Keo Sarath, A Talented Khmer Artist​

Mr. Keo Sarath, A Talented Khmer Artist

Keo Sarath, whose initial name was Chhous Tes, was born in Wat Kompheng village, Battambang district, Battambang province. He had seven siblings, four sisters. He grew up as a second child in an orphanage and poor family. His parents passed away around 1977 in the Khmer Rouge Regime.

A photo of Keo Sarath

Before starting his career as a professional singer in 1980s, Keo Sarath was a theatrical cast in Khao I Dang refugee camp. 

In Khao I Dang refugee camp, apart from being a theatrical actor, he was also a painter and sculptor. In 1981, before departing to the camp, located at Khmer-Thai border, Mr. Sarath got married with his second spouse whose name was Chanthu after his first wife left him with a child at Battambang province.

Mr. Sarath spent a miserable year of his life in 1982 living in Khao I Dang Refugee Camp. Then, he migrated to stay in Chonburi province, Thailand, for six months and in the Philippines for another half of year before departed to the United States. 

Life in the United States for Keo Sarath and his family was quite challenging for the first 4-5 months because of not having a sustainable career or occupation. Then, he decided to go for singing audition with Mr. Pong Kit’s Tep Pronam Production. His first song volume did not capture public attention at all; however, his second volume released during the late 1983 was successful. His fame started to shine. Songs of his second volume includes Sronos Dey Khmer (Having Pity on Khmer Land), Tompek Kru Sout, Oun Merl Knong Suon (Darling, Look at the Garden), and many famous classical songs. 

In 1984, although love and romantic songs were banned in some areas, Keo Sarath’s songs have been heard in several occasions like wedding and other ritual ceremonies. 

In 2006, Mao Chanthorn, who was a teacher and head of theater group of Keo Sarath, delighted to share that even if Keo Sarath was partially literacy. Because of his natural talent, Mr. Chanthorn emphasized that coaching Keo Sarath was not a difficult task. He continued that he taught him about the lyrics as well as bend his voice. Due to having high pitch of voice, Keo Sarath often sang the music instead of the main character when it came to live theater show. 

In the late 1985, Keo Sarath was diagnosed with larynx cancer and slowly recovered in 1986. Soon after the recovery, he continued his career until 1988 when the disease relapsed. Then in 1989, he was partially recovered. Unfortunately, in 1990, he failed into serious illness caused by the disease and in 1991, Keo Sarath passed away at the age of 27. 

According to his close friends, Keo Sarath was not a selfish and greedy person; he was very passionate about musical industry. Usually, Keo Sarath refused to sing at bars and restaurants in the United States regardless of high wages which was around $1500-$2500 per night. 

After the fruitful with Mr. Seng Dara, who was a Singer Biography Complier and Mr. El Bunna, who was an experienced composer since the 1970s have asserted that Keo Sarath came to Phnom Penh City during 1988-1989 and brought them some of his original lyrics. Keo Sarath also sang his songs to him for the musical edition such as Sromai Tikrong Phnom Penh, Kanha Dork Mai, and Kmean Songkhem te. 

Apart from singing traumatic love songs, Keo Sarath also sang the descriptive songs about his immigrated life journey for the motherland such as Sronos Dey Khmer, Moha Sronos, Pisark Derm Chnam and Kork Tlok Chum Rok Knhom. 

Contemporarily, although Keo Sarath passed away for more than two decades, his sweet and tiny voice have captured a memorable spot in the heart of Cambodian people. 

Not only are his songs heard the urban residence, but Keo Sarath’s songs are also heard all over the places in Cambodia along with many famous singers in 1960s like Sin Sisamouth, In Yeng, Ing Nary, Sos Mat, Ros Sereysothea, Pen Ron and Houy Meas. 

Notwithstanding, Mr. Sarath’s songs were composed and sung with modern technological tools and instruments in the developed country, still he had managed to manifest his national identity and cultural values as one of the most prestigious Cambodian artists. 

Source: kravannews | By: Kimlon