Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The music of Sin Sisamouth still magical

The music of Sin Sisamouth still magical

The music of Sin Sisamouth still magical

Schubert. Elvis. The Beatles. Sin Sisamouth.One of these things is not like the others.

Or is it?

While few westerners would know enough about Sin Sisamouth to group him with the

King or the Fab Four, Arne Sahlen thinks Cambodia's musical messiah deserves equal

recognition.

"He had Schubert's natural talent, Elvis' popularity, The Beatles' diversity,"

Sahlen said. "His sense of melodic structure was fabulous and he effortlessly

matched poetry and rhythm to music."

Which is why Sahlen is on a crusade to make sure Sisamouth gets due credit. A musician

himself, Sahlen has submitted a research proposal, "Sin Sisamouth, a songwriting

genius for Cambodia and the world," to Cambodia's Socio-Cultural Congress to

be held next month. He also plans to play eight of Sisamouth's songs at an upcoming

concert.

Sahlen hopes such efforts will help introduce both westerners and a younger generation

of Cambodians to Sisamouth, who was killed during the Pol Pot regime.

Even though his vintage photos dot music stands throughout Phnom Penh's markets,

Sisamouth remains an unknown to many of Cambodia's newcomers.

It took Sahlen some time to understand the importance of his music. While working

for the Cambodia Support Group in the early 1990s, he at first had trouble distinguishing

different kinds of Khmer melodies.

"For expats, it's a little like muzak," Sahlen said. "You may not

notice it."

But certain pieces grabbed his attention.

"Every time I heard a song that was especially marvelous, I heard Sin Sisamouth's

name," he said.

Studying Sisamouth's work, Sahlen became impressed with his musical dexterity. At

the height of his career, in the 1960s and 1970s, Sisamouth was skilled in writing

contemporary pop, but could also compose in Latino, folk and traditional Cambodian

styles.

"He was like a master chef blending from a huge spice rack for whatever the

recipe required," Sahlen said. "Wherever he went, songs just flowed out

of him."

While Sahlen said he doesn't have Sisamouth's vocal range, he'll try to do the musician's

songs justice in his upcoming concert. It can take 20 hours for him to learn one

of Sisamouth's pieces, in a process that requires listening to songs in snippets,

over and over again.

But "it's important for people to play and respect Sisamouth's work," Sahlen

said. "All Cambodians can have a shared pride in him, from government officials

to garbage collectors."

Sahlen's concert will be held at 3 pm on Nov. 6, at the Royal University of Fine

Arts North Campus (beside the old stadium). Admission is 5,000 riel for Khmers, $5

for foreigners.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen: Full country reopening to be decided in two weeks

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced that if the Covid-19 situation remains stable for 15 consecutive days from the end of the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, Cambodia will reopen fully, albeit in the context of Covid-19 whereby people have to adjust their lives to

  • Cambodia unveils new quarantine regulations

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Cambodia sets new Covid-19 quarantine rules

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Hun Sen: Cambodia set to fully reopen

    Prime Minister Hun Sen concludes that the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, during which many people either flocked to their hometowns for family reunion or gathered at tourist attractions across the country, has not caused an outbreak of Covid-19. In a special address to

  • Will Evergrande change the way Chinese developers do business in Cambodia?

    China’s property sector policy has exposed the grim financial condition of real estate developers including those operating in Cambodia, which raises questions over the viability of their projects and business going forward The dark blue netting draping over one of Yuetai Group Co Ltd’

  • Cambodia voted ‘world’s friendliest country’ in Rough Guides reader poll

    Cambodia ranked number one among the “World’s Friendliest Countries”, according to a reader poll conducted by London-based international website “Rough Guides”. Taking submissions through Twitter and Facebook, “Rough Guides”, a well-known travel agency and publisher of guidebooks, said the Kingdom “was by far the