A BAND formed by eight musically minded cousins has just released its first album after four years of hard work learning their instruments.
The talented family, called the Sibling Band, has even appeared on television as part of Sunday-night concerts.
Readers can also download their songs by visiting their website, www.siblingband.info.
But it’s not just the usual themes of love, life and loss that stir these young songwriters. The cousins – aged between eight and 19 – write stories about drug abuse, the grinding effects of poverty, family violence, beggars and orphans.
Father Hong Sreysambath says the idea for the band began when his son, then 15, began to learn the guitar.
“My son, Hong Sreystantep-heap, could play really well after just a few months of music lessons, and his performance caught the eye of former palace musician Keo Phen,” the proud father explains.
“Actually, I have never had any background of playing music, and at first I just let my son take music classes not very seriously.
“But his performance gained support from the master music-ian Keo Phen, who promised to train him and my two daughters how to play real music, so we decided to start the band.”
The band members love to perform classic Cambodian hits by 1960s singers Sinn Sisamouth, Ros Serei Sothea and Pen Ron.
Their first album is called Sna Dai Khnom, which means My Works. “That’s because the team did everything themselves – playing and writing the music, singing, editing the sound or mixing the sound,” Hong Sreysambath says.
His son, now 19, plays guitar. Two of his daughters play various instruments such as drums, violin and keyboards, and his nieces and nephews have also joined the band.
Every Sunday, they practise with their teacher and, after school every day, they have band rehearsals after school in the family home at Preak Leap.
“I was very proud after my children were invited to perform in TV concerts. I keep encouraging them in the field of music,” says Hong Sreysambath, who is rare among Cambodian fathers in promoting the value of musical education.
“Many people think their children can’t study music because it’s such hard work for them.
“But they don’t think about the hard work their children have already put in to study subjects such as maths, physics, literat-ure or chemistry.
“If we add one more music class, it won’t be a problem. And learning instruments helps keep children at home playing music, instead of going out and risking bad behaviour.”
The band’s album has two main aims, Hong Sreysambath says.
“Two things I want to do with the first album are to educate society and to raise the level of Cambodian arts.
“We educate people about drug abuse, orphans, poverty and other social issues, but at the same time, we also try to raise our art by composing the melodies and lyrics ourselves.”
Hong Sreysantepheap has composed a couple of songs on the album, Ramvong and Cha Cha Cha. Most of his sounds were influenced by the singers of the 1960s, he says.
Now a second-year student of music at the Royal University of Fine Arts, he says he hopes to further explore composing music and lyrics.
The band’s mentor, Keo Phen, 66, a former musician for the royal family, says the children are not especially naturally talented but can pick up a new tune within about 15 minutes.
Real success, however, could take another five years, he says.
Keo Phen is a stickler for the proper pronunciation of Cambodian words, too.
“Our purpose is not to focus on a good tune. Good tunes come from natural talent, which these children don’t have.
“The singers may not sing the notes very well, but they do pronounce lyrics clearly. And they’ve learned to compose new melodies to help educate our society,” he says.