 and 2010 and worked with the Khmer Magic Music Bus in 2014,” he told The Post.
Yorn has a formidable depth of knowledge lot of talent in the field of Khmer art, as he is accomplished in reciting Khmer poetry and has mastered the Yike, Mohori and Bassac styles. In addition, he is also a playwright and songwriter and knows how to play classical Khmer instruments.
“When I began writing music, Cambodian society was not as connected on social media, like YouTube and Facebook, so it was hard for me to gain exposure. It was not until 2011 or 2013 that people began to hear and appreciate my work. My first popular tracks were “Kolab Preah Vihear”, “Samros Florida” and “Bopha Prek Toal” which I recorded and posted on YouTube,” he said.
In 2013, he was selected to participate in an international cultural exchange program in the US called “One Beat” organised by the Found Sound Nations and sponsored by the US State Department. The event featured musicians and singers from around the world. Yorn had the opportunity to discover the US for the first time and performed internationally with multi-ethnic artists.
Between 2013 and 2017, Yorn wrote 11 songs describing several parts of the US where he had participated in performances to the Cambodian-American community. He performed in pagodas, organisations, schools, and traditional Khmer festivals. The tracks include several heart-felt odes to the glories of the American states he was fortunate enough to experience the rich culture of as he wound his way across the North American continent.
In 2017, he received support from the US Embassy in Cambodia to produce an album of his “American songs”.
In addition, recognizing his talent, ability and efforts to promote the field of national arts and culture, the International Khmer Assembly (IKARE) in Minnesota, USA, appointed him as a Khmer Legacy Ambassador in 2016.
Yorn and his band performed all 11 of his US-inspired tracks in a special one-off 2018 concert in his hometown, Stung Sen.
In addition to his work in Cambodia and the US, he has also performed Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam, Sweden, Austria and Australia.
Despite the Covid-19 crisis, Yorn continued to produce new material and upload it.
“The arts in almost every field have been affected by the pandemic, but my team and I continue to record music and shoot videos,” he said.
Yorn has received many awards in the course of his more than decade long career. In 2014, he won the Hear My Song award organised by Sabay Digital Plus as best new vocalist and lyricist. In 2011, he claimed the title of best poetry recital on Bayon TV. He was runner up in a poetry composition contest run by the Nou Hach Literary Association, and has twice placed third in the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts’ playwriting competitions.
Yorn said that composition remains the key to his success, whether in songwriting, music composition, novel, Lakhon or poetry writing.
“I find that a clear understanding of composition is very important. It’s like the parent of the written art form. It provides a foundation for artists from all walks of life, whether you are a songwriter, a music writer, a novelist, a poet, a playwright or a screenwriter,” he said.
“Once they understand the key to composition, writers in all fields will find strong results in terms of developing a clear meaning in their work. All of these meanings should reflect the realities of society, as expressed the art form,” he added.