Karaoke Kingdom

Karaoke Kingdom

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The karaoke video for “Min Arch Tram Merl Bong Chir” or, in English, “I cannot bear to see you suffer”, may start with tender lyrics about love and a soulful young relationship.

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But as the video goes on, it takes a turn into graphic violence – replete with blood, fighting and profane expressions spilt over heartache.

Karaoke videos these days seem to centre on violence, sex, gambling and drinking in a new trend taking Cambodia by storm.

And the more racy the video, the more popular it is among young Cambodians.

How will these videos affect youth mindset? Will they, too, become violent in their every-day interactions?

Fighting in school and bullying is on this rise. Gangs on the street, shootings and verbal abuse have gone rampant. Are these phenomena tied in with the streak of violence rising in our pop-culture?

Directors behind these music videos will say that if they don’t keep the material racy, then they won’t have a good audience – and won’t be able to make a good profit.

But what’s the real price?

According to Aimee Tompkins’ study of the psychological effects of violent media on children in 2003, she found that those children who played violent videogames had a greater chance of developing aggressive tendencies and behavioural problems in the future.

Retrospect studies have also demonstrated a 12 per cent increase in aggressive behaviour after watching violence on television.

“Most performances in karaoke videos are bad and aren’t in line with our cultural heritage,” said Sous Kunthea, a third-year student majoring in Economics. “There’s obscenity, gangsters, suffering and drinking. It affects the audience, especially youth, because almost every time someone in the video binge drinks after a relationship issue.”

Sun Ny, a 42-year-old vendor in Phnom Penh, said, “I am not satisfied with the performances in these videos, because the songs have no educational value.”

Other songs including “It is late to say regret” and “Can we love again?” depict young lovers living under the same roof before a committed relationship – something the Kingdom hasn’t seen much of in the media. On top of this, in the latter song, the boy is addicted to gambling and joins a violent gang.

Then, the girl decides to sleep with another gang member so that they stop fighting.

Is that too much for one video?

If you still don’t think so, the girl commits suicide at the end to find redemption for the actions that transpired.

Meas Sok Ratanak, managing director of Town Production, said that when he directs actors for a karaoke video, he keeps modern problems and trends in mind over traditional performance art.

“Art is a double-edged sword,” Ratanak said. “People always blame the actors. We’re developing our videos with the times.”

He added, “When there are violent things like beatings and guns, we’re not recommending [violent behaviour] to the audience. We’re showing the negative repercussions of doing something wrong or against the law, as it ends badly for the characters.”

This week’s advice for Constructive Cambodian comes from Som Sokun, the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Culture and Fine Art. He advises karaoke producers to avoid shooting inappropriate content, including binge drinking and violence – which can affect a young audience.

However, Som Sokun added that the Ministry cannot advise film companies if they aren’t registered. He therefore encourages film and karaoke companies to formally register with the Ministry.

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