March 20, 2011

ROS SEREYSOTHEA - Boiled Snail Girl: Chlangden Pops from Phnom Penh's Golden Voice [MR#2, 2011]

   
When Cambodia's King Norodom Sihanouk gave her the official title, "Queen of Golden Voice," Ros Sereysothea was the most popular female singer in Phnom Penh's psychedelic scene; but ultimately her life was an unhappy one. Born Ros Sothea to a large family in the Battabong province, Sothea's father walked out early on, leaving her mother struggling to provide for her five children. As a way to help support the family, Sothea sold boiled snails in the village and was often heard singing as she walked from place to place. In fact, her family sang and performed to earn extra money; Sothea and her brother, Serey, became known throughout the area for their powerful voices, even winning local singing contests. Sothea would eventually pay tribute to her brother by combining their names.

Changing her name when she moved to Phnom Penh to pursue a music career, Ros Sereysothea sang in a variety of restaurants and bars before catching the attention of Sinn Sisamouth, the most popular male singer in Cambodia. She recorded her first single in 1967 and a number of duets with Sisamouth, eventually catching the ear of the once and future King Norodom Sihanouk (Sihanouk was ousted in 1970 by the Lon Nol government, reinstated by the Khmer Rouge in 1975, ousted again, and reinstated in 1993). Starting in the 60s with the invasion of Vietnam, the US Armed Forces Radio broadcast pop and rock songs throughout the region, including Phnom Penh, where many people fled during the US bombings of rural areas in Cambodia. Inspired by these new sounds, Western-inspired bands popped up around the city, infusing traditional Khmer songs with Anglo pop hooks. The most hopeful time in Sereysothea's life was in the early 70s when she fell in love with a parachutist for the Lon Nol government. She experimented freely with different musical styles, starred in a few movies, and became a consummate parachutist with the help of her lover. After the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot took power in 1975, they sought to purge the country of Western influence. Sereysothea was kidnapped in 1977 and treated with great cruelty. She was forced to dig ditches, sing revolutionary songs for the new regime, and married against her will to one of Pol Pot's assistants, who savagely beat. Her whereabouts after 1978 are unclear, but there were rumors she was found shackled and starved in one of the rural work camps. Another account found her cleaning out the pens at an industrial pig farm and subjected to general humiliation. Regardless, she was never heard or seen from again and most likely died, along with her family, at the hands of Khmer Rouge.

The songs compiled on this collection are inspired by Sereysothea's haunting voice in light of her tragic life. It should be noted that these are not original recordings, but rather products of the karaoke lip-syncing phenomenon endemic to Southeast Asia. Chlangden pop is the pervasive and ribald practice of adding a drum machine track and sometimes other instruments over a classic tune to make the song "new" again. Primarily used in karaoke bars, these songs have been reviled, justifiably, both for their disrespectful treatment of cultural history and also for ruining many songs by drowning out the vocals and muddying the tracks. Just the same, it is almost impossible to have access, in Cambodia as well as in the West, to many of the original recordings. Culled from over 300 hundred Chlangden tracks, Boiled Snail Girl offers songs more or less unavailable in any other form. While far from substituting the originals, Chlangden appropriations like "saryka prot ku" and "lolok sor kut" showcase Ros Sereysothea's fearless experimentation while offering a transcendently mutant view into how classic Khmer singers continue to live on in Cambodian culture today. 

 រស់ សេរីសុទ្ធា
[Tracklist is provided in Comments in both anglicized and Khmer form; any help with translation would be greatly appreciated.]

22 comments:

Murky Recess said...

Boiled Snail Girl Tracklist:

1 samlagn chet oow (intro) - សំលាញ់ចិត្តអើយ (ពោល)
2 ka dik dol heru - កក្តិកដល់ហើយ
3 phen vie kormom - ពេញវ័យក្រមុំ
4 sra muy kev (srolang oun tov) - ស្រាមួយកែវ
5 rom pheuy phat - រំភើយផាត់ជាយ
6 lolok sor kut - លលកសគូថ
7 youk vachun vey sneh - ជើងមេឃពណ៌ខៀវ
8 phey arvey mles te - ភ័យអ្វីម្ល៉េះទេ
9 rom peung rompeung - រំពឹង រំពឹង
10 phamourng kor tea - ផាមួងកទា
11 kompong saom deil khgnom neuk - កំពង់សោមដែលខ្ញុំនឹក
12 cho cgeay neangvong - ជជាយនាងវង
13 som bong kao pukmoat - សុំបងកោរពុកមាត់
ao komping puy euy - ឱកំពីងពួយអើយ
14 up pei tee rub - អប្រិយតែរូប
15 nik eruy sen nik - នឹកអើយសែននឹក
16 mdaay khmek mokleng - ម្តាយក្មេកមកលេង
17 saryka prot ku - សារិកាព្រាត់គូរ

Holly said...

Murky -

I can't begin to imagine all the work you put into this! I promise I'll listen to your creation with the care & respect it deserves. Thank you.

øשlqæda said...

boss beyond blathering!

bobb said...

This is very interesting - thanks!

Flash Strap said...

Beyond righteous. Once again you have done the universe a gracious service.

Thank you, fellow.

gilhodges said...

A tremendous offering. Thank you so much!

victrolux said...

ahhh.. there iS hope for the human race. thank you.

Anonymous said...

Wow this looks serious

Smilin Tyler said...

I'm sure this was one of your resources, but check this out: http://khmermusic.thecoleranch.com/rossereysothea_music.html

peter said...

wow!
not to be a snob, but a lot of the time karaoke dubs take me out the song... in the context of an exceptionally curated collection like yours, however, they're really made fascinating.. great great work!

i'd seen your blog a couple times before but never gone in depth.. big thanks to doug at wfmu for letting me (and many others i'm sure) know what we've been missing!

said...

Thanks so much for all the trouble you've put into this - I was led to your post by UbuWeb on Twitter and to quote them "Holy crap! Listen to this: ROS SEREYSOTHEA - Boiled Snail Girl: Chlangden Pops from Phnom Penh's Golden Voice". Fascinating and wonderful information on the story of the life of Ros Sereysothe.

Occttaviani said...

Just got around to listening to this and was floored hermano. Appreciate the work.

Ksquared said...

For those wanting the original recordings sourced directly off vinyl/restored without additional beats visit the channels of natesterx, orocambodiamusic and Darrenvkham for over one thousand songs from many artists of the era.

Anonymous said...

So long time, but any can reupload this great disk? Many thanks for that. I visit the blog always.

Many thanks

Gary said...

Sad to see this looks no longer available -- the sample track was exquisite!

Anonymous said...

any chance of a re-up? link doesn't appear to be working anymore.

rahsaan roland cake said...

ditto on re-up request, and can anyone explain the deal with megaupload/ ilivid?

Murky Recess said...

Hi everyone, thanks for your patience. Boiled Snail Girl has been re-uploaded. Enjoy!

J said...

Could you please explain what exactly this is? Is this an official compilation? If so, what's the label? When was it released? Where did you buy it? CD or vinyl?

Or is this your own compilation? If so, where did you get the tracks? Why these tracks? Did you make the image yourself? Why the odd title for the compilation?

Thanks very much and thanks for uploading either way

J said...

Could you please explain what exactly this is? Is this an official compilation? If so, what's the label? When was it released? Where did you buy it? CD or vinyl?

Or is this your own compilation? If so, where did you get the tracks? Why these tracks? Did you make the image yourself? Why the odd title for the compilation?

Thanks very much and thanks for uploading either way

J said...

Could you please explain what exactly this is?

Is it an official release, or your own compilation? If official, what year?

Thanks

sensiriddim said...

thank you!!! it's great!