Known as the “King of Khmer Music”, Sinn Sisamouth was a wildly prolific singer/songwriter who made thousands of known songs—thousands. He was active from the ’50s through the ’70s and is believed to have been killed by the Khmer Rouge during Cambodia’s holocaust. It’s said that even more of his work existed, but was destroyed by the Cambodian government during their “cultural cleansing” campaigns.
The recordings that did survive are plentiful and pretty amazing. Sinn’s songs—and Phnom Penh’s pop scene during the the ’60s and ’70s in general—had heavy elements of psych, garage, R&B, and some funk. If you’ve heard any Cambodian comps, chances are you’ve heard Sinn. He was such a versatile singer and soulful in a way that is atypical in Western music; his voice wasn’t powerful or distinctive, but rather delicate yet spry. Even to foreign ears, he conveys emotion well. Here are a few songs from Sinn that blow me away. The first three are covers, the last is an original.
“Always Hope” is a killer Beatles cover. Dig the dusty drums and the weird organ in the background. You haven’t heard “Hey Jude” like this.
“Missing Tender Care” is a cover of Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)”. The vocals have this eerie echo effect to them.
“Women of ’72” is a rendition of the often-covered “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep”. Notice how Sinn does his own backup vocals, fluctuating his voice from high to low during the chorus.
“Beloved Girlfriend” is oddly quite haunting and is definitely a sharp turn from the one above. Personally, it might be most moving of the four.
There’s a wealth of info on Sinn Sisamouth so look around. If you have Sinn records (music and/or cover art) to share, please do!!! Here’s Sinn’s cover of “Sugar Sugar” I just got off youtube.