Before the singer-songwriter Sinn Sisamouth disappeared, he had become a fixture on radio programs and in nightclubs in Cambodia and beyond. For more than two decades, from the 1950s until the mid-’70s, fans praised his smooth voice and evocative lyrics about love and the Cambodian landscape.
He and his bandmates — most notably the singer Ros Serey Sothea — stood out for their versatile repertoire of jazz, rock ’n’ roll and popular Khmer ballads, among other styles. Sometimes they would use the melody of a Western song — the Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” for example — while adding orchestration and writing original Khmer lyrics for it.
They played a major role in defining the sound of Cambodia’s popular music industry, with Sinn Sisamouth emerging as one of the country’s most revered stars.