March 30, 2020
LINES OF THOUGHT ACROSS SOUTHEAST ASIA
On March 20, 2018 Cambodia lost one of its great musicians when Cambodian Space Project frontwoman Kak Channthy was killed in a traffic accident. Two years on, her friends and family reminisce about the singer’s life.
Walking around the riverside venues of Phnom Penh, it would be easy to miss the Good Times Bar. About 20 people squeezed into the sweaty, narrow venue barely a few metres wide, watching as the band does a sound check on a stage barely big enough for the musicians.
That night, the Cambodian Space Project (CSP), hailed for rejuvenating the “golden era” of Cambodian rock-and-roll, took to the smallest stage in Phnom Penh to pay tribute to their late enigmatic front lady and co-creator, Kak Channthy.
Cambodia’s ‘Edith Piaf’ of the rice fields, Channthy was tragically killed in a traffic accident in Phnom Penh on March 20 2018. At 38, she had become a household name across Cambodia, leaving behind an influential musical legacy, remembered for her unique voice and fearless personality.
“She was a force of nature. She was somebody who embodies and epitomized all that is Cambodia herself,” Julien Poulson, co-creator of CSP, told the Southeast Asia Globe at a cafe in Phnom Penh, the night after the gig. “She was somebody of great beauty, but on the other side, had come from bitter, brutal hardship.” Poulson and Channthy had married in 2010, but their relationship eventually ended in a bitter divorce marked by disagreement years later.
Reviving the nostalgia for Cambodia’s lost divas and rock legends, CSP toured the globe spreading Cambodian music, collaborating with the likes of Australian musician Paul Kelly and American Dennis Coffey. For six years CSP toured venues around Cambodia, to music festivals and theatres across Asia, Europe, Australia and the US spreading their vibrant live performances. CSP also pressed Cambodia’s first post-Khmer Rouge genocide vinyl record.
But Channthy’s unlikely success was not always easy rock ‘n’ roll. Despite her infectious and happy persona, close friend of Channthy, Sopheak Sao, said her life was full of hardship from the beginning. Raised in extreme poverty, she also faced family violence at the hands of her loved ones… Continue reading Miriam Deprez’s article for Southeast Asia Globe HERE