Cambodia's Tenor a Symbol of Its Re-Emergence

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From 1975 through 1979, an estimated 1.5 million people lost their lives in Cambodia under the murderous rule of the Khmer Rouge. Since then, the tiny Southeast Asian country has struggled to get back on its feet economically, politically and culturally. Tucked away in the capital city is a man who exemplifies Cambodia's slow re-emergence, a man with a natural affinity toward music who was given a surprising opportunity.

Sethisak Khoun was fascinated by sound and music from an early age. When the Khmer Rouge banned all but officially sanctioned music, Sethisak made a kite that produced a pleasing sound when he flew it at night.

After the Khmer Rouge fell, he studied music at Cambodia's fine arts school and then studied voice at Moscow, Berkeley and Italy. He performed all over Europe and the United States, but lack of funding has interrupted the ongoing training that professional tenors receive.

Now, he's back in Cambodia, putting on his own concerts occasionally and performing at Embassy receptions for a little money on the side. He continues to practice twice a day — an exercise that he likens to Buddhist meditation.



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