Paris concert introduces Khmer hip-hop to French audience

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A combination photo of KlapYaHandz stars Ruthko and Vuthea. SUPPLIED

SABAY – a live concert in Paris – is back for 2022, after having to postpone last year’s show due to Covid-19 restrictions. Cambodian hip hop artists Vuthea and Ruthko will perform, alongside many French-Asian artists, including singers and DJs.

Held for the second time in partnership with the Samaki Kohn Khmer Association, the show will introduce modern Cambodian music live to a new audience and, through these talented young emerging artists, will build strong links between France and Cambodia, according to a Sabay Events’ press release.

Both artists are signed to KlapYaHandz Records, the Kingdom’s premier hip hop record label.

“We wanted to invite KlapYaHandz one more time because their founder is French-Cambodian and we share the same vision for modern Cambodian music,” said Helene Malterre, the event co-organiser.

The Sabay movement was launched in 2016 by Dara Thong, a Cambodian born in France who discovered the talent and emergence of Southeast Asian youth during several trips to Cambodia.

Malterre and Dara are two young French-Cambodians who hope to strengthen ties between the Kingdom and the European nation.

Dara’s goal is to offer French people a new musical and cultural repertoire. Furthermore, it will allow Asian artists introductions to a new continent, thanks in particular to Dara’s multiple events (festivals, exhibitions, round tables, screenings-debates and a food market).

Dara decided it would be a good idea to hold a concert in France after he met KlapYaHandz founder Sok Visal, a Cambodian who fled the country during the Khmer Rouge genocidal regime.

The live event was born out of stories of connections between Khmer youth in France and Cambodia. And thanks to the success of the first event, KlapYaHandz is returning to present to the world the emergence and artistic renewal of Cambodian youth through the musical scene, this year through two of its stars: Vuthea and Ruthko.

“The headliners will be the two Cambodian artists, but there will be other performances by French-Asian artists, likely French-Cambodian, French-Laotian and French-Vietnamese,” Malterre told The Post.

With a fusion of traditional and modern music, she says, KlapYaHandz has created a sound that brings all generations of Khmer together across the globe.

“Our goal is to provide access to new sounds from Southeast Asia to a diverse audience. Emerging in Europe and highly valued in Cambodia, these artists through their talent will offer an incredible experience to all who wish to discover Cambodian hip-hop,” she added.

Almost 500 people attended the previous concert organised in Paris in 2020, Malterre said, adding that it was a great success.

She said the event was planned just before Covid-19 got serious, and they were very lucky to be able to go ahead with the concert.

This year, they decided to replicate the experience by inviting KlapYaHandz to France for a second time. They expect to bring 600-800 people together for the show, she added.

“It is important for France and Cambodia to create cultural links. The two countries share a strong history. We also want to push Cambodian local artists on the international scene, because they deserve it,” said Malterre.

Visal, a French-Cambodian, founded KlapYaHandz Records in 2005 after returning to Cambodia in 1993. His label consists of 12 artists – ambassadors of the young Khmer generation – and one international group. More than 660,000 people subscribe to the label’s YouTube channel, and over 177 million have viewed their videos.

The event will be held in Paris on October 14.