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Fans, Stars Shocked by Death of an Icon

Many of Michael Jackson’s Cambodian fans, including pop stars, comedians, and Hip Hop singers, were shocked by the news of the rock icon’s death.

Jackson died of heart complications in Los Angeles on June 25, at age 50, after suffering a cardiac arrest at his home.

Ou Bunarath, who is Cambodia’s best-known comedian and goes by the stage name of Krem, often impersonated Jackson in his routines. He heard the news of Jackson’s death on CNN Friday morning, as his children translated the English-language news for him.

Ou Bunarath said he was shocked, and he called other friends who had been fans of Michael Jackson.

“When he danced, he was good at using his hands of cover his nether region, and whenever I use his dancing style, people in Cambodia cheer,” he told VOA Khmer by phone. “When I went to the United States in 1992, I impersonated Michael Jackson at my performances, and all the children gave me great applause. His dancing style is unique, one that no one in the world can do.”

Jackson’s talented dancing and high-pitched voice came with a positive message, Ou Bunarath said.

“His words and his song lyrics are to educate the world not to be discriminating, that everyone is equal,” he said, adding that all Cambodian performers should remember to dedicate themselves to the benefit of the public and the younger generation.

Ou Bunarath said he will try to impersonate Jackson in his upcoming shows to commemorate the pop star’s outstanding achievements.

Lean Sony, who is known as “the Khmer Michael Jackson” in Cambodia, learned of the star’s death on the Internet. The news was unreal, said the Cambodian star, who has learned to imitate Jackson’s voice and signature “Moon Walk” dance.

“He was a great entertainer,” Lean Sony said. “I believe that people around the world are as sad as me to lose him. He paved the way for me. Although he did not instruct me directly, I have watched his performance closely and tried to follow him. And people in Cambodia know me because I have followed his style.”

Prach Ly, a well-known Cambodian-American Hip Hop singer, said Jackson influenced him and his career and is one of his role models. His death was a “huge loss” to music fans and music makers, he said.

“I was devastated when I heard the news that Michael Jackson passed away,” Prach Ly said. “You know, Michael Jackson is an icon, a music legend. Before Tiger Woods, before Oprah, before President Obama, there was Michael Jackson. His music inspired millions all over the world and his music has no boundaries. People look past his skin color, you know they just enjoy the music.”

Michael Jackson was born on August 29, 1958 in Gary, Indiana. He was the seventh of nine children and one of the Jackson Five, which debuted in 1962, when Michael was a child. Jackson’s 1982 “Thriller” album remains the best-selling record of all time.