Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ... But Khmer karaoke lives on

... But Khmer karaoke lives on

... But Khmer karaoke lives on

THE SUN is setting as Euk Tha walks to the front of an open-aired room on a dusty

Phnom Penh side street and grabs the microphone.

Tha, a high school student, had waited anxiously for nearly half an hour for his

turn to sing, a pastime he said helps him forget a painful break up with his girlfriend

two months ago.

Crooning the Khmer love song "Did I Do Something Wrong?", Tha's soft voice,

amplified by two loudspeakers, carries out of the karaoke house and reverberates

off neighboring buildings.

"My life has changed since my girlfriend left me," he explains later. "I

sing to relieve the problems I feel in my heart. I was shy before, but not anymore.

Now I know how to sing."

With hundreds of karaoke houses lining Phnom Penh's main streets, thousands of Cambodians

have got the singing bug. To others, they are a source of amusement or irritation

- depending on the time of day.

Karaoke was an instant hit in Phnom Penh and the provinces after in the UN-sponsored

1993 elections.

After the Pol Pot regime, and then the austere decade that followed, Cambodians struggled

to rebuild the basic aspects of Khmer life - Buddhism, family, community, song and

dance - that were nearly destroyed.

While foreign songs are also popular with karaoke, Hang Soth, art director at the

Ministry of Culture, praises karaoke as a legitimate and cheap way for poor Khmers

to revive their culture.

"People can just sit down with a microphone and sing without needing a lot of

equipment," he says. "They enjoy karaoke not just because it makes them

happy or relieves stress after work, but also because it is an art."

Karaoke-goers in Phnom Penh do not seem to have time to realize they are advancing

Khmer culture as they sing, clap, cheer and laugh over their beer and food.

"It's fun," says one karaoke fan. "It's better than sex with a prostitute,

which is expensive and risky."

Some karaoke houses charge as little as 300 riel a song.

"When I have tensions in my job or my family, I come here," Sin Karo, a

businessman, says at a karaoke house on Sothearos Blvd. "This is a happy place,

not a sad place."

Meas Sam Ath, 17, who helps her sister run the karaoke house, says their business

is down since the July coup. "I make about 30,000 riel a day, which is less

than before July, but I am still happy with my job."

Students are among Sam Ath's most frequent customers, singing both Khmer- and English-language

songs from the past three decades.

Songs by famous Khmer singers Sin Sisamuth and Ros Sereysothea, who died during Pol

Pot's reign, are popular at many karaoke houses.

"These singers died 20 years ago, but their voices are still sweet in my ears,"

says Mao Along, owner of another karaoke bar, which serves about 50 people every

day.

One of his customers is Sou Mamdy, a bodyguard to Second Prime Minister Hun Sen,

who says he spends 5,000 riel a day at karaoke houses.

"I like to sing slow songs from before the 1960s," Mamady says. "Karaoke

is a kind of cultural thing from me and is also a good way to practice singing."

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • Is Cambodia’s travel sector in for another cheerless holiday season?

    The travel and tourism sector was heaving back to life as borders started to reopen, promising a festive vibe for the holidays and New Year. But Omicron and other Covid-related issues are threatening to close the year on a bleak note ‘Seems [like] Covid-19 won’

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • Cambodia purchases 4 million Molnupiravir tablets

    Cambodia has arranged for the purchase of four million US-made Molnupiravir pills – enough to treat 100,000 Covid-19 patients – even though the current rate of daily infections in Cambodia remains low. The medicine will be distributed to state hospitals, pharmacies and private clinics, according to the Samdech