Ros Serey Sothear
(1948 - 1977?) was a famous Cambodian
singer during the nation's thriving cultural renaissance. She sang from a variety of genres but romantic ballads
emerged as her most popular works. Despite a rather short career she is credited with producing hundreds of songs and even starring in a few movies. Details of her life and fate during the Khmer Rouge is relatively unknown but it is generally accepted she did not survive.
Ros Sothear was born in 1948 to Ros Sabun and Nath Samean in Battambang
Province. Growing up relatively poor, Ros Sothear was the second youngest of five children and displayed vocal talent around the age of three or four. Her talent would remain relatively hidden until she was persuaded by friends to join a regional singing contest in 1963. After winning the contest she gained the attention and praise of the province and was invited to join Lomhea Yothea (a musical troupe) which regularly performed at Stung Khiev Restaurant in Battambang. It is believed that Im Song Seurm
, a singer from the National Radio heard of Sothear's talents and invited her to the capital, Phnom Penh
In Phnom Penh, she adopted the alias Ros Serey Sothear and became a singer for National Radio performing duets with Im Song Seurm
. Her first hit, Stung Khieu
debuted the same year and she quickly attracted fans with her clear and high pitch voice. Eventually she became a regular partner with Sinn Sisamouth
another famous singer of the era and they were a smashing success. She also performed with other prominent singers od the era such as Pan Ron
, Houy Meas
, and Sos Mat
The style of music early in her career is characterized by traditional Cambodian ballads and duets. She would eventually shift to a more comtemporary style by combining romantic ballads drenched in loss, betrayal, and death with Western instruments. This change of style is most likely be attributed to her traumatic marriage with fellow singer, Sos Mat.
Recognized as a national treasure she was honored by King Norodom Sihanouk with the royal title of "Preah Reich Theany Somlang Meas", the "Golden Voice of the Royal Capital".
By the 1970s, Sothear began experimenting in other genres. Her high, clear voice, coupled with the rock backing bands featuring prominent, distortion-laden lead guitars, pumping organ and loud, driving drums, made for an intense, sometimes haunting sound that is best described today as psychedelic or garage rock. And like the leader of the music scene, Sinn Sisamouth, Sothea would often take popular Western rock tunes, such as John Fogerty's "Proud Mary" and refashion them with Khmer lyrics.
Her career ended when the Khmer Rouge captured Phnom Penh in April 1975.
Sothear's personality is invariably described as modest and reserved. She is known ot have been involved in a few relationships throughout her life. When she arrived in Phnom Penh, she eventually caught the eye of fellow singer Sos Mat who was already legally married to two other wives but wanted her hand in marriage. This eventually came to be and their marriage lasted only short six months. Sos Mat became insanely jealous of her success and of the men who came to watch her perform. Traumatized by mental and physical abuse since she was a constant envy of both of his wives, as well as domestic violence from Sos Mat, she then fled to back to her native Battambang. It wasn't until Sinn Sisamouth vowed to protect her did she return to Phnom Penh and resumed her career.
Her next relationship was with the son of the famous Van Chan theatre owner. Their marriage resulted in a son but for undocumented reasons they divorced. She is also noted to have had a relationship with a parachutist of the Khmer Republic.
The Killing Fields
Like everyone else when the Khmer Rouge took over she was forced to leave Phnom Penh. There are many speculations to her fate ranging from a variety witnesses.
Some say Sothear was forced by Pol Pot to marry one of his assistants in 1977 who was said to have beaten and argued with her. She then disappeared under typically mysterious circumstances and is almost certainly dead. Other accounts believe that she died from being overworked in a Khmer Rouge agricultural camp.
Another account said that she was still alive when the Vietnamese invading forces arrived in Phnom Penh and died of malnutrition shortly after in a hospital.
Finally, her sisters insist that Sothear along their mother and children were taken to Kampong Soam province and executed immediately.
With the cultural upheaval by the Khmer Rouge, scant evidence of Ros Serey Sothear's life and the remain. However, many recordings have survived and have started to gain exposure through reissues on cassette and CD.
Songs by Sothea, Sinn Sisamouth and other Cambodian singers of the era, Meas Samoun, Chan Chaya, Choun Malai and Pan Ron, are featured on the soundtrack to Matt Dillon's film City of Ghosts. Tracks by Sothea are "Have You Seen My Love", "I'm Sixteen" and "Wait Ten Months".
The Los Angeles band Dengue Fever, which features Cambodian lead singer Chhom Nimol, covers a number of songs by Sothea and other singers from the short-lived Cambodian rock and roll scene.
- "Bopha Akasajal"
- "Chnam Oun Dop-Pramp Muy" (I'm 16)
- "Cry Loving Me"
- "Don't Be Mad"
- "Hair Cut, Hair Cut"
- "Have You Seen My Love"
- "I'm So Shy"
- "Jomno Pailin"
- "New Year's Eve"
- "Phey! Phey!" (Scared! Scared!)
- "Pink Night"
- "Pka Reige Leu Maik"
- "Pruos Reing Avey?"
- "Since When You Knew Me"
- "Srah Muy Keo" (One Shot)
- "Wait Ten Months"
- "Wicked Husband"
- "Chnom oun 15(I'm only 15)
- "Lort sene duong chan
- "Chross O'yadao
- "Somnerng Bopha prey phnom(songs of the jungle girl)
- "Sralmall sene khyum(Shadow of my love)
- "Chmreing sene khyum(Story of my love)
- "Alay bong cher net(always misses you)
- "Mdeth gall daltarm khyum?(why do you fallow me?)
- "Teurk hoe teu (river flow)
- "Bong ban sonyah(You've promise)
- "Klein jurp nersa (The fragrant that stick to my nose)
- "Soum ros khbere bong
- "Oun soum angvall (I beg of you)
- "Oun neul tharl rong jum (I will still wait)
- "Bomplete men ban (Can't forget)
- "Oun smak bong smoss
- "Oun sralnane bong nas(I love you so much)
- "San nuk alay
- "Men gor sralane bong(I shouldn't love you)
- "Rom Wolly Bully
- "Chup sralane men ban (Can't stop loving you)
- "Jum neu tharl jum
- "Oun jum bong cher neth
- "Pros bondoll chiet
- "Kum keng oun na bong
- "Rom cha cha cha
- "Jum loss sone
- "Bong tvere eouy oun yume(You made me cry)
- "Yume samrapp thngay ness
- "Sall anosaovary
- "Lane khyume teu (let me go)
- "Bondam stung keiv
- "Reastrei buth sene (missing lover of the night)
- "Pkah orchid
- "Auh! seneha khyume
- "Verjah boross (the word of men)
- "Popol gomah
- "Prote svamei
- "Oun soum phneu chheung
- "San klotpsa
- "Chhba mon reing khyum
- "Norok lokei(The sin of man)
- "Ahso kasalmerlerr
- "Rolok songka therm svamei
- "Thmnorng leakina
- "Thgnay lett oun sralnoss(When sunset,I miss u)
- "San chhok chhem
- "Pathchere sralnoss
- "Gonsan nisei
- "Machass sene oun
- "Chmreing avasane
Duets with Sinn Sisamouth
"Ae Na Promajarey"
"Chor Louch Jet"
- "Have a Caramel"
- "Jong ban pka avey?"("What flower do you want?"
"Kay Tha Kyom Jass"
- "Konarb snaeha" ("Love poem")
- "Konoch veyo"
- "Oh! snaeha euy!" ("Oh! Love...")
"Sronos Oh Jrov"
"Tiev Euy Srey Tiev"
"Tmor Kol Sromol Snae"
"Tok Bong Om Skat"
"Yaop Yun Thun Trojeak"
"Yerng Kom Plich Knear"