Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Young musician sings on in spite of disability

Young musician sings on in spite of disability

Brak Sophanna has found a career despite his disability. Photo supplied
Brak Sophanna has found a career despite his disability. Photo supplied

Young musician sings on in spite of disability

When he was just 10 years old, Brak Sophanna woke from a fever and realised that he could not move his legs. Paralysis was a devastating reality to face for a child – and even more so for one who dreamed of becoming a singer and composer. He gave up at first, he says.

Now, the 25-year-old has composed nearly 30 original songs, which have played on local television and drawn a few thousand views on his YouTube channel. He also teaches music at a charitable school on Siem Reap’s riverside.

Sophanna’s most popular song, written in 2015, is called Failure Is a Lesson. And his life experience is one he imparts to his students – even if they don’t face the same challenges. “I always told myself to move on and face it,” he says. “The more challenges you face in life, the stronger you become.”

When Sophanna was seven, his parents died and he and his brothers travelled from Svay Rieng province – where Sophanna was born – to Phnom Penh. There, they were adopted by a Thai couple.

Sophanna teaches at a charitable school on the riverside.
Sophanna teaches at a charitable school on the riverside. Thik Kaliyann

“We were happy for a time,” Sophanna says. “But that time was so short. Something bad always happened.”

First, Sophanna became paralysed, at the age of 10. He learned that he would never walk again. He stopped attending school, and retreated into his home. After a year, he began to accept the reality and decided that losing his legs was not, in fact, to lose hope. He learned to sit in a wheelchair. “I stayed all day at home thinking about how my life had to go on,” Sophanna says.

Soon, his adoptive parents returned to Thailand, leaving the boys behind. In 2001, Sophanna moved to an orphanage in Siem Reap.

The tourist town is where Sophanna started to find his calling, again. He quickly made friends and began to capture the dream he had thrown away. In 2011, he learned to play guitar, write songs and sing – and, eventually, to perform.

Sophanna still faces challenges. No longer able to sit upright in a wheelchair due to hip pain, he teaches and performs on a reclining wooden seat. He is at peace with his condition, but it haunts him. “Sometimes I still dream that I can walk again,” he says.

But he’s moved on and up. “I have dreams to achieve, like everyone does,” Sophanna says. “As long as a I am still breathing, I still have hopes.”

He is achieving them. In August, he released an official music video for Failure Is a Lesson, and gained an audience. “I put all of my painful feelings and memories into this song, so I’m glad people like it,” he says. He’s recently completed another song, My Life Story, that will be released soon.

Speaking about his future plans, Sophanna breaks into a wide smile. “I accept the fact that I’m disabled; but everyone should also accept that I’m a singer and composer,” he says. “If you would like to live happily, you should be happy with what you have.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom’s domestic milk still cannot compete with imports

    Price competition and a lack of confidence by consumers are the main reasons the dairy market cannot compete with imports, said domestic milk producers. The large displays of imported fresh milk at the Kingdom’s supermarkets present a cumbersome obstacle for local producers, they said.

  • ‘Pesticide-laden cucumbers’ kill two, poison 150 in Banteay Meanchey

    At least two youths have died and 243 others are being treated for vomiting, diarrhoea, breathing difficulties, dizziness and muscle weakness after they ate cucumbers suspected to consist of pesticides. The incident happened on Saturday, said Banteay Meanchey provincial police chief Ath Khem. He told The

  • Three dead, 13 injured in collapse at Siem Reap pagoda

    At least three people were killed and more than 10 others injured on Monday after a dining hall under construction collapsed at Prasat Kokchak pagoda in Kokchak commune, Siem Reap province. Provincial police chief Tith Narong said Military Police, soldiers and local volunteers had successfully recovered 16

  • Forest Harmony’s $18M luxury villas break ground in Kampot

    Local and French joint-venture Forest Harmony has broken ground on its $18 million “second-home” Luxury Holiday Villas project in Kampot province. Century 21 Mekong CEO and local shareholder of the project Chrek Soknim told The Post that the project will comprise 90 villa units covering 18ha on a 97

  • China Unicom enters Cambodia

    China Unicom, the country’s largest telecoms operator, has expanded into Cambodia to build optical telecommunication pathways in the Kingdom as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The Hong Kong-listed company officially opened its China Unicom (Cambodia) subsidiary on Monday to become the

  • PP-SHV Expressway on track for completion in early 2023

    The construction of the $1.9 billion Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway, which broke ground at the end of March, is on track to be completed by early 2023, Ministry of Public Works and Transport spokesman Vasim Sorya said on Monday. The 190km high-speed highway linking the capital to the