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Hip-Hop Artist Prach Ly Joins ‘Freedom-to-Write’ Festival

[Editor’s note: Cambodian hip-hop star Prach Ly has joined writers and playwrights at Brown University, in the US city of Providence, Rhode Island, for a three-day festival to celebrate the literature and culture of Cambodia, as well as free speech. “Khmer Voices Rising,” which is sponsored by the university, will include discussions and readings with writers from Cambodia, Vietnam and the US, among other events. Prach Ly spoke with VOA Khmer by phone from Providence on Tuesday.]

What do you think about the International Freedom-to-Write Festival?

They’ve invited journalists and writers from all around the world. And it is important because the freedom of expression, the freedom of speech, is lacking in Cambodia and also third world countries. But this year they are concentrating on Cambodia. One of the honorees or fellows they’ll honor this year is Tararith Kho.

Anywhere in the world, especially in Cambodia, writers and journalists need to express themselves, need the right to truth, and the truth needs to be told. If the people can’t speak out, if you can’t say a certain thing, then there’s no freedom, no sense of freedom. The truth needs to come out and journalists need to do their part, writers need to do their part, artists and musicians need to do their part. So freedom of expression is very important.

Why are you interested in participating in this festival?

I was asked to be here to headline the event. I am talking on four different panels and also doing a performance on Thursday at the end of the event. Again, I was censored in Cambodia and music was censored, even been banned. So I know how important it is to speak out and let your words be heard. If with censorship you can only go so far, if you can’t express your words, if the writers can’t write—I consider myself a writer too—and because my lyrics and my songs are very explicit in terms of storytelling, and if they censor and they said you can’t express certain thing, then I can’t do what I do, you know my freedom is gone. So, I feel that it’s very important to attend.

As soon as they invited me, I got on the plane and came right away. I am here now. Something like this with organizations around the world who help fighting for freedom and freedom of expression, freedom of speech, we need to keep on doing that, especially what’s happening in Egypt and also the domino effect that’s going on there. Everyone wants democracy; everyone wants freedom. That’s where it’s leading to right now. If you keep censoring people, you can’t say this, you can’t say that, and then you threaten them with death, and you know you threaten to kill them for exposing the truth, then you become a threat to yourself.