A Change of Guard

សូមស្តាប់វិទ្យុសង្គ្រោះជាតិ Please read more Khmer news and listen to CNRP Radio at National Rescue Party. សូមស្តាប់វីទ្យុខ្មែរប៉ុស្តិ៍/Khmer Post Radio.
Follow Khmerization on Facebook/តាមដានខ្មែរូបនីយកម្មតាម Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/khmerization.khmerican

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Queen of Golden Voice: A Biography of Ros Serey Sothea

Picture: The beautiful pictures of Ros Serey Sothea during the peak of her musical career.

By Pich Sangvavan
Translated by Prum Seila (with some editing by Khmerization).
Courtesy of http://peterprum.blogspot.com/

If we read the book about the lives of famous Khmer Artists part one, which titled “Meas Srob Nokor” written by Seng Dara, we would have bumped into the story about the life of Ros Serey Sothea, Cambodia‘s most celebrated female singer. Mr Seng Dara devoted 73 pages, which is about half of this good book, to the life of Mrs. Ros Serey Sothea. Archived articles about the former singer Ros Serey Sothea describes about her personal life, whom the writer Seng Dara nick-named “Thida Mchas Koh Anlung Sne”( The Angel of the Island of Love). Ros Serey Sothea, who was a long time duet of Sin Sisamouth, the King of Khmer Pop, has left many musical legacies to this present day.
From the life of a miserable girl who went around hawking and selling boilt snails to make a living in the 1960s, Mrs. Ros SereySothea had found fame and made her reputation shines in such a short time in the Khmer musical world. While her musical fame reached its peak, she was also a miserable woman in both her love life and her family life. Her childhood knew happiness so little, because her father, Ros Sabun, re-married and abandoned his wife and left his 5 children under the care of his step-wife. Serey Sothea had to go and catch snails everyday to sell in order to feed and raise her family. While she was selling her boilt snails, Mrs. Ros Serey Sothea was always singing the songs of Mrs. Keo Setha and Mao Sareth. The villagers from her village came to buy her snails everyday because they loved her singing, they have pity for her, and wanted to hear her beautiful voice. No one could ever thought that Ros Serey Sothea, the poor snail-seller from Battambang, could have become such a famous singer. One time, there was a Khmer new song contest in Battambang province. Serey Sothea didn’t dare to enter the contest. However, the villagers who knew about her beautiful voice, had encouraged and motivated her to enter the contest. Ms. Ros Serey Sothea entered the contest and won the first prize for the whole of Battambang province. After that, Ros Serey Sothea was invited to join Lomhea Yothea music band which was founded by Colonel Chay Lay. This music band was directed by Sok Dinary and Dy Kanal and this band regularly played at Stung Khiev Restaurant in Battambang town. Fortunately, one day an Ayai (a theatrical sing-a-song performance) band came to perform in Battambang and went to dine at Stung Khiev Restaurant. When they heard her voice, they were so overwhelmed with her beautiful and powerful voice. Mrs. Saram Park , the lead Ayai singer, invited Ros Serey Sothea to go with her to Phnom Penh. Some documents recorded that it was Mr. Im Song Serm who was the one who brought Sothea to sing in Phnom Penh.
In Phnom Penh, Ros Serey Sothea became a singer for National Radio of the Ministry of Information. Please note that Mrs. Ros Serey Sothea became a singer after Mrs. Houy Meas. Afterward, Mrs. Ros Serey Sothea sang for the Mekong Pub, SolosSisSidorn Pub, Belair Pub of Pochengton. At that time, Sothea had made contacts with other singers who came from Battambang province and other provinces, such as Mr. Tol Penh, Mr. Sos Math, Mr. Meas Hok Seng, Mrs. Mao Sareth, Mrs. Pen Rorn, until she met Sin Sisamouth, the King of Golden Voice. From that time on, Ms. Ros Serey Sothea had devoted herself seriously to her musical career.
From the beginning, Ros Serey Sothea didn’t sing as a duet with Sin Sisamouth just yet. She sang only with Im Song Serm, like the song called “Rong Chham Merl Teh Plov” (waiting for only your coming) “Khmao Euy Khmao” ( Oh! Dark Skinned girl). Ros Serey Sothea was increasingly becoming more famous day by day. She had such famous songwriters/poets as Mr. Pov Sipho, Mr. Voy Ho, as well as Mr. MalarTy (Mao Malapy?) to write the songs for her. Some songs were dual songs, that’s why she had a chance to sing with Mr. Sin Sisamouth. Since then her musical reputation became very well known throughout the country. Anyone who sang with Mr. Sin Sisamouth, the most famous singer in Cambodia, will be known to the king (Sihanouk). The King-Father (Sihanouk) liked Ros Serey Sothea very much, and bestowed upon her a special title of the “Queen of Golden Voice Ros Serey Sothea”. During the 1960s, Sothea’s very beautiful voice had hypnotised and mesmerised many Cambodian listeners. Many men wooed for her love, but the man who had successfully conquered her love was a famous Khmer Muslim singer Sos Math, nick-named “the beautiful voice of a bird”, who already had two wives and who was the singer of the melodious song “Pha-nhoe Kong Chong Dai” (Sending the bracelet for a wedding gift). When Sos Math married Ros Serey Sothea, he was still legally married to his two wives. Her marriage life with Sos Math was not a smooth married life and it had only lasted for 5 months before they split up. Ros Serey Sothea had suffered mental and physical punishment as she was a constant envy of both of his wives, as well as domestic violence from Sos Math himself. In order to escape her mental and physical agony, Ros Sereysothea fled to her native Battambang. Sin Sisamouth, who was her duet and who was very close to her, went to Battambang and convinced her to come back to Phnom Penh by vowing to protect her. Since then Mrs. Ros Serey Sothea continued her career as a singer in Phnom Penh till her death under the Khmer Rouge regime.
The circumstances surrounding her death wasn’t clear. Some unconfirmed accounts said that the Khmer Rouge put her in charge of feeding and raising pigs and that she also sang for the Khmer Rouge. For some unknown reasons, in around 1977, she was taken away and executed.
Other unconfirmed accounts said that she was still alive when the Vietnamese invading forces arrived in Phnom Penh. A man who claimed to have helped free her from the Khmer Rouge’s prison claimed that, while his army unit was advancing with the Vietnamese troops, people who had managed to escape from the prison in Phnom Penh rushed to plead with his unit to go and rescue her. When he reached the prison in Phnom Penh he saw Ros Serey Sothea’s two legs and two hands were chained together and she was barely alive. His unit took her to a hospital in Phnom Penh but the Vietnamese doctors could not save her and she died. These accounts are of course unconfirmed but worthy of mentioning as they could give light to the life of our once “Queen of Golden Voice”. END
Note: alternative spellings: Ros Sereisothea, Ros Serei Sothea or Ross Serei Sothea.
Other articles on Serey Sothea's life click links below:

No comments: