Sinn Sisamouth is the
first and the most famous Cambodian singer. He is a singer and composer, he has
a great influence, and has touched more hearts, than any other singer in the
country's history. Though he was tragically taken from this world, his soul,
spirit, and emotions are echoed in the legacy of songs he had bequeathed to us,
and for this reason, his life is eternal.
Sinn Sisamouth was born in 1935, the year
of the Rooster, in Stung Treng Province, Cambodia. He was the youngest son
of a proud father, Sinn Leang, and mother, Seb Bunlei, a woman
of Lao-Chinese ancestry. Sisamouth was now the youngest of their four
children, joining a brother and two sisters.
Sinn Sisamouth was a
kind boy, full of emotion and sympathy for others, and it is said that he
gravitated towards people with soft and sweet voices. Reticent in nature, he
visited the local temple and talked with the monks in his spare time. From
these monks, he learned Phalli and became well acquainted with Buddhist
scripture. He also enjoyed reading books, playing soccer and flying kites.
His father, Sinn Leang, worked as the
head of a prison in Battambong Province. Later he would became a soldier
during the revolution against the French, when Sisamouth was about six or
seven years old. At this point, a young Sisamouth was already enrolled in
school - he had begun to attend the Central Province of Stung Treng
Elementary School at the age of five. When Sisamouth was six or seven
years old, about the same time that his father had joined the fight against
the French, the boy developed an interest in music, and he started
learning to play the guitar.
Sisamouth was a good student who was well liked by both teachers and classmates.
His musical talents started to bud while he was in school, and often he would be
asked to perform at school functions. By the time he was fifteen or sixteen, he
had completed primary school and received his "Certificat D'etude Primaire". At
this time, he had an option of either joining the work force or pursuing further
education to strengthen his skills. He decided he wanted to study for a career
in medicine, and he moved to Phnom Penh for that purpose in 1950-51.
(At some point during Sisamouth's childhood, his father became ill and passed
away. Later, his mother would remarry, and have two more children with her new
During his years in medical school, Sinn
Sisamouth resided with his uncle in Phnom Penh. The decision to join this
profession was his alone, and was not at all due to any pressure from his
family. Needless to say, his parents were very much supportive of their son's
rigorous demands of medical school, Sinn Sisamouth still managed to find
time to work on his singing and song-writing. During these years, he rarely
went out because the money that he received from his parents was just enough
to cover his school expenses. Therefore, he spent most of his free time
studying music and working on his singing. With the support of friends with
similar skills and interests, he soon become well-known within the school as
a poetic young man with great musical skills and singing talent.
As his reputation grew across the capital, Sisamouth began
to sing semi-professionally, sometimes performing live on the radio and
sometimes singing at weddings and other ceremonies. Unfortunately, when his
family heard his voice over the radio, they were not happy. They wanted
Sisamouth to be a doctor, and they were worried that his music would conflict
with his studies. But it was Sisamouth's destiny to be a singer, and he
continued despite his family's disapproval.
In Phnom Penh, word was spreading about this
young talent. When Cambodia received its independence from France in 1953, the
new Cambodian National Radio Station asked Sisamouth to join the station as a
featured singer. Meanwhile, he continued to study medicine in the Pheah