“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.” ~Bob Marley
The bi-cultural experience isn’t by any means an easy one. And when it comes to my music, I am a firm believer of creating sincerely from within. Since day one of my musical journey, I’ve vowed to remain strong, to have the courage to overcome all obstacles, and the wisdom to make the right decisions. The right decisions…a thought that has popped into mind regarding my rendition and music video for Chnam Oun 16. “Maybe I strayed too far from the original?” This question lingers for merely a split second, as I have no regrets. All I can do is give and hope that folks will listen with an open heart and mind. The intention behind this post is not to further fuel the controversial fire, but is simply for my own therapy.
Since it’s release I’ve received both praises and quite a bit of “Bochan” bashing from some of my fellow Cambodians. And as of late I learned that an interview piece containing footages of the music video was not aired in Cambodia as scheduled due to the perceived “cultural inappropriateness” of the video. I can’t say I’m surprised, but definitely disheartened - apparently, me dressed in an Apsara costume embracing my femininity and Khmer American identity (skin color and all) is viewed by some as more offensive than the advertisements for skin whitening/bleaching products and services that flood their screens and billboards. Although having whiter skin has always been a symbol of being upper class it’s a shame that we still hold onto those old classist ideals.
I’ve seen too many video comments on certain Khmer news/media sites about my being dark skinned, sounding “black” (aka “soulful”!), and how my not so typical style is destroying the culture. These comments are painful to read because it reflects a prejudice and ignorance that I wish did not exist in Khmer culture. During my recent trip to Cambodia earlier this year, I could not locate a skin product without a bleaching agent. The streets of Phnom Penh are filled with blondes and I’m not speaking of ex-pats. I recall flipping through a magazine and feeling sad to see how different today’s ideal Khmer woman is being depicted. She doesn’t look like my mother, and she doesn’t look like any of the Khmer/Khmer American women I know. The use of such products has become the norm and has not only made skin cancer a concern, but raises a fear that a whole culture will vanish completely. How do we teach our youths to think for themselves, to embrace their identity and love yourself as you are? My eyes work fine, my feet gets me from place to place, and my hands can feel everything it touches. My complexion is medium tan (which I love) and my hair is dark, traits inherited from my Angkorian ancestors. I hold onto these physical attributes as it gives me a sense of identity. When I look in the mirror, I am content….
Over the next few blog posts these ideas will be further discussed. Please stay tuned and feel free to join in and share your thoughts as well.
A year ago today, the music video for “Chnam Oun 16” was released. I hadn’t seen it in a while so today, I re-watched it. It made me feel proud not just for the accomplishment of the video itself, but for what it represented. Many months of planning, many stories, many lives, compressed into a few minutes, but hope and light lingers. There are hundreds of thousands of my fellow Cambodians currently residing in America - who all inspired this video. And from what I can see ; ), many have yet to see it… And so I’m asking you, my supporters to help it reach them. Please take a moment and watch the video and share with your friends and families. I’d love to hear what your moms and pops, aunties and uncles, and cousins, etc.. think of this rendition. Thank you for all of your support. May it too remind you of your resiliency and beauty. Bochan
If you live outside of the US & Canada, you can watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9syflhJc38