Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Singer Yorn Young looks to build bridges with music



Singer Yorn Young looks to build bridges with music

Singer Yorn Young at a press conference on December 5 discussing his new album. Heng Chivoan
Singer Yorn Young at a press conference on December 5 discussing his new album. Heng Chivoan

Singer Yorn Young looks to build bridges with music

For Yorn Young, a songwriter and singer especially popular among Cambodian-Americans, music is not just about entertainment but also a means for reconciliation between countries.

Originally from Kampong Thom, Young began as a traditional Khmer musician before he was selected in 2013 for the OneBeat exchange program, a US State Department program that funds one-month residencies in the US for musicians around the world.

Since then, he has travelled the country, to states like Florida, New York and Minnesota, each of which is now the subject of one of the pop ballads on Young’s new album, called Lovin’ USA: Yorn Young’s Journey Across America.

“There are many huge buildings and skyscrapers, but there are many beautiful natural places such as mountains, lakes and forests,” Young told reporters last week at a press conference. “My favourite place is the sea in Florida, which should be very romantic for a couple’s visit.”

The song Beauty of Florida won him second place at the Hear My Song musical competition, organised by the Ministry of Information in 2014. Over the next four years, Young visited the US six more times, and wrote another 10 location-based songs, all sung in Khmer, like Good Bye, Chicago, The Memory of Minnesota and The Rose of Lowell, about the former mill town outside of Boston that is now home to one of the largest Cambodian diaspora communities in the world.

A few months ago, Young said, the US Embassy asked him to write a proposal for financial support to release the songs as an album, and to fund more of them in the future.

“The US Embassy continually looks at ways to highlight the ties between Cambodia and the United States, as well as support dynamic young Cambodians,” embassy spokesman David Josar said in an email last week.

Like many other musicians in Cambodia, Young is influenced by Sinn Sisamouth, the legendary musician of the 1960s and 1970s, who was known in part for writing songs about specific places, like Tokyo, Hong Kong and Paris. Young said his works are meant not only to honour his late musical icon, but also to improve Cambodia-US relations – which have been historically fraught and have again deteriorated in recent months.

“Music is a peacemaking instrument, because it makes people understand the cultures in which it is made,” Young said. “Writing Khmer songs about the US, I believe, will bring love to the two nations, and make their relationship great again.”

Lovin’ USA: Yorn Young’s Journey Across America will be official launched at the Cambodia-Korean Cooperation Center (CKCC) at 6pm on Friday, and 500 copies will be given away to attendees. Afterward, they will be available in some stores in Phnom Penh, and can also be ordered by telephone: 010 66 60 75 and 077 86 79 47, for $2 each.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Phnom Penh curfew starts today

    A two-week curfew from 8pm to 5am starts today in Phnom Penh, a day after a sub-decree detailing administrative measures to contain Covid-19 was issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen. “Travelling in Phnom Penh is temporally banned between 8pm and 5am,” said Phnom Penh governor

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Cambodia gears up for muted New Year festival

    The recent curfew and restrictions imposed in the capital and other Covid-19 hotspots were intended to break the chain of transmission, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said as municipal and provincial authorities issued new directives banning certain activities during the upcoming Khmer New Year

  • Covid-19 vaccination now obligatory

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on April 11 issued a sub-decree making Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for individuals unless they have a medical certificate proving they have pre-existing health conditions that prevent them from doing so. «This applies to all members of the armed forces and civil servants

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting