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Musicians' lament is a hard day's night

Musicians' lament is a hard day's night

VETERAN leading composer Pic Punnareay, of AM radio asserts:"Life is not easy

for a Cambodian writer."

Writing lyrics from the age of 16, he was

already popular by the time he was twenty.

In the late 60's and early

70's, his compositions were sung by the greatest performers of the time, such as

Sin Sisamuth, Ruas Srei Sothea, and Pen Ron - all victims of the Pol Pot regime.

Now, few recognize his face, but many know his voice from the radio and

his name is still well-known and respected.

These days, as for most

Cambodian composers, his songs are generally commissioned by foreign production

companies at $10 - $20 per song.

There are many cassettes with his music

in the market, but because Cambodian cassettes tend to list the name of the

singer but not the musicians or songwriter, they are difficult to

find.

The money he earns from writing songs is not really enough to

support a family on.

"I need the money, but will not make something

without the quality. I want to keep my 'bon nom,'" he asserts.

Ironically, the sale of three songs is equivalent to a month's wages at

the radio station.

The musicians and singers who perform at the dancing

restaurants around Phnom Penh find the situation is the same.

Many hold

day jobs at the television or radio stations or teach at the Ecole des Beaux

Arts for a monthly salary that is the same as their nightly income with the

band, $20-$35.

"I was working with Care out in Pursat, earning

$180/month," relates Ra Tha, singer at the Ambassador hotel, "and I realized

that I can earn more in a nightclub than working at an NGO.

"It's a good

job because in the daytime we are free to do whatever we want.

Many

musicians have jobs during the day, but I just sleep. Then at 4 o'clock I go to

play basketball at the Olympic stadium."

In almost all cases, restaurants

require the band to perform seven nights a week, every week.

Ra Tha

confesses that he hasn't had a day off in over a year, "but it's still a

question of the money. I think you know about the economic situation in

Cambodia, so what can we do?"

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