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

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro

  • ACLEDA, WU to enable global money transfers

    Cambodia's largest commercial bank by total assets ACLEDA Bank Plc and global money transfer firm Western Union (WU) have partnered to offer customers cross-border money transfers to 200 countries via “ACLEDA mobile” app. In Channy, president and group managing director of ACLEDA, said the June 22 agreement

  • Aeon, Micromax partner again for third mall

    AEON Mall (Cambodia) Co Ltd and a locally-owned Micromax Co Ltd have entered into a partnership agreement to develop fibre optic infrastructure for $200 million Aeon Mall 3, which is expected to be opened in 2023. The agreement was signed on June 20 between Masayuki Tsuboya, managing director of

  • Walmart plans to diversify stock of Cambodia goods

    Walmart Inc, the world’s biggest retailer, on June 22 reiterated recent plans to scale up and greatly diversify its purchases of Cambodian products, according to the labour ministry. This came during a virtual working meeting between Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Samheng and