Bochan
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Bochan

Oakland, California, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Oakland, California, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
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"Full Monday Moon Brings a New Voice to Contemporary Khmer Identity"

It’s said that, in the best of art, form is an extension of content. What the artist is expressing is informed by how the artist expresses it.

In this regard, Oakland-based singer Bochan’s new album Full Monday Moon is nothing short of success. The 11-track LP seeks to address and inspire contemporary, international Khmer culture. In its lyrics, genres and execution, the album achieves these goals, and then some.

“I want to be an agent of change,” Bochan told us recently when we caught up with her over coffee. “I want to break trends; I want to challenge the expectations of what a Cambodian female artist is.”

Encountering Full Monday Moon, one immediately understands: there’s no way this artist will do anything but challenge.

First, there’s her look: decidedly American, with bedazzled fingernails and an easy smile, but also darker-skinned and more solid than her willowy, pale karaoke counterparts. Then, there’s Bochan’s voice: soulful and deep, unlike the high pitches that have dominated Cambodian music for decades.

Then there’s the album’s genre—or rather, the genres. Full Monday Moon‘s tracks range from electronic to pop to urban alternative, while subject matter spans from the highly personal and the political. Sentimental love ballads intersperse beat-heavy tracks with vocals as powerful as their subject matter: everything from the struggles of male refugees to redefine their own masculinity, to the stifling expectations placed on the second-generation, to the shortcomings of inner-city US schools.

Full Monday Moon captures the Cambodian-American experience, a conglomeration of varied cultural influences. The album isn’t purely one thing, and neither is contemporary Khmer identity—it’s a heady, explosive mix that creates something new, both loyal to its influences and different from them. No track may better capture this tension than Bochan’s cover of “Chnam Oun 16?—a ground-breaking reimagining that translates a classic pre-war song into the modern-day, post-war reality. Indeed, the album’s most successful tracks, such as “Believe” and “Love Me,” are those that are born from that tension—proving again that the personal is political.

Bochan is unapologetic about this. When the video for her cover of “Chnam Oun 16? posted recently on KI Blog, Bochan came under fire for being too untraditional—for “destroying our culture” and “sounding black.”

To this, she shrugged and gave a half-smile. “It’s like my song ‘Love Me’: ‘I can’t make them love me,’” she quoted. “In ‘Chnam Oun 16,’ I was trying to use something familiar to introduce something new, both to Cambodian and Western audiences. I want to bring Cambodian culture to a Western audience, to move us from being victims to survivors. And I also want to inspire the younger generation to create new music and art.”

It’s a tall order, but one Full Monday Moon meets.
- Cambodian Alliance for the Arts


"Music Video: "Chnam Oun 16" by Bochan"

This came my way several weeks ago, but I only recently had a chance to look at it. Check out this cool music video for "Chnam Oun 16" by Bay Area Cambodian American indie musician Bochan Huy, featuring Raashan Ahamd of the Crown City Rockers. Nicely produced, and blending language, culture and history on top of a hot beat, she's taking Khmer music into the 21st century. See for yourself:

I'm told that the song is remake of a Cambodian rock anthem. I can't even understand Khmer, but I'm feeling this. For more information on Bochan and her music, go to the SoundVise website here and check out her MySpace page here.
- Angry Asian Man


"Bochan's "Chnam Oun 16" Music Video of Empowerment"

Bochan is a singer/songwriter from Oakland, California and her music video “Chnam Oun 16” (I am 16) is a cover of a 70’s Cambodian song by Ros Sereysothea about the coming of age for a woman.

Her version has a hip hop and post-modern rock feel with a few English lines here and there. The video starts out with flashbacks of the war in Cambodia and photographs of Cambodian immigrants. Bochan appears dressed head to toe in Cambodian fashion, wearing a “Sampot Chorabap,” a long Cambodian skirt.

Hearing Bochan sing the line, “They tried to stop us, they tried to rob us…I survived, we survived,” really hit a nerve in me. Though the Khmer song is originally about a coming of age for a woman, this plays on a lot of emotion. It’s also about staying true to your identity, even if people should ever deny you.

Bochan’s soulful voice isn’t the only thing different about this cover; half way into the song, although not present is rapper Raashan Ahmad, who adds even more flavor. As the video progresses, the message of this video becomes quite clear. Her journey through the jungle to what seems like a stage. Shortly after, a group of people gather, holding pictures of their lost loved ones. A few words come to my mind when I saw this video: not just female empowerment but self-empowerment, pride, and remembering where you came from.

Overall, this video is supposed to be a cover of a coming of age song but highlights a few problems that we face every day. I found this to be one of the most refreshing videos I’ve seen made by an independent Asian artist. In the end, Bochan dedicates this video to her late father who passed away in 2006, bringing the song into a full circle.

- 8asians.com


"Bochan Huy's neo-Cambodian rock just Rocks!"

Her musical inspiration comes from an unexpected place - 1970s Cambodian psychedelic mixed with rock, hip hop, funk and soul - but this unpredictable blend of musical genres produces a sound that is extraordinarily powerful, moving and wistful, all at the same time.
Bochan Huy, the Cambodian American singer songwriter from Oakland will be performing her unique brand of music at San Francisco's Asian Heritage Street Celebration on Saturday, May 18.

She fled Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge in 1980 along with her family and settled in Oakland, CA. Bochan grew up in a musical family (her father played guitar and her siblings formed a band) performing 1970s Cambodian psychedelic rock standards of the 1960s and 70s - songs that were heavily influenced by music introduced by American soldiers.

But Bochan fluently interprets these familiar rock songs with a new twist, introducing strains of electro hip-hop and soul, to create a genre that cannot be pigeonholed - urban, alternative, indie or pop - the listener gets to decide!

To hear more Bochan Huy, click on http://bochan.bandcamp.com/

To read about Bochan's journey, click on this story from NPR
http://www.kqed.org/news/story/2013/05/15/120854/oakland_performer_unites_cambodian_transplants_with_music?category=bay+area
- TalkingCranes.com


"Home in her song"

One of the most striking tracks off Bochan Huy’s debut album, Full Monday Moon, sheds light on what the up and coming singer-songwriter brings to the table: hip-hop beats and soulful, socially conscious English vocals layered over the Khmer chorus and guitar riffs of one of Cambodia’s most beloved rock‘n’roll classics.
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The song, a re-interpretation of iconic songstress Ros Sereysothea’s Cham Oun 16 (I am 16), is a thoughtful blend of old and young, memory and creativity, the United States and Cambodia; musical fruit born of Phnom Penh native Bochan’s experience as a refugee raised in the US.

“When I first heard this song, I saw a woman coming of age who wants to pick her own destiny,” says Bochan, whose family fled Phnom Penh for a Thai refugee camp in 1980 and, after many moves, eventually settled in Oakland, California.

While Cham Oun 16 is the innocent tale of a young woman who wonders, “What is life?/What is love?”, Bochan’s additional self-penned vocals speak to her own life story: “I am a Khmer woman/They tried to stop us/ They tried to rob us/ Like an Apsara/ I survived.”

“I feel like I’m coming of age. I’m claiming my identity as a Khmer woman. And furthermore, Cambodian culture is finding its identity and reconstructing itself,” says the 32 year-old, for whom the choice of a Ros Seyresothea song was anything but an accident.

Like many artists of her time, Ros Sereysothea, a star in the thriving Cambodian rock scene of the 1960s and 70s, disappeared during the Khmer Rouge era. Though her original recordings were destroyed by the regime, her music has been rescued and regularly covered by artists wanting to pay tribute to Cambodian rock’s Golden Era.

Bochan is apprehensive that some older Cambodians may dislike the fact that she didn’t “stay true” to the song’s original sound, but she is confident in her message.

“I’m not trying to resurrect a lost musical era or anything like that. I want to honour Ros Sereysothea and keep the song as it is. But I also want to use it to remind people that it’s time to create original music,“ says Bochan, pointing to the generic Karaoke ballads, Korean pop sound-alikes, and Western imitations that saturate the Cambodian music industry.

While visiting Cambodia for her brother’s wedding, Bochan was invited to perform earlier this month on Bayon TV. One of the other performers on the program, she says, simply could not comprehend that she had written her own song.

Yet when asked, the singer has a hard time defining her music, opting for “indie pop” with elements of soul, R&B, jazz and rock. In the end she settles for describing it as a “fusion” style.

Bochan began her singing career at an early age as a singer in her father’s band, which would often perform for what she calls the “Cambodian circuit” of Khmer immigrant community events and weddings. The family’s home was a hub for Cambodian musicians, including well-known exiles living in the US.

“That’s where I learned to speak the language and eat the food. It’s where I was exposed to the music and culture,” she says, adding that the Cambodian circuit gave her a taste for both Western (through a consistent repertoire of Whitney Houston and Celine Dion covers) and Cambodian music styles like the Khmer rock her father loved.

“I went back and forth between the two, and it helped me develop my own style, which is an East meets West sound, and that’s what I try to do with this album,” she says.

“Even though there’s not that many traditional Cambodian sounds, there are certain stylistic features of the vocals that I would attribute to being Khmer. I have a very strong vibrato, that’s something you don’t hear very much in American music.”

Indeed, Cham Oun 16 is the only song on Full Monday Moon in Khmer. The rest of the album, written fully by Bochan herself, is in English. Many of the songs are gentle love ballads with piano accompaniment, while others are more political.

The song Believe, for example, was influenced by Bochan’s time as a case worker for a mental health organisation in Oakland.

She became aware of what she calls the “deconstruction of the Cambodian family”, brought about by migration and post-traumatic stress, and the economic and social situation that refugees faced after arriving in the US.

The fact that the content of Bochan’s songs is itself a product of identities and experiences that straddle the two countries, speaks to where she sees herself fitting within Cambodia’s burgeoning art scene.

It’s only during this recent month-and-half-long stint in Cambodia, she says, that she’s felt herself belonging to the wave of young Cambodians, once scattered across the world by the devastation of the Khmer Rouge and the ensuing civil conflict, that are now returning to the country and contributing to its cultural reconstruction. “People are coming back to the motherland from wherever they migrated to,” she says, admitting that it is mainl - Phnom Penh Post


"Cambodian-American Singer Fuses Khmer Classics with Oakland Beats"

Cambodia was a pretty cool place to be in the 1960s and early ’70s. Psychedelic rock music was introduced to the country by North American soldiers during the Vietnam War. But when the communist Khmer Rouge took over the country in 1975, they killed all the singers and banned music (and books and dancing and poetry and pretty much anything fun or intellectually stimulating). Not surprisingly, many fled the country to avoid execution, but they still hold onto those rock songs as memories of better times.

Like Bochan Huy and her family. Bochan, now 33 and a singer in Oakland, almost died before coming to the U.S. She says her family fled Cambodia as refugees in 1980. They had to cross the jungle to the Thai border in the middle of the night, while dodging bullets from Vietnamese troops. Bochan’s mom, Sein Huy, says Bochan was one month at all the time.


Bochan family in the 1980s. Bochan is sitting to the right of her father.
“I had to cover her mouth because she cry, she’s a baby,” Bochan’s mom remembers. “And we don’t want any noise while we try to escape. That’s why she became really sick when we get to the camp. Even to dream I don’t really want to dream about it, it’s really hard.”

Bochan’s family eventually made their way to Oakland and, all through their transition time, Bochan’s dad would have a guitar in hand, playing the psychedelic rock music of his youth.

Bochan’s dad was an accountant by trade, but he always played guitar or sang in a band. Like in 1987, when they were living in Denver, he recorded the song “Hello-Hi” (which is totally amazing):



Bochan eventually joined her father’s band as a singer, and her brother played keyboards. They’d play at weddings, birthdays, community events… anywhere Cambodians gathered. Bochan would sing cover songs of American classics, and someone else would sing the Cambodian songs. But they would never try to mix the Cambodian songs with the English ones or change any of the music up really. Bochan says people were comfortable with those familiar songs.


Bochan started her career as a singer in her father’s band.
“If I came and sang one of my own songs, I would definitely have a lot of blank stares coming back at me,” said Bochan.

Soon after Bochan finished high school, her dad got sick with liver cancer and passed away. Bochan decided to make the leap and release her own solo album in honor of her father. The album, called “Full Moon Monday,” is a blend of hip hop, soul music, and the classic Cambodian rock that Bochan grew up with, like the song “I Am 16.”

Here’s how that song originally sounded, when it was sung by Cambodian singer Ros Sereysothea in the 1970s:


Bochan says Ros Sereysothea was extremely famous and at the height of her career before the Khmer Rouge took over and began a genocide, killing her and most other singers and intellectuals. That’s why holding onto the music was so important for the Cambodian diaspora. Bochan says the problem was that songs like “I Am 16? was all her family ever played.

Bochan wanted to cover “I Am 16? on her first album, but she wanted to do it differently and create new memories with the song. Here’s how it turned out (warning…there’s an ad before the song, but it’s a great song and equally great music video):


The song features local hip hop artist Raashan Ahmad. Bochan says she wanted it to appeal to the Cambodian youth born raised in the Bay Area.

“To put hip hop to it, to give them something familiar, where they can connect to it, that closes the generation gap between the first generation and second generation Cambodian refugees,” Bochan says.

Bochan’s song “Believe” looks at the struggles of refugee families. She wrote they lyrics after working as a counselor for at-risk Cambodian kids. Bochan says unlike her own family, who were educated in Cambodia’s capital city, she was working with Cambodian refugees who came from poor, rural villages. Parents would often be illiterate in the own language and unable to thrive in urban environments like Oakland.



“We’re looking at immigrant families where the parents don’t speak English and the kids,” Bochan says. “So now there’s a discord between mom and dad. There’s already a culture gap, a generation gap, right? And now you don’t have the one thing to keep the family together: language.”

Bochan is coming out with a new EP this year. It’s a blend of dance music, jazz, funk, but it also includes a cover of one of her dad’s songs from the 1980s. It’s pretty much a mash-up of Bochan’s two cultures. Bochan says she wouldn’t do it any other way because her dad always used to tell her that, as a Cambodian raised in American, she gets to create her own music and her own identity.


(Photo Credit: Health Orchard)
“I get to choose my own culture. And in doing so I get to choose the best of both worlds, is what he used to say. There are wonderful things about American culture, and there are things that aren’t so great abo - KQED Public Radio


"Cambodian-American Singer Fuses Khmer Classics with Oakland Beats"

Cambodia was a pretty cool place to be in the 1960s and early ’70s. Psychedelic rock music was introduced to the country by North American soldiers during the Vietnam War. But when the communist Khmer Rouge took over the country in 1975, they killed all the singers and banned music (and books and dancing and poetry and pretty much anything fun or intellectually stimulating). Not surprisingly, many fled the country to avoid execution, but they still hold onto those rock songs as memories of better times.

Like Bochan Huy and her family. Bochan, now 33 and a singer in Oakland, almost died before coming to the U.S. She says her family fled Cambodia as refugees in 1980. They had to cross the jungle to the Thai border in the middle of the night, while dodging bullets from Vietnamese troops. Bochan’s mom, Sein Huy, says Bochan was one month at all the time.


Bochan family in the 1980s. Bochan is sitting to the right of her father.
“I had to cover her mouth because she cry, she’s a baby,” Bochan’s mom remembers. “And we don’t want any noise while we try to escape. That’s why she became really sick when we get to the camp. Even to dream I don’t really want to dream about it, it’s really hard.”

Bochan’s family eventually made their way to Oakland and, all through their transition time, Bochan’s dad would have a guitar in hand, playing the psychedelic rock music of his youth.

Bochan’s dad was an accountant by trade, but he always played guitar or sang in a band. Like in 1987, when they were living in Denver, he recorded the song “Hello-Hi” (which is totally amazing):



Bochan eventually joined her father’s band as a singer, and her brother played keyboards. They’d play at weddings, birthdays, community events… anywhere Cambodians gathered. Bochan would sing cover songs of American classics, and someone else would sing the Cambodian songs. But they would never try to mix the Cambodian songs with the English ones or change any of the music up really. Bochan says people were comfortable with those familiar songs.


Bochan started her career as a singer in her father’s band.
“If I came and sang one of my own songs, I would definitely have a lot of blank stares coming back at me,” said Bochan.

Soon after Bochan finished high school, her dad got sick with liver cancer and passed away. Bochan decided to make the leap and release her own solo album in honor of her father. The album, called “Full Moon Monday,” is a blend of hip hop, soul music, and the classic Cambodian rock that Bochan grew up with, like the song “I Am 16.”

Here’s how that song originally sounded, when it was sung by Cambodian singer Ros Sereysothea in the 1970s:


Bochan says Ros Sereysothea was extremely famous and at the height of her career before the Khmer Rouge took over and began a genocide, killing her and most other singers and intellectuals. That’s why holding onto the music was so important for the Cambodian diaspora. Bochan says the problem was that songs like “I Am 16? was all her family ever played.

Bochan wanted to cover “I Am 16? on her first album, but she wanted to do it differently and create new memories with the song. Here’s how it turned out (warning…there’s an ad before the song, but it’s a great song and equally great music video):


The song features local hip hop artist Raashan Ahmad. Bochan says she wanted it to appeal to the Cambodian youth born raised in the Bay Area.

“To put hip hop to it, to give them something familiar, where they can connect to it, that closes the generation gap between the first generation and second generation Cambodian refugees,” Bochan says.

Bochan’s song “Believe” looks at the struggles of refugee families. She wrote they lyrics after working as a counselor for at-risk Cambodian kids. Bochan says unlike her own family, who were educated in Cambodia’s capital city, she was working with Cambodian refugees who came from poor, rural villages. Parents would often be illiterate in the own language and unable to thrive in urban environments like Oakland.



“We’re looking at immigrant families where the parents don’t speak English and the kids,” Bochan says. “So now there’s a discord between mom and dad. There’s already a culture gap, a generation gap, right? And now you don’t have the one thing to keep the family together: language.”

Bochan is coming out with a new EP this year. It’s a blend of dance music, jazz, funk, but it also includes a cover of one of her dad’s songs from the 1980s. It’s pretty much a mash-up of Bochan’s two cultures. Bochan says she wouldn’t do it any other way because her dad always used to tell her that, as a Cambodian raised in American, she gets to create her own music and her own identity.


(Photo Credit: Health Orchard)
“I get to choose my own culture. And in doing so I get to choose the best of both worlds, is what he used to say. There are wonderful things about American culture, and there are things that aren’t so great abo - KQED Public Radio


"Cambodia's Lost Psych Rock Scene Finds Rebirth in Contemporary Acts"

Dengue Fever, Bochan Huy and Indradevi are just three of the unique contempotary artists spearheading a new Cambodian-inspired music scene, one that is bringing back the legacy of '60s Khmer rock in a myriad of different ways.

Ethan Holtzman first heard the smooth sounds of the “King of Khmer Music” while riding in a cramped village truck from Siem Riep to Phnom Penh in the late 1990s.

A friend who had accompanied him on his Southeast Asian travels was sitting in the front seat, sick with Dengue Fever, and every time Holtzman poked his head into the cab check on him, he couldn’t help but be drawn to the unique sounds of Sinn Sisamouth’s songs blaring from the radio.

Oh Battambang, the center of my heart. It was hard to say goodbye. Since the day I’ve been away from you, I worry and think about it every time.

Holtzman had the driver scribble the names of Sisamouth and other Cambodian singers on a piece of paper and before he returned home to the States, he had purchased a library’s worth of cassettes, all of them recorded more than 30 years ago, before the brutal Khmer Rouge eradicated the country’s thriving music scene.

“Most of the singers and songwriters were killed during Pol Pot’s regime, so in a lot of ways, we take off from where they were forced to stop,” Holtzman said of his band Dengue Fever, which has been fusing sounds from the golden age of Cambodian rock with contemporary psych and funk since 2001. “It’s also interesting because the Cambodians that inspired us are the ones who reinterpreted Western psychedelic and rock ‘n’ roll. They added their own traditional flavor with their own instruments just like we are doing now.”

Holtzman and his band—including singer Chhom Nimol, a Cambodian immigrant the group found performing at nightclubs in Long Beach—returned to Cambodia for an emotional tour in 2005. A film crew documented the band’s experiences and the resulting hour-long movie, Sleepwalking Through the Mekong, will be headlining the Cambodia Town Film Festival’s “Music Corner” on September 14.

After more than a decade of touring the world with their hybrid sound, Dengue Fever has become the most prominent voice in a new Cambodian-inspired music scene, one that is bringing back the legacy of '60s and '70s Khmer rock in a myriad of different ways.

For Oakland native Bochan Huy, it was Cambodia’s iconic songstress Ros Sereysothea that got her hooked on the lost music of her people. Born in Phnom Penh at the height of the Khmer Rouge, Huy came to the United States at a young age and grew up in a musical family who performed well-known Cambodian songs such as Sereysothea’s “Chnam Oun 16” (“I am 16”) at weddings and community events.

But Huy says she missed out on growing up in a big Cambodian community like Long Beach’s and as a result grew up feeling equally as American as Khmer.

“The music is sort of my journey in that it encompasses that experience,” she says. “A lot of people feel like the up-and-coming artists are always wanting to revive the last great musical area, but for me, it’s not about being a Cambodian pop singer. It’s really about finding my identity as a part of the Khmer diaspora. I feel that singing about the struggles of being Cambodian-American is a part of my Khmer identity.”


Huy’s version of the “Chnam Oun 16,” released on her debut album last year, is a direct result of this dual upbringing. It turns the song’s almost surf-rock riffs into a bass-heavy R&B background atop which Huy’s soulful voice alternates between Sereysothea’s Khmer lyrics and her own thoughts on Cambodian and female empowerment. Oakland Rapper Raashan Ahmad chimes in for several verses, adding even more distinctly American flair to the cover of the classic Cambodian song.

In the song’s music video, which will also be shown at CTFF’s “Music Corner,” Huy touches on more universal themes as well by incorporating the plight of other immigrants from around the world, who can be seen in one scene holding photos of their lost loved ones.

“I wanted to use it as an agent of change, to take something familiar and introduce something different,” she says of her version of “Chnam Oun 16.” “That song when it came out, it was well received by Cambodian-Americans and non Khmer too because it encourages dialogue. Our parents are sadly the voiceless generation and so I think we all feel a responsibility to reconstruct our country, our identity and tell the nation’s stories in a more successful way.”

The idea of opening up the stories of Cambodia and starting a dialogue about the country’s nearly lost culture is one that resonates across all of the musicians being featured at CTFF and embodies the hopes of the festival as a whole.

Another act that is using music as a vessel for these stories is Indradevi, an experimental electronic duo that released a debut album, A Thousand Tomorrows, last week. With the requisite speedy beats and expertly timed drops, Indr - Long Beach Post


"Singer Bochan Huy puts American Twist on Cambodian Classics"

More and more Cambodian-Americans are finding their own voice in art and music. Add to that list singer-songwriter Bochan Huy, who grew up in Oakland, California, and has just released her first album, Full Monday Moon.

Bochan Huy is putting an American twist on a Cambodian classic. The original song, “I Am 16,” comes from the heyday of Cambodian rock-the 1960s and 1970s, before the Khmer Rouge.

Huy’s version, though, is something entirely new.

“I kind of describe ‘Chnam Oun Dop Pram Mouy’ as sort of like a new culture. It’s a melting pot of everything that I’ve absorbed: from living in Oakland, from being Cambodian, and from being American. It’s Cambodian-American,” said Huy.

The song comes from her first album, Full Monday Moon, which she has just completed. Huy says she wrote the album after the death of her father, a refugee and a musician who loved the classics.

“I decided to do the album because I realized after he passed away - he was a big musical mentor in my whole life - that the only way that I felt that he was still around was to do music," Huy added. "That was something the Khmer Rouge did not take away from him. He was able to bring that from Cambodia to here.”

Huy produced the album under an independent label in a New York studio. It is a departure from much of Cambodia’s own music scene, which favors cover versions of the classics and little experimentation.

“I think it’s because so many Cambodians have held on to that generation, you know. That’s when things were good. It was before the Khmer Rouge war," Huy explained. "And so it’s going to be a challenge to kind of get people to let go of that and go, ‘OK, you know I think we’re ready to move on.’ I think people are ready, they are ready, and that’s why I hope people will give ‘Full Monday Moon’ a try, you know. Yeah, the whole album’s not in Cambodian, but some is, you know, and I sing of struggles related to being Cambodian. And who’s to say nowadays what is Cambodian and what isn’t. I mean, we’ve all landed in all parts of the world, and I think what Cambodian is is that we’ve landed in all parts of the world, we’ve been able to kind of adapt, adjust and re-create, and we’re forming something new for ourselves. And that’s to me what it means to be Cambodian.”

Huy is now in Cambodia for the first time since 1999, to promote the album. And find new inspiration. It’s the end of one journey, and perhaps the beginning of another.
- Voice of America


"Cambodian-American Singer Shares Her Love of Music"

Bochan Huy is a Cambodian-American singer from Oakland, California. Born in Cambodia right after the Khmer Rouge regime, Bochan emigrated to the US with her parents in 1981. Speaking to VOA Khmer’s Poch Reasey recently, Bochan recounted her childhood and the influence her late father, who was also a musician, had on her as she was growing up. With her producer Arlen Ginsberg, Bochan performs her version of ‘Chnam Oun 16’ and shared with the audience what music means to her and her experience as a Cambodian-American. - Voice of America


"Cambodian-American Singer Shares Her Love of Music"

Bochan Huy is a Cambodian-American singer from Oakland, California. Born in Cambodia right after the Khmer Rouge regime, Bochan emigrated to the US with her parents in 1981. Speaking to VOA Khmer’s Poch Reasey recently, Bochan recounted her childhood and the influence her late father, who was also a musician, had on her as she was growing up. With her producer Arlen Ginsberg, Bochan performs her version of ‘Chnam Oun 16’ and shared with the audience what music means to her and her experience as a Cambodian-American. - Voice of America


"Oakland Singer Fuses Cambodian Psychedelic Rock and Hip Hop"

When North American soldiers introduced psychedelic rock music to Cambodia during the Vietnam War, Cambodian singers immediately embraced it. They started singing Khmer covers of American classics by singers like Jimi Hendricks and The Yardbirds. But when the Khmer Rouge took over the country in 1975, they killed over 99 percent of the musicians, and banned the playing of music altogether (they also banned books, dancing, poetry and pretty much anything fun or intellectually stimulating).

Not surprisingly, many fled the country to avoid execution. Like Bochan Huy and her family. She says she almost died escaping Cambodia. They had to cross the jungle to the Thai border in the middle of the night, while dodging bullets from border troops on both sides. That was in 1980. Bochan’s mom, Sein Huy, says Bochan was one month old at all the time.

“I had to cover her mouth because she cry, she’s a baby,” Bochan’s mom said. “And we don’t want any noise while we try to escape. That’s why she became really sick when we get to the camp. Even to dream, I don’t really want to dream about it… it’s really hard.”

Bochan is now 33 years old and a singer in Oakland. She says throughout her youth, her father would always have a guitar in hand, playing old Khmer psychedelic rock songs. He even recorded a few albums. Here’s one of his songs from a 1987 cassette tape that Bochan found in her garage. It’s called “Hello-Hi” (and it’s amazing):

Bochan joined her father’s band as a singer, and her brother played keyboard. They’d play at weddings, birthdays, community events… anywhere Cambodians gathered. Bochan would sing cover songs of American classics, and someone else would sing the Khmer psychedelic rock.

Here’s one of the Khmer songs; Cambodian singer Ros Sereysothea sang it in the 1970s:

Bochan says the problem was that songs like “I Am 16? was all her family ever played–and they’d never change up the style. “It was at every birthday, at every community event, and it was always sung the exact same way,” Bochan said.

Soon after Bochan finished high school, her dad got sick with liver cancer and passed away. Bochan decided to release her album in his honor. The album, Full Moon Monday, is a blend of hip hop, soul, funk, and the classic Cambodian rock that Bochan grew up with.

Bochan says she wanted to cover the Cambodian classic “I Am 16” on her album, but she wanted to do it differently, creating new memories with the song. Here’s how it turned out:

The song features local hip hop artist Raashan Ahmad. Bochan says she wanted it to appeal to the Cambodian youth raised in the West.

“To put hip hop to it, to give them something familiar, where they can connect to it, that closes the generation gap between the first generation and second generation Cambodian refugees,” Bochan says.

Bochan’s song “Believe” looks at the struggles of refugee families. She wrote the lyrics after working as a counselor for at-risk Cambodian kids in Oakland. Bochan says unlike her own family, who were educated in Cambodia’s capital city, she was working with families who came from poor, rural villages. Parents would often be illiterate in both languages, and unable to navigate urban environments like Oakland.

“We’re looking at immigrant families where the parents don’t speak English and the kids,” Bochan says. “So now there’s a discord between mom and dad. There’s already a culture gap, a generation gap, right? And now you don’t have the one thing to keep the family together: language.”

Bochan has an EP coming out this year–and she’s covering one of her dad’s songs from the 80s. The cover is very different than the original song. But Bochan says she thinks her dad would have liked it. Because he was OK with different.

“I get to choose my own identity. I get to choose my own culture. And in doing so I get to choose the best of both worlds, is what he used to say. There are wonderful things about American culture, and there are things that aren’t so great about American culture. And the same goes for Cambodian culture. I think that’s what it means to be Cambodian-American. Here I am, I have lived and chosen the best of both worlds.”

You can catch Bochan at one of the summer’s Cambodian music and arts festivals throughout the US and Canada. This September, 2013, she’ll be performing in Long Beach, California–the heart of America’s Khmer diaspora–during their Cambodia Town Film Festival.
- The World - Public Radio International


"Bochan: a Cambodian-American Idol"

In the cliché version of the immigrant story, the hardworking parents want their first-generation kids to become doctors, engineers, lawyers — to have a more comfortable life and social prestige. Chhan Huy fled Cambodia during its horrific civil war in the 1970s, and settled with his family in California. He was an engineer himself, and a passionate rock musician, so his dream for his daughter Bochan was different: he wanted her to become a pop star.

Chhan had her singing for guests at the age of nine. By her teens she was playing with her father’s band, hitting banquet halls and noodle shops up and down California, singing American pop and Cambodian songs from the 1960s for fellow refugees — and writing her own lyrics in private. “He loved her," Bochan's mother Sien Huy, remembers. "But he wanted her to be a very good singer. That’s why he pushed: 'You have to practice, you have to scream!'"

“What you’re doing," Bochan remembers thinking, "is you’re taking the thing that I love the most, and you’re making me not like it anymore. And that was the biggest problem.”

Finally Bochan walked away from her father's band before their biggest gig, and then quit music altogether. It took a long time before she could find her way back, as a neo soul artist performing her own material. But Bochan is still trying to live her father's dream of making it to the big time. - Studio 360 - Public Radio International


Discography

Desires - Single (2010)
Chnam Oun 16 - Single + Remixes (2010)
Full Monday Moon - LP (2012)
Hello Hi - EP (2013)

Photos

Bio

Bochan has dedicated her life to spearheading and continuing to sow the seeds of the Neo-Cambodian musical breakout movement. By collaborating with adept pianist and producer, Arlen Hart, Bochan effortlessly bridges the East West gap with an inimitable, soulful yet sweet indie-pop vibe. She authentically draws on her dual country upbringing; combining influences from the ultra urban Oakland scene, coupled with her deep rooted Cambodian inspiration and fellowship, to create her infectious new sound.

Bochan grew up singing in her fathers Cambodian American bands. The evolution that Bochan witnessed (and took an active part in) is audible today in the ardent Cambodian music circuit, which has moved from Rock Roots to its current inception. Honoring, yet stepping bravely away from traditional style, she attempts to usher in a new musical age.

Her single Chnam Oun 16 (or, I am 16), featuring Raashan Ahmad from Crown City Rockers, shakes up convention, by remaking the classic Cambodian rock anthem about women coming of age. The new version retains textures and tones of the original Farfisa organ, while the lyrics alternate between English and Khmer. Listen to this catching and artful remix, along with other Bochan singles like The Music available on iTunes now. View the powerful, culturally sensitive yet exposing music video for Chnam Oun 16 live on VEVO.

Her solo debut album "Full Monday Moon" and her latest EP album "Hello Hi" are available on iTunes.

Bochan's music has been featured in the following: Weekends du-monde Festival, Montreal; Season of Cambodia Multi Arts Festival, NYC; Cambodian Music Festival, Ford Theatre, Hollywood, 9th Annual Asian Heritage Street Festival, San Francisco, Cambodia Town Film Festival, Long Beach, Cali; Le Poisson Rouge, NYC; Rockwood Music Hall, NYC; Nomi Network Charity Fashion Show, New Orleans, LA; WYNC's "Studio 360"/NPR, KQED Public Radio, KQED Pop, NPR/PRI "The World", Women of Substance Radio on Live 365, College Underground Radio.com, Tiger Translate Event 2012, Phnom Penh, Cambodia; 111 Minna, San Francisco; Bayon Television Network TV Concert Series (March 2012), Phnom Penh, Cambodia; MYX TV, AngryAsianMan.com, 8Asians.com, Voices of America, Khmer & English, Voices of America This is America podcast, 7Days Magazine /Phnom Penh Post, Award winning short film"Paulina", Bangkok Airway's Fah Thai Magazine May 2012 issue, Dragon Airway's SilkWinds Magazine May 2012 issue, 

Band Members