Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘Soul’ heir of ‘Golden Voice’ has fresh new sound

‘Soul’ heir of ‘Golden Voice’ has fresh new sound

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Sin Setsochhata, 27, is not against following trends but says a true artist should have their own voice and identity. SUPPLIED

‘Soul’ heir of ‘Golden Voice’ has fresh new sound

Staying true to one’s self as a pop musician is a real conundrum. How is that even possible when so much of the music industry is about image, popularity and creating a mythical aura around the biggest stars so that when a stadium full of tens of thousands of fans gathers to worship and venerate them it doesn’t come off as totally absurd or obscene?

Now, as if that wasn’t hard enough, how do you maintain your authenticity when you’re the granddaughter of the legendary Sin Sisamouth – the king of Khmer music and the most iconic and recognisable voice from Cambodia’s 1960’s golden-age?

Despite her vaunted musical ancestry, KlapYaHandz artist Sin Setsochhata’s reluctance to join the music industry was genuine and she spent years trying to avoid the fate that was seemingly foreordained for her.

Finally, after the passing of her father and then the tragic death of her brother at just 37 years old – both of them noted Khmer singers with hundreds of performances and numerous records over the years – the calling just became too loud and she felt she had no choice but to set aside her reservations and take up her family’s legacy by embarking on a music career of her own and making her debut earlier this year.

Setsocchata says that her family’s musical legacy has been her biggest obstacle and her biggest motivator both at once, but now a year into her debut she’s thankful that it gave her this opportunity and she doesn’t regret her decision one bit.

“I was told by my dad that I can sing and I always liked singing from a very young age, but I never considered it as a career choice. I just wasn’t motivated enough to do it. Sadly, the loss of my brother, Sethakol Sin, is what drove me to think about giving singing a shot,” Setsocchata tells The Post.

Setsocchata says that while many record labels had contacted her and expressed interest in working with her in the past she chose KlapYaHandz because she was already a big fan and she liked the originality and creativity of their artists and the positive artist-focused approach they take to producing records.

“It just feels like someplace I can call home,” Setsochhata says.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Sin Setsochhata was at first reluctant to join the hip-hop dominated music industry because she wasn’t sure if it fit her style. SUPPLIED

Of course, from the moment she debuted she’s always been known as “Sin Sisamuth’s granddaughter” and people use it so frequently she says it feels as if the phrase was her personal pronoun or first name so as much as she might like to blaze her own trail in the world of music there’s only so much she can realistically do to differentiate herself from her grandfather, father or brother.

“Don’t get me wrong, it is not a bad thing to be recognised as a member of my family. However, it is bothersome and I really do want people to know and recognise me as Sin Setsochhata and for the music that I’m making because I am an artist on my own regardless of my background.

When asked if she had any trouble staying true to her chosen musical genre or if she was tempted to follow trends, she notes that she grew up listening to the “Khmer pop” music of the 60’s and early 70’s which was also heavily influenced by western music.

In fact, she points out, virtually all modern forms of pop music – blues, R&B, rock and roll, hip-hop and the rest – were first pioneered by African-Americans in the 20th century before being popularised by others and then spread to all corners of the globe and differentiating further into other forms in the process.

“But music is ultimately free and open and any kind of music can be made by any sort of person no matter what country they are from. I would personally love to be known as a Cambodian R&B or blues or soul artist but the trend in modern music is to infuse everything with hip-hop, so I’ve adapted to that, but I try to strike a balance,” she says.

Sesochhata says that she tries not to be too pessimistic or cynical and she freely admits that writing a song that is perfectly suited to your own preferences – and that few other people like or hear as a result – would be far more frustrating than satisfying

“Giving up too much of what I actually enjoy musically would weaken my music and undermine my identity as an artist, but not presenting it in a way that has broad enough appeal would limit the size of my audience and my career success, so there has to be a balance. But whenever people think of R&B, blues or soul music in Cambodia, my goal is to be included on those lists,” she says.

Setsochhata says there’s nothing wrong with chasing trends if that’s what someone finds fulfilling or it’s financially rewarding, but from her observation that isn’t how most successful artists establish themselves or find fame. They do it by having their own voice and identity, first and foremost.

“You can’t please everyone. There may not be mass appeal to everything I record, but if just a few of the right people appreciate it that’d be enough for me,” she says.

Setsochhata debuted with two Khmer songs – “Truth” and “No Regrets” – and one English song, “Believe.” All three of them are based on her life experiences and she says they come from her heart because she wrote them while she was in the process of healing after losing her father and brother, especially “Truth”, which is her favourite.

“Everything I wrote is either what I’ve been through personally or from people I’m close with. I love spending time talking and listening to people and their stories. I love to interpret feelings into song lyrics. Behind every word in my lyrics, there’s a story,” she says.

Of course, death is a part of everyone’s life and everyone will lose many people over the course of their lives and the only way for anyone to avoid that misfortune is through the greater misfortune of dying young themselves, so she wrote the song with the hope that it would help people heal and realise the truth that death is a part of life and you can’t experience one without the other, which is why the title of that first three song EP was “Realisation.”

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Setsochhata wants to be known as an artist in her own right and not just as the granddaughter of the legendary Sin Sisamuth, though she’s still grateful for the advantages it gives her. SUPPLIED

Setsochhata says she doesn’t have a song writing process per se and how long it takes her to finish composing something varies greatly depending on her mood.

“While writing a song I might lose the spark of inspiration that got me started or I find another inspiration and maybe start from scratch again. It can take me an hour or weeks and months. The song ‘Truth’ took a whole year until I was satisfied with the lyrics,” she says.

Setsochhata says she’s excited about the growth she’s seen in the Cambodian music industry and the potential for Cambodian artists to find fans across the region and given the reality of our modern interconnected and networked world these days even global success is possible if the right artist or song gets exposure at the right time.

“I am sure Cambodian artists will have a growing presence on the international stage over this next decade and we’ll be competing in the international market in no time. And I hope I will be participating in that as well,” she says.

As the say – there’s no time like the present – and just last month Setsochhata was featured in an online article by the legendary music magazine Rolling Stone. They did a full interview with her about her iconic grandfather’s influence on her music along with other aspects of her career.

“As an artist, I always want to see growth in both the music industry and in society. I always feel obligated to contribute because artists play a huge role in shaping and influencing the attitudes and opinions of the public.

“Personally, I will keep on improving and growing while on my musical journey and I hope to see more talented people become part of the industry here who can bring new sounds and ideas to the table while making a living doing what they love,” Setsochhata says.

Right now – with live music still basically shut down nationwide due to the pandemic – Setsochhata is working on recording cameo appearances on a few songs by other KlapYaHandz artists like Ruth Ko and Vi70 and she’s also currently working on her next EP, which should be out early next year.

For more information on Sin Setsochhata check out the KlapYaHandz website: https://klapyahandz.com/Or find her on Facebook: @sinsetsochhataofficial


  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Angkor Beer, 30 Years of Prestige and Still Counting

    Let’s celebrate 30 years of prestige with Angkor Beer. In this 2022, Angkor Beer is 30 years old and has been staying with Cambodian hearts in all circumstances. Head of core beer portfolio, EmYuthousaid, “We have been with Cambodians for three decades now. We, ANGKOR Beer, pride

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,