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Woman who reunited early rockers dies at 72

Ros Saboeut, the elder sister of 1960s singer Ros Serey Sothea
Ros Saboeut, the elder sister of 1960s singer Ros Serey Sothea, at a reunion show for surviving pre-Khmer Rouge musicians in Phnom Penh in 2010. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Woman who reunited early rockers dies at 72

Ros Saboeut, the elder sister of celebrated singer Ros Serey Sothea, who played an integral role in reuniting Cambodia’s musicians scattered by the Khmer Rouge regime, died last Thursday.

A funeral and cremation ceremony was held yesterday for the 72-year-old from Phnom Penh, who died from complications after a fall.

Saboeut appeared in a documentary about the pre-Khmer Rouge rock ‘n’ roll scene, recalling memories of her sister, beloved for songs such as "I’m Sixteen" and "Have You Seen My Love?", and dubbed “the golden voice of the royal capital” by the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk.

Serey Sothea died sometime during the Democratic Kampuchea period but her elder sister survived and went on to bring together many musicians from the “Golden Age” of Cambodian music.

Youk Chhang, executive director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said Saboeut told him musicians came to her looking for her younger sister, allowing her to put them in touch with each other.

“I think she was bound by the legacy of her sister to help,” Chhang said.

John Pirozzi, the director of the film Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten, about the golden age of Cambodian rock before the Khmer Rouge takeover, offered a moving tribute to Saboeut.

Pirozzi posted a message on the CambodianRock Facebook page, saying that Saboeut was “gracious” when interviewed. “She was very sweet and also very expressive in both her exuberance in remembering the good times with her sister before the war, and in her sadness in remembering the tragic loss of her sister and other family members during the Khmer Rouge era,” he wrote.

“There was both much laughter and many tears in the course of her interview.

“I will always be very grateful to her for sharing her stories and feelings about her sister.

“She struck me as a very gentle and kind person.”

Than Seyma, a friend of Saboeut for seven years, echoed these sentiments, saying that she was a gentle, friendly and humorous person who always had a childlike way about her.

She said she recalled taking Saboeut to a park one day where she played on a seesaw until she was stopped by a security guard who said that they were only for children.

She said Saboeut’s seven-day ceremony would begin on Wednesday.

Saboeut is survived by Ros Sabeoun, the eldest and last remaining of Serey Sothea’s four siblings, one daughter and three grandchildren.

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