Bosba PANH

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"It is mostly the voice". A full page article is dedicated to Bosba in the Cambodia Daily. The article is part of a special issue on the legacy of French culture in Cambodia. It discusses the complex relationship between the two countries from which Bosba is a living testimony. Receiving a French education, Bosba manages to take the best of the two cultures but is already embracing the English language to broaden her horizon.

BosbaPANH, a young star singer is the first Cambodian to take the “Highest Train in the World” to Tibet. She climbs the Everest BosbaPANH, a young Khmer star singer has traveled to Tibet in July and is the first Cambodian ever to take the “Highest Train in the World” from Chengdu to Lhasa and to climb the Everest. She then stayed in Chengdu for a month to practice her art with famous Chengdu artists. BosbaPANH is only 9 years old but she is not an ordinary little girl. She is a promising Khmer coloratura soprano and has just released her first album “Phnom Penh” last June. BosbaPANH, sings “songs for life” from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and an international repertoire. These include a number of well-known songs composed by King Father HR Norodom Sihanouk such as “Monica” and “Phnom Penh”. BosbaPANH has just spent one month in Tibet, traveling with her family to Lhasa, the sacred lake of Nam-Tso and the Everest Camp. The Himalayas are very important elements of the Khmer mythology as they are considered the center of the universe, source of our culture and art. That’s why, BosbaPANH went to the Everest, called in Khmer the “Phnom Himmapean”, to pay her respects and pray for the benevolence of the spirits to help her succeed in her art. She has amazingly traveled by the famous “highest train in the World” from Chengdu of Sichuan Province to Lhasa-Tibet only 9 days after its opening, on July 9, making her probably the first Cambodian ever to take the train. Her experience was great: “I was really happy,I played guitar and I sang all the way. We have spent a wonderful time looking at the beautiful landscapes. We had fun and I was a bit sick the second day because of mountain sickness, we were at 5000 meters high! I could use the oxygen. I felt fine when we arrived in Lhasa”. Tibet was a fascinating trip for our young star. She has been inspired by the magnificent Tibetan landscapes and the immaculate eternal snows from the Himalayas. When asked about what impressed her most, she said : “I had never imagined that nature can be so beautiful and immense. In Tibet, I could see so many shades of blue and green from the lakes, I was captivated by mysterious monasteries and stories of buddhas… and of course by the Everest mountain, this was so magnificent”. BosbaPANH and her brothers are also probably the first ever young Khmers to visit the Everest. Proud of their country, BosbaPANH and her brothers have deployed the Cambodian flag when they arrived at Base Camp 1, which is at 5,200 meters high. She sent postcards from the highest post office in the world, China Post, to her fans and friends. After she came back to Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan Province of China, BosbaPANH started immediately to practice with music teachers from the Sichuan School of Music to improve her singing techniques as well as her guitar skills. Known for their discipline and application of techniques, Bosba’s Chinese teachers have helped her reach new heights in her art. Why did BosbaPANH came to Chengdu ? BosbaPANH’s elder brother is enrolled at Chengdu Secondary School and her mother travels between Cambodia and Chengdu to manage a development program to support the growth of the private sector. It was then very natural for BosbaPANH to come to this city of China. What do the teachers say about our young friends ? Teacher Cui said “BosbaPANH has a beautiful voice, especially in the higher notes. She is a coloratura soprano. She is born to sing. She has come to learn the techniques on how to sing better, to breath. It was a wonderful experience both for her and for me, she is a lovely child”. On August 26, 2006, BosbaPANH has performed a friendship concert with her teachers to thank them for their dedication. She has sung a very famous Chinese song “Xi Jiang Kao Yen”, which is a high pitch song performed only by the best Chinese female singers. BosbaPANH is a child of many cultures, polyglot and has traveled widely in Asia. BosbaPANH comes from a family of Cambodian intellectuals and is the niece of the famous film-maker, PANH Rithy, whose films have been awarded international recognition and prizes at leading cinema competitions such as the Cannes Festival in France and the Mostra of Venice in Italy. His most famous documentary is “S-21, the war machine”. BosbaPANH’s CD is on sale in Cambodia and promotion is starting for the European market.

Phnom Penh, June 27, 2006 BosbaPANH, promising Khmer soprano coloratura, age 9 sings HRH Norodom Sihanouk and Sin Sisamouth BosbaPANH, age nine, has just released “Phnom Penh” her first album of songs that recall simpler, happier times in Cambodia in the 1960s. Then the country grew an abundance of rice, Phnom Penh was known as the Riviera of Asia, and Cambodia and its youth had a future of great promise. An elementary school student at Phnom Penh’s French school, Lycée Descartes, BosbaPANH, sings “phleng cheewit” or songs for life from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and an international repertoire. These include a number of well-known songs composed by recently-retired King HR Norodom Sihanouk in the 1960s and 1970s before decades of war tore Cambodia apart. In addition to his own compositions, “Monica” and “Phnom Penh”, the album also includes three traditional songs the retired king scored and popularized – “Violon Sneha”, “Slek Chheu” and “Samrong Chongkal”. BosbaPANH and her band “La Compagnie BosbaPANH” aim at reviving the type of concerts directed by young Prince Norodom Sihanouk in the early 1960s as well as the glamorous style of Sin Sisamouth, widely known as “the Khmer Golden Voice”. BosbaPANH explains: “When I sing the song Phnom Penh, I am so happy. I have the feeling that there is no pollution anymore, I can hear the birds sing, and I can stroll in the streets of the city without fear.” The musical arrangements are full of freshness and enable listeners to hear the sound of the instruments highlighting the pure voice of BosbaPANH. Her voice is mature and modulates without difficulty while effectively sharing her nascent emotions. A master singer from China recently judged Bosba’s voice to be the quality of a “coloratura soprano”, a term applied to virtuosi of the opera. “I am very surprised by the voice of BosbaPANH, it is very mature. Usually, children’s voice changes at the age of 11-12 years, but the voice of BosbaPANH has already transformed itself. She is born to sing and she needs to continue to work hard”. Sin Chaya, the son of Sin Sisamouth and Chhuong Bunly, the president of the Sin Sisamouth association have listened to BosbaPANH and declared enthusiastically: “Bosba has received a gift from nature. If she continues to work on her voice, she will be the female Sin Sisamouth in a couple of years”. BosbaPANH is only 9 but her album is full of messages. In contrast to the songs conjuring up images of a happier Cambodia where days go by with simplicity, BosbaPANH adapts a song known by all French pupils, Sur le Pont d’Avignon (on the Avignon Bridge), to evoke the drama of Phnom Penh’s evacuation in 1975 : “On the Avignon Bridge, everyone dances, everyone dances…. Under the Monivong Bridge, everyone dies, everyone dies… the Yu Vea Chon do like this, the Yu Vea Tai do like that” with sounds of drums that recall the guns shots of the young revolutionaries. Accompanying BosbaPANH are ten young instructors and graduates from the Royal University of Fine Arts. Kiry is the guitarist; Vattana, the flutist and conductor; Narath, the second singer; Samnang and Thach, the violinists; Sreang, the clarinetist; Sareyvann, the pianist; Deth the traditional drummer; and Vudh play bass guitar. On two of her songs, BosbaPANH is accompanied by her brothers, 15-year old Sibxy who plays piano and 5-year old PANHLauv who plays the flute. BosbaPANH worries about the fate of her music teachers and fellow musicians who, after five years of study, lost their school in July 2005, the Royal University of Fine Arts. It was taken over for a commercial development in one of Phnom Penh’s many lucrative government/private sector “land swaps”. “I worry that now Kiry, Vattana and Narath have nowhere to teach and play. What will become of them?” Besides her passion for music and doing well in school, BosbaPANH also practices judo, swimming and Khmer Classical Dance. She is a child of many cultures, polyglot and has traveled widely in Asia. As such, she is an example of today’s children who see far beyond their borders and take the best from many cultures, while studying and appreciating their own. BosbaPANH, who has never traveled to Europe also reminds young Cambodians living overseas not to forget the history, culture and traditions of parents. BosbaPANH comes from a family of Cambodian intellectuals and is the niece of the famous film-maker, PANH Rithy, whose films have been awarded international recognition and prizes at leading cinema competitions such as the Cannes Festival in France and the Mostra of Venice in Italy. His most famous documentary is “S-21, the war machine”.

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