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Ma Chanpanha marches to his own beat in China

Chanpanha was chosen by the government to perform his own songs in China.
Chanpanha was chosen by the government to perform his own songs in China. Photo supplied

Ma Chanpanha marches to his own beat in China

Cambodian singer Ma Chanpanha was in China this week to show off the Kingdom's new generation of original musical talent.

Chanpanha, 23, was the sole representative selected by the Cambodian government to perform in Beijing at the 2015 China ASEAN Friendship Concert last week.

He will also perform in Yunan province today.

In previous years, Cambodian performers sent to perform overseas would generally do traditional songs. However, Chanpanha is singing his own compositions.

“Being a song composer and singer I’ve faced a lot of challenges because it’s a different way of doing things to most musical artists in Cambodia. Originality isn’t really valued here, even by my own family”, said Chanpanha.

“I am so excited that they recruited me as a youth to represent my country”, he said. “I didn’t expect that it is only me who represent the country.”

Chanpanha was one of a growing number of young original songwriters that the government was keen to encourage, said Ministry of Culture and Fine Art undersecretary of state Ouk Socheat.

Socheat said Cambodian music had for years suffered from a lack of originality with most songs just recycled or copied from overseas, but that is beginning to change.

"I'm happy to encourage young people to show their artistic talent", he said.

On Sunday here in Cambodia, even more original talent will be on show at the Mic Original Song Contest being held at the Cambodian Institute of Technology.

“It is a big event compared to previous events in the country and we will run two programs in the event: original song contest to find the three best songs and original song from senior singers,” said organiser Seng Pyseth.

Our purpose is to encourage senior singers and young generation who have new talent to get into the music industry and we try to promote the concept of original songs."

Chanpanha said Cambodian music now was similar to how it was in the 1950s when few new songs were being written and there was a strong influence from other countries.

However then the 1960s and 1970s came along with an explosion of original music and ideas. "I believe Cambodian youth generation is better now because they are full of talent and passion”, he said.

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