Visal Sok, Pioneer of Cambodian Hip Hop

by KhmerLife on Apr 22, 2020

Visal Sok, Pioneer of Cambodian Hip Hop

He is the creator of the KlapYaHandz label but also producer and filmmaker.

Paris, Galerie VII, February 2020. Sok Visal, just arrived from Phnom Penh, discovers with amazement a huge queue for the first concert of his label in France.�“French friends had told me that our songs were spinning a bit here, but I never imagined that we would have so many people.”�Nearly 500 fans came to applaud the latest hits from Vuthea, Sreyleak and Ago, the three artists who made the trip with him.�A dedication for those who, for 20 years, have been working to impose a new Cambodian sound.

Born in 1971 in Cambodia, Sok Visal fled the country with his family shortly before the arrival of the Khmer Rouge, to take refuge in France. Teenager in the Paris region, he struggles a little at school, bathes in the hip hop culture which is in its infancy, does a lot of graph under the blaze “KREEM” of the CIA (Criminalz In Action). But at 20, he does not see himself staying all his life in his job as a security guard. So after a detour of two years in the United States, he takes a simple ticket to find his parents installed in Phnom Penh, without imagining the fate that awaits him.


It is 1993, and Cambodia is barely recovering from the civil war which decimated 2 million civilians between 1975 and 1979. Music level, it is nothing. The Khmer Rouge killed all the artists. We are content with karaokes and covers of Chinese, Thai, English-speaking and Indonesian hits. Ditto for the cinema: the reels of classic films have been destroyed and the means are lacking to produce new quality projects. In short, Cambodian culture remains to be reconstructed.

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