Radiodiffusion Internasionaal Annexe

Sinn Sisamouth / Ros Sereysothea
February 8, 2009, 7:34 am
Filed under: Cambodia

Sinn Sisamouth • The Favourite Belonging of The Heart

Ros Sereysothea • The Star of My Heart

From the first time I heard A2 on Paul Wheeler’s Cambodia Rocks compilation on Parallel World, I knew something wasn’t quite right. It didn’t hit me until many years later, but something in my brain made a note and filed it away somewhere… Thankfully, due to an onslaught of Khmer Pop compilations in recent years, I have since learned that the name of that song was I’m Sixteen by Ros Sereysothea.

By now, anyone with even a passing interest in the popular music of South East Asia and / or Sixties Garage music has probably at least heard of Ros Sereysothea and Sinn Sisamouth. They were the Queen and King of Khmer Pop. That is, until the Khmer Rouge overthrew the Cambodian government on April 17, 1975. And while the rest of the world is only now discovering their music, their popularity in Cambodia has never really faded.

Not too long ago, I stumbled upon a number of channels devoted to Khmer Pop on YouTube. There, you will find loads of songs by Ros Sereysothea and Sinn Sisamouth as well as others. But on most of the songs, they have left the original vocals and replaced the music with a synthesizer and a drum box grafted on top of older recordings. How long have Cambodians been recycling their pop songs?

Since most of Khmer Pop collections of Sixties pop are compiled from old cassettes that have been floating around, most being dubbed copies with little or no liner notes, the sound quality is lo-fi at best. And as a fan of the music, you come to accept that. There are no master tapes. They’re all gone. But because of that fact, on many of these compilations the vocals and the instrumentation sometimes sound as if they were recorded at different times – perhaps even different decades.

My suspicions were piqued even more when I picked up a copy of the Cambodian Psych-Out compilation, released on Defective / El Suprimo. Besides the spelling discrepancies (Ros Sereysothea is spelled four different ways in the liner note – Sinn Sisamouth seven different ways), is the inclusion of the song If You Wish To Love Me Don’t Laugh Or Cry. This same song was entitled If You Wish To Love Me on Cambodian Rocks Vol. 2, except their version does not have the xylophone (or is that a glockenspiel?) in the first part of the song. You can also tell that the guitars and drums have been re-recorded over the old track. When was this done? Who knows?

I suspect it was not when these songs were originally recorded. And now as I go back thru looking for clues in the liner notes of previous compilations, it was right in front of me all along. They are only briefly mentioned phrases like overdubbed percussion and keyboards and re-recording

I know that the people who put these things together cherry pick the best cuts. The songs they choose may not have been the most popular songs of their day, but to modern ears, they pick out what sounds to them like the best track. And I can tell you, having listened to some of the original vinyl records from Cambodia, as well as records from neighboring Vietnam and Laos, from that time period – I have yet to hear anything remotely similar to the psychotic sounds found on “Cambodian Psych-Out” compilation – especially the first track “Month After Month Always Busy, Can’t Go Out”. Now I am not talking about all of the songs of that compilation, or the others on Khmer Rocks, but for a lot of those songs the studio production just doesn’t match up. The guitars, keyboards and drums that were recorded during mid 1970s just don’t sound like that. The original songs? Yeah. But those searing guitar and keyboard solos? I am not so sure…

Hopefully, whenever the documentary Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten is finally released, maybe then will some of my questions be answered.

Thanks to Vatthana Lim for the Khmer translation.

Catalog number P. T. 111 on Bayon of Cambodia. No release date listed.



been following your blog for several months now and meaning to tell you that this is fantastic stuff your working on.
I wanted to let you know that the 1st song on Cambodian Psych-Out actually appears on khmerrocks comp Cambodian Rocks volume 4. credited to Pan Ron alone and without the opening dialogue, it’s called “When Will You Be Free.” Sounds like a different version of course, but very similar sound.

anyway, keep up the good work.


Comment by jesse

If you want the original songs with original music (without new music added) you should try to find “Wat Phnom Production”, I think this production is locate in USA and their CD never sold in Cambodia. You can ask Cambodians that live in the USA.

This is the link to Khmer oldies songs, most of them come with original music. some tracks are from Wat Phnom production.

I love very much the songs of Mr. Sinn Sisamouth.


Comment by ខ្មែរ

Lots of stuff available here:

Comment by malletdiction

As far as I can tell, Cambodian Rocks Vols. 1-3 are original recordings. Unfortunately the fidelity isn’t too great on those compilations.

Comment by food

thanks for your nice article, the album cover and those two songs. There are albums with pretty good sound quality out there, though most are out of print. These include the KRP label, the Wat Phnom collection, and Golden Butterfly CDs, all of which are transfered straight from the old records. Currently in print, has a number of albums which are basically reissues of the older albums, though no reference is made to the originals.

Comment by Jeff

I read carefully what you guys said.
i just make a little note to you.
i have listen to many different record and experience so far with vinyl. KRPM, 90% of all cds were remastered and changed original pith as well as echoed. some of Wat Phnom cassettes and others were a little better or less than KRPM. since then my favorite original song is always listing from vinyl.


Comment by oro

anyone has got the lyrics of the second song of ros sereysothea?? i just fell in love with her voice… or al least the name of the song in cambodian (or khmer) please!! i will preciate it a lot

greetings from chile


Comment by ignacio fontecilla

Very good article! I bought some of those watphnom production not as good as reaksmey pean meas reproduced from original master record by Mr. Sem Sovandeth. On the inside cover in Cambodian,” guarantee sound and music 100% produce by Reaksmey Pean Meas quality of the past original master such as Chanchaya, Lucksar, Kampuchea, Thasmeas, Porsmeas, Apsara, Voyho, etc.” these were left before 1975 in Singapore. The address, P.O. Box 9046 Stockton, CA 95207 Tel.209-476-8464, 209-957-9695 FAX.209-476-8148. I’m not sure about their existence.

Comment by Somono

What you mentioned is true. Those exist today are merely the remastering with addition of modern instruments which sometimes don’t go in harmony. There are also completely new remakes of the oldies in many recording companies, with HM as the leading one. But some original remastering also exist in Reaksmey Pean Meas production, and some on the site are also of good quality.

Comment by Sam

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