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Rous Sereysothea

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1 Rous Sereysothea on 5th December 2012, 11:17 pm

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Ros Sereysothea (Alternate English spellings include
Ros Serey Sothea/Sothear) (b.1948–d.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. Among Khmer speakers, she is
commonly referred to simply as "Sothea."




Early Life



Ros Sothea was born in 1948 to Ros Sabun and Nath Samean in Battambang
Province. Growing up relatively poor, Ros Sothea 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 Sothea's
talents and invited her to the capital, Phnom Penh in 1967.




Music Career



In Phnom Penh, she adopted the alias Ros Sereysothea 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 Sin Sisamouth another famous singer of the era and they
were a smashing success. She also performed with other prominent singers
of the era such as Paen Ron, Houy Meas, and 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".

The style of music early in her career is characterized by traditional
Cambodian ballads and duets. She would eventually shift to a more
contemporary 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.

By the 1970s, Sothea 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, Sin Sisamouth, Sothea would often take popular Western rock
tunes, such as John Fogerty's "Proud Mary" and refashion them with Khmer
lyrics.
Her career would continue until the Khmer Rouge captured the beleaguered capital, Phnom Penh in April 1975.




Personal life



Sothea's personality is invariably described as modest and reserved.
She is known to 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 but their
marriage lasted only a short six months. Sos Mat became insanely jealous
of her success and of the men who came to watch her perform.
Traumatized by the emotional 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 Sin
Sisamouth vowed to protect her did she return to Phnom Penh to resume
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 separated. It is believed a general of Lon Nol's government who was
insanely in love with her, kidnapped and held her against her will. 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 regarding her fate from a
variety witnesses.

Some say Sothea was forced by Pol Pot to marry one of his assistants in
1977 who was said to have argued with her and beaten her often. 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 Sothea along their mother and children
were taken to Kampong Som province and executed immediately following
the Fall of Phnom Penh.

Finally, her sisters insist that Sothea along their mother and children
were taken to Kampong Som province and executed immediately following
the Fall of Phnom Penh.


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