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
Chnam Oun 16 - Bochan
Chnam Oun 16, also referred to as l6, translates to “I am 16”. It was originally performed by Ros Sereysothea, one of Cambodia’s most memorable artists during the great Khmer musical era of the 1960s and 70s. The lyrics of the original song is the story of a young woman turning sixteen, which marks the age of coming into womanhood. The young woman is full of curiosity, and is eager to experience what life has to offer. When I first heard Ros Sereysothea sing the words to this song, I felt she challenged the rigid gender roles of her own culture and time by showing that women can have the power of choosing their own experiences, as well as their suitors. Patriarchal societies like Cambodia have long treated women as second-class citizens. Like most cultures, women have come along way in making their voices heard. In our rendition of Chnam Oun 16 the theme of empowerment resonates throughout the music video and transpires from the empowerment of women, to the survivors of war and genocide, and of all people.
The video uses fashion as a medium to show the progress and coming of age of women, as well as an entire culture. From the traditional colorful silk attire to the famous Apsara headdresses of the Angkorian era, to the urban street wear accented with family heirlooms, we see how a culture has grown and remained intact since the diaspora. We partnered with Nomi Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating sex trafficking in Cambodia by providing jobs to women who are vulnerable to sex trafficking. Totes crafted by these women stating, “Buy my bag, not my body” are worn by many of the cast. By offering them a job crafting handbags, these women are empowered as they now have a choice at their own destiny.
By the end of the video, we see folks from all walks of life coming together sharing in their pain, overcoming their struggles, and in the end uniting. Pictures of victims and family and friends who we’ve lost along the way are shown and some come to life reminding us that we do not need to run from these memories but rather we must embrace them in order to move on. We carry their images because we know they will always be with us. There are references to the Angkor Empire to remind us of the strength of our ancestors, instead of dwelling within the painful memories of a lost generation.
The Cambodian music scene has progressed very little since the Khmer Rouge war, in large part due to the killing of many musicians. Over the last 40 years nearly no new original music has been written. Growing up in the Cambodian music circuit I heard the original version of the song at every musical event. Bringing this song back is not intended to revive a lost musical era, but rather as an agent of change. Familiar tones are heard in the song, in conjunction with hip-hop and reggae, the old meets the new and arrives somewhere different than both. Reworking a classic Cambodian rock song and adding modern elements to the song pays homage to Khmer musicians and at the same time develops new ideas and creates a distinct genre. The added verse in English has the same message as the original song, but speaks of a woman who grew out of the chaos and fear and found her own voice to be powerful and inspiring. It is time for us to look back not with fear, but with the inspiration to change.
My father, whom this video is dedicated to, was my musical life. I am able to keep my father alive through music. He is with me at every performance and in every studio. He carried me from my war torn home all the way to this moment. The video carries the viewer through the 40 years since the war, from the fields and the Apsaras to the rally in the streets of the urban world, where we are all equal and united. ~ Bochan
For folks outside of the U.S & Canada, view the video here- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9syflhJc38