KhmerLife Exclusive: Interview with Darun

Born in Cambodia and grew up in Brooklyn, New York currently residing in Atlanta, Georgia. Darun is a singer, rapper and concert promoter. He has helped bring a lot of Khmer artists from Cambodia to the US such as Khem and Rabee and even Satiya from Australia. Darun has spent much of his life as a businessman before getting into the Khmer music scene.

Introduce yourself

Hello , my name is DaRun and I’m a Cambodian American artist who was born in Cambodia and grew up in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn , NY.  

How did you come up with your artist name?

This is my real name.  I was thinking about a few other names but it makes no sense for me to change something when it’s already unique. 

Tell us about the city you are from?

I came to America with my family when I was only 1 years old.  My neighborhood growing up was  a very poor community where 99% of people living there was black consisting of African Americans,  West Indian, Haitians and other minority’s races. Drugs were everywhere and crimes was at an all time peak. I use to walk in my building and right Away u would see a thousand crack bottles and sometimes crackheads sleeping on the floor. Gangs & crimes go hand in hand.  But along the lines of this NY times ,  Reggae/ Rap/ R&b Music were blasted  on the streets outside my window all through the night, the whole block can hear it. 

What first got you into music?

When i was 5 years old , my older brother and sister started a Khmer live band name “ Fantasy Band”. Every weekend they would practice in the basement and I would be either banging the drums , keyboard or singing for fun while they were practicing. And sometimes when the singer or drummer isn’t there yet, they would tell me to fill in until the other members arrived. As I grew older about 8 year old, I started singing and playing the conga drums and became part of the band. We would play at parties, weddings & birthdays every week In the NY, NJ, CT , PA & DC areas. 

        Then when I was 10 years old, my chorus teacher Ms Beck made us practice some graduation songs in a school choir and noticed while singing a Whitney Houston song  “ One moment in time” , there were someone that sang the high notes while she only instructed for everyone to use falsetto tones.  While she couldn’t figure out who, she tested everyone one by one and found me which she made me the lead soloist on the school choir.  

Who inspired you to make music?

I never thought about writing music until listening to Babyface, which inspired me write so many love poems.  Then Kriss Kross , RunDMCs, Nas , Wu Tang & rap kinda came in and made me realize that I can say so much besides just singing about love. 

How would you describe the music that you typically create?

My music Is from the heart & mind. Usually the music that I create so something you can make love to, dance to or be inspired by whether its your way of thinking or relief from a broken heart or future crush.  Sometimes it’s a story for you to learn from. 

What is your creative process like?

Sometimes I feel a certain way in my heart and I would let some melodies flow out and just freestyle whether it’s singing or rapping.  Then I’ll fill in with some music backgrounds and instruments in my mind to fit the singing or rap.  Other times , Instrument sounds and melodies just comes to mind first then I write something that fits to that. Then I hit the studio to get it all out….it’s like therapy.

Why did you decide to become a songwriter?

Because I’m a real artist that needs to speak my mind.  I look at music as freedom of expression and also doing what I love at the same time. Plus, since there are no Asian artists in the world I’m in, I figure I would be the first one to make all Asian Americans proud one day If that day shall come.  Also I realized that there will never be another one like me, so I must make History..

Which song you have written is your favorite and why?

That,s a hard question cuz I love all my songs.  One of my favs tho was the one I did with Khem called “ Don’t U know ?! “.  The guitar melody stuck in my head for weeks before I produced it in the studio.  It was actually meant for “ Rabee”, but she liked another one of my beats instead.  
But I had the opportunity to speak with Khem on FB before his tour in USA and managed to record the song and shoot the video within 2 weeks of his arrival.  
The song “ Som Besdong “ was also one of my favorite since I had intentions since a kid to make a traditional Khmer song into hip hop because I love the “ Talung “ rhythm so much. No one can imagine rapping on it no matter what I tell them. They would ask me “ how would u rap on this?!”   So I had to make it into real life.  

Who would you most like to collaborate with?

Timbaland & Scott Storch are my favorite producers.  But my favorite artists that I would love to collab with are NAS, Aaliyah & Meas SokSophea…

If you could go open a show for any artist who would it be?

Nas, Khem… anyone as long as I love their music. 

Where have you performed? What is your favorite city?

I think I’ve performed all over USA & Cambodia as well.  I’ve been on every TV station with Khem as well as almost every province in Cambodia.  Doing over 30 shows, sometimes 2-3 in one day .  In the USA, I love every city because they all have different crowds and atmosphere.  But some of my favorite cities are Stockton , Fresno, Atlanta & Lowell.  

Do you have any upcoming shows? 

Yes I had like 20 shows planned until this Covid -19 locked everyone down. Otherwise , I would be in Your city right now already.  All the fans that’s reading this, please stay alert on the next tour when everyone gets back to normal. 

How do you feel the Internet has impacted your music?

The internet is definitely a new way to get out music esp from independent artists like myself.  But you have to be knowledgeable of how to use it the right way to market and promote.  Til this day, I still don’t know How to use Instagram correctly and effectively LOL.  As you can see I’m still very underrated , so I still need to learn more skills to market myself out there. 

What is your favorite song to perform?

I can sing English , Khmer & rap so I love to perform All my songs.  But my goal is to sing more Khmer songs in the future. 

Which famous musicians do you admire?

Nas is the greatest Hip Hop artist of all time dead or alive when it comes to hip hop. And personally, Khem is my favorite Khmer singer because not only his voice and talent is very unique & gifted, but he also have the biggest heart.   I’ve been in the studio with him many times and I’ve seen him knock out 4 songs in an hour perfectly. Also, out of all singers I know, he has the biggest heart and also sincere.  Most artists act like they don’t know u when u get to Cambodia , but Khem persuasively wants me to stay at his house and also gave me his keys to go in and out whenever I want.   That’s something I don’t get offer everyday. 

What do you enjoy most about being a musician?

Music is a very powerful thing.  It can change moods, minds & hearts instantly.  Traveling meeting diff people is also a plus but when you get a fan that tells you how much they love your creation & that it changed & helped them out when they needed it most ?…. That’s priceless. That made me feel like  I’ve pursued the right path and clearly a reason to my existence. 

What is the best advice you’ve been given?

Follow your heart and do what you are good at.. cuz if u don’t love what you’re doing, u might regret it. Same thing goes with love… If it’s not in your heart, it will never be complete.

What’s next for you?

Planning to drop a solo album this year and be the most unique artist ever that can sing in English/ Khmer , Rap & produce my own sounds.  
Also gonna try to establish some new businesses in Skincare, Clothing & Exotic Fruits.. 

What is the best Khmer restaurant in your city

There is no Khmer restaurant in Atlanta right now since my family’s restaurant closed down  lol sad ..

How did you get into the concert promotion business?

My older brother use to throw parties when I was a kid. Then he had a band.  Then my family moved to Atlanta and opened a khmer restaurant and event center hosting every party , wedding and khmer singer you can imagine while  I was still living in NY. 
When I first started rapping , I toured with Hot Import Nights In every city performing live shows. Then my mom got a stroke and fell into a coma in Atlanta.  After flying to see her, I woke her up from a coma only to let the Drs tell me that she have about 3 months to live.  So I packed what I could and move to Atlanta to be close to my moms.  I stopped touring with HOt Import Nights cuz of too much traveling and started promoting shows in American nightclubs.  Sadly , she passed before my first event but we successfully had 1800 attendees that night. 

How long have you been in the biz?

A long time bro… prob more than everyone except live nation.  

Can you describe the pros and cons of being a promoter?

Being a promoter , my intention is to spread music with live entertainment,  make peoples dreams come true and leave them inspired with an unforgettable moment in their life.  I’ve had fans that drove long ways across states to attend these shows or tell me how long they’ve waited to meet his artist or singer. Some cities will never have these types of feelings without me creating an event.  And when it’s good, you also make a little money along the way. Those are the good things that comes with this industry. 
But the bad thing about this is that sometimes u loose a lot of money trying to add light to people lives.  Like last party in Fresno, I had people show up at the venue at 6 pm , an hour early because they told me someone crossed out the contact number and put a different one. When they called , that person told them that tickets are sold out when it’s not true. So they showed up an hour early to try and buy pre-sale tickets since they couldn’t get any when called. Someone ripped all the posters off and replaced numbers on it just to tell people that it’s sold out.  I have an idea who it is, but I’ll just keep it low for now. 

Describe what it was first like being in the concert promotion business?

It’s very stressful because you always either have competition, worry about the weather or have some haters out there that will do anything to make you fail.

What is one message you would give to your fans?

Everything I do is from the heart. Hope I inspired them in a good way to keep pushing in doing whatever they love. Hopefully there will be more real artists out there that can create & inspire the next generation and so on… Don’t believe everything you hear unless it’s from me.  And out of all the things you can be in life , don’t waste your time on being a hater. That just shows that you have nothing else to live for.  

Do you want to give anybody a shout out?

Shout out to everyone on the KhmerLife team.  Y’all doing something positive & I respect that.  To all the artists that I’ve came across and worked with, I truly love y’all.  I try to put artists together from all across the globe in one stage for the culture.  Hope y’all can see that even tho I don’t say it.  Last but not least, shout out to all my fans out there whether you already know me or not yet heard of me til today. I would love to meet everyone of y’all and take pics with you. ❤️   

How can fans get in touch with you?

Everyone can reach me on my YouTube channel 
Subscribe & hit that 🔔 to be the 1st to hear new music & videos.  
Fb fan page ( Darun Official ) 
Instagram ( Darun_OfficialHMG)
Email me ( Da8th1@gmail.com) for bookings or any business inquiry.  🙂 

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