Subscribe Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tiny Toones' hip-hop breaks

Tiny Toones' hip-hop breaks

Tiny Toones' hip-hop breaks

TINY Toones Youth Drop-in Centre is the only house in Phnom Penh's Tuol Tumpong district pumping out hip-hop music on sleepy weekday afternoons, and the only place where children flock to slam their young bodies on a lightly padded concrete floor.

The centre, Cambodia's first break dancing and hip hop school, was established in 2005 by Khmer-born US immigrant Sobil Tuy, or 'KK',  who was born in a Thai Refugee camp in 1977 and emigrated to the United States with his family when he was still an infant.

His parents failed to complete the appropriate citizenship procedures, and when KK was eighteen he discovered he was an illegal immigrant, after being arrested for armed robbery.


Tiny Toones students practice some of their moves at the centre.

Against his will, KK was deported to his homeland of Cambodia, a country where he had never been to live amongst people whose language he didn't speak.

KK found a job counselling drug addicts and HIV sufferers in Phnom Penh, but with his distinctive American street dress and numerous tattoos he soon drew the attention of the neighbours, and curious street kids asked him about his life back in the United States. 

In Long Beach, California, KK had been involved in the infamous Crips gang, and was also once a successful break-dancer. When the children in his neighbourhood discovered this, they began bugging him for lessons, even though it had been ten years since he had seriously danced. 

Photo by:


KK’s photo on the wall of Tiny Toones.

KK opened up his home to teach the children some moves; and when the group began to grow in popularity, he rented a house in Tuol Tumpong and opened the drop in center, extending Tiny Toones activities to include rapping, DJing, graffiti, English, Khmer and painting lessons. 

Today KK and the other instructors teach up to 400 kids, mostly from poor and disadvantaged families, as well as street children. 

KK believes break dancing is a positive way to keep kids away from drug and alcohol abuse, and the center gives them a safe place to come whenever things at home get too much.

Most of the kids who attend the break-dancing classes are boys, and they mimic the instructors dress with baggy jeans, oversized shirts and brightly coloured woollen beanies.

Pov Chanra, 15, has been coming to classes at Tiny Toones for two years, and spends an average of three hours a day at the centre.

He says if the center wasn't open he would have to spend his time outside of school selling vegetables at the market with his family.

"The Centre is much more fun than home, and its great to come here to dance. When I grow up, I would like to be a professional break-dancer and earn enough money to support my family," he said.

Above the central dance ring a large collage of photographs of the children has been put on prominent display, and in marker pen the children have written their hopes and dreams on the surrounding walls. 

Above a smiling picture of KK is written in a neat, straight hand: "I want to be the best role model ever." And beside that, in a messy, childish hand: "I want to be break-dancing teacher."



Collage at Tiny Toones displays photographs of the children who hang out at the center.


Children learn to dance at Tiny Toones.


  • Kak Channthy, Cambodian Space Project frontwoman, killed in crash at 38 [Updated]

    Updated 5:05pm, Tuesday, March 20, 2018 Kak Channthy, frontwoman of popular The Cambodian Space Project, was killed Tuesday morning in a traffic accident in Phnom Penh. She was 38. Channthy, the internationally recognised singer-songwriter also known as “Srey Thy”, was reportedly travelling in a tuk-tuk on the city's

  • Australian police investigating death threat against Kem Ley's widow

    Updated: 10:17am, Friday March 23, 2018 Australian authorities on Thursday confirmed they have launched an investigation into a crudely written death threat sent tothe family of slain political analyst Kem Ley and Victoria state MP Hong Lim. The typed letter, reported to Victoria police last week, is

  • Apparel groups including H&M and Gap urge Cambodia garment industry reform, seek meeting with Hun Sen

    A group representing some of the largest apparel brands in the US and Europe – including Gap, H&M and ASOS – expressed “growing concern” on Tuesday over several controversial labour laws and ongoing court cases against unionists described as restrictive and unjust. In an open letter

  • Hun Sen says Montagnards don’t exist in Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen once again attacked ex-opposition leader Sam Rainsy for pledging “autonomy” to Montagnards, claiming – seemingly incorrectly – the ethnic minority does not exist in Cambodia. “We respect all minorities such as Jarai, Steang, Phnong, but we have never had Montagnards,” the premier said