at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Ros Sereysothea: រស់ សេរីសុទ្ធា

Ros Sereysothea (Khmer: រស់ សេរីសុទ្ធា) (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.

With the cultural upheaval by the Khmer Rouge, scant evidence of Ros Serey Sothea’s life remains. Her master recordings were either destroyed by the regime or deteriorated rapidly to the tropical environment due to lack of preservation. However, many vinyl recordings have survived and have gained reissues initially on tape cassettes and later on compact discs. Unfortunately many of these reissues are also remixed with extra beats usually overriding the original score. The vinyls from the master sources are thereby highly sought out by preservationist and collectors.

Nonetheless Sothea remained extremely popular even after her death in Cambodian communities scattered throughout the United States, France, Australia and Canada. Western interest in Sothea would not dawn until songs by Sothea, Sinn Sisamouth and other Cambodian singers of the era such as Meas Samoun, Choun Malai and Pan Ron, were 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 but rich Cambodian rock and roll scene. The advent of the internet, undoubtedly saved what was left of her discography while spreading and garnering interest in her music even after almost half a century later.

Biography | Ros Serevsothea Film | Khmer Music Page