A pop song released by a popular Cambodian singer has been banned by the Ministry of Information over concerns it could lead children astray.
Sa Art Chea Nich, or Stay Hygienic – by Pich Sophea featuring Davith, a rap artist, and produced by Hang Meas productions – is a cheeky remix of a health-related public service song composed by Ngin Sokrava in 1982.
“Stay hygienic … Don’t play in the dirt … It can cause problems to everyone. We must be clean all the time. Then we are model children,” went the ’80s PSA.
In contrast, Sophea and Davith’s sarcastic lyrics lament the boredoms of school while suggesting students fake illness to get out of class.
“[In class] I pretended to get a headache … After the teacher allowed it, I went quick like lightening, past the school fence,” Davith says in a rap.
In a letter alerting broadcast outlets of the ban on February 24, Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith railed against the song as betraying the “educational mindset” of the original. It also lamented the “rap” element of the song, insinuating that it promoted poor values to impressionable listeners.
“He asks teacher to go home and skip class,” Kanharith wrote, referring to a character in the song’s music video. “Other students in the song are using hands to collect rubbish, which shows a lack of hygiene, in contrast to the original song. It negatively impacts children.”
In a speech at an annual meeting at the Ministry of Information yesterday, Kanharith took umbrage with the tampering of the public service announcement.
“Don’t steal kid songs to create new melodies. Keep it for the kids,” he said.
“If we’re talking about intellectual property, it’s wrong,” he added.
Ministry spokesman Ouk Kimseng said there would be “a consequence” if any radio or television station insisted on playing the song. However, he did not know “what kind of measure would be taken”.
The singer of Stay Hygienic, Sopheak, yesterday said she had “no objection” to the ban, but added that the ministry should “tell us what types of songs” were disallowed.
However, Ou Virak, founder of the Future Forum, criticised the ban as “cultural policing” and called it a plea for attention by the ministry.
“The Ministry of Information has lost purpose and are basically trying to continue to be relevant,” he said.
Additional reporting by Lay Samean