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Big following for the DJ with the golden voice

Big following for the DJ with the golden voice

A T the Phnom Penh offices of radio station FM 90, teenagers frequently loiter

outside the front doors looking for someone.

"They are waiting to see me.

Sometimes they wait all day", says Ek Mongkul, Cambodia's best-known radio

heart-throb.

Famous for his "golden voice", many of Mongkul's fans are

anxious to see him in person.

"About 20 people a day come to see me. They

want to hear my voice directly, to see whether it is the same as in the

studio.

"They want me to talk to them as much as possible, but I don't

have much time to be with them."

Mongkul's voice dominates FM 90, the

Funcinpec party radio station, whether it be announcing the news or

advertisements, delivering impersonations or reading listeners' love letters to

sweethearts.

His largest audience is reserved for his nightly song

request show, where Mongkul talks and jokes with those who ring in to dedicate

songs to relatives, friends or lovers.

About 30 people a night request

songs, but patience is often required to get through on the

telephone.

Mongkul talks of one fan complaining that it took four months'

of trying before he got through to the station. Another said he could not help

but banged his telephone when he couldn't get through.

Callers often are

not so much keen to request a song as to just talk to him.

"They request

any song, but they especially want me to talk to them," he says.

"They

say my voice makes them happy. Songs are good to their ears, but sometimes they

make people sad."

Invariably, the conversation turns to love - or lost

love - and Mongkul is asked to play cupid.

"They always want me to give

them advice, especially those who suffer from heart break.

"So far I have

solved about 10 cases for couples, either to reunite or separate them. My

solution depends on situation from both sides.

"The problem [for female

callers] is that their boyfriends neglect to take tender care of

them."

Fans often speak ecstatically about Mongkul's talents, describing

him as the Emperor of Voice, the Angel of Voice, the Love Doctor and other

superlatives.

He says he tries to use his influence to spread messages on

the airwaves about subjects like the environment or Aids, because "this is a

more effective way to educate people than a straight educational

campaign".

As well as giving advice to lovers or hopeful lovers, he is

known for impersonations - children, the elderly and "strong" people are his

specialties - and wisecracks.

He receives about 100 letters a day, and

sometimes gifts like handkerchiefs or fruit from fans.

The attention

makes his wife both proud and jealous, says Mongkul, who has five

children.

He attributes his vocal talents to a gift of nature and a keen

interest in radio since he was a child.

Mongkul's radio days began at the

SiteB refugee camp in Thailand in the early 1980s, when he was recruited to work

for the Funcinpec radio station.

He later also worked as a voice dubber

for videos, and returned to Cambodia during the 1993 election

campaign.

He now works 17 hours a day, he says, and counts both King

Norodom Sihanouk and First Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh among his

supporters.

"If you lived in France, you would become a millionaire," he

says Prince Ranariddh told him.

His popularity is set to have another

boost when FM 90, which can now only be heard within 60km of Phnom Penh, expands

its broadcasts nationwide. The "Emperor of Voice" looks certain to attract more

devotees.

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