Pro-Opposition Singer Set to Record First Protest Album

Chan Kosal has come a long way since his childhood days spent sifting through trash and busking to a few passersby on the streets of Kompong Chhnang town to earn enough to go to school.

From these humble beginnings, Mr. Kosal has gained fame as a protest singer, having performed to thousands of CNRP supporters at last month’s three-day rally in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park.

The mass demonstration ended peacefully, but Mr. Kosal’s commitment to making music for the opposition political movement has only just begun, with plans now for a CNRP-themed album and a music video already taking shape.

“We are busy composing the songs and getting ready to record in the studio,” said Mr. Kosal, who counts the late pop superstar Michael Jackson among his music-making inspirations.

The 23-year-old, who has been left permanently disabled since contracting polio as a child, said the forthcoming album will include some of the crowd-pleasers from the CNRP rallies, as well as a selection of newly composed songs.

With four other pro-CNRP band members working on the album, the CD may also include opposition leaders’ speeches and live recordings from the protests.

“We are still considering wheth­er to include [CNRP leader] Sam Rainsy’s speech in the album,” Mr. Kosal said.

While there is no set date for the album’s release—which he says has the working title “CNRP Band”—Mr. Kosal predicts it could be ready to go on sale in about two months’ time.

Having composed his first CNRP song last year, Mr. Kosal said that nowadays “If I’m in the mood, I can compose three songs in one hour.”

“Before I compose a song, I need to have a good feeling,” he explained. “Some days I can only make a note.”

As well as Michael Jackson, Mr. Kosal says he draws direct inspiration closer to home, from pro-CPP artist Khemrak Sereymon, using the lyrics to his song “I Am Wrong” in one of his own pro-opposition tracks.

The proceeds of the record will be split between the CNRP and the artists themselves, who will use the money to fund future projects and hope to build their own recording studio, Mr. Kosal explained.

While there is no set price for the album, CNRP lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua said that the “generosity” of CNRP supporters means that the record should raise more than the $2,000 needed to set up the recording studio.

It is “a tribute to the [Cambodian] people who believe in freedom and justice,” she said of Mr. Kosal and his band.

While Mr. Kosal is becoming one of the more recognizable faces of the opposition music movement, he is still struggling to adjust to the transition from “normal student” to celebrity.

“Motodrivers know me; they ask for their photo with me and to speak with me,” he said.

“I’m very, very happy that, even though I’m disabled I can contribute through my singing and make people support the CNRP.”

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