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Soprano Singer Looks To Elevate Khmer Music

Panh Bosba practices singing with her band.
Panh Bosba practices singing with her band.
MASSACHUSETTS - Bosba Panh has been performing on stage since the age of 7. She continued to perform in front of Cambodian audiences, culminating in a huge show inside Angkor Wat in 2011.

Now 16, she last year moved to the United States, to study music at the Walnut Hill School for the Arts, in Natick, Mass. In an interview with VOA Khmer, she said one of her goals is to bring Cambodian music into the international spotlight.

The first Cambodian student at the school, Bosba Panh said she has been greatly supported by people there. “They really helped us, gave us tips on how to manage our time, do our homework,” she said. “And my teachers really help me a lot, in terms of technique.”

“She’s one of the most motivated students we have here,” said Mary Montgomary Koppel, her music teacher and mentor. “She’s like a sponge. She wants to soak up everything.”

Deborah Parker, Bosba Panh’s voice coach, said she had changed since her arrival in September. “Huge improvement,” Parker said. “Her voice is much bigger than it was.”

Mara Milner, her roommate, said she had no idea how popular Bosba Panh was. “She shows me her Facebook page, and I saw that she has like 20,000 fans,” Milner said. “She’s not cocky about it at all.”

Despite her success, friends and family say she wants others to succeed.

“She wants to share her knowledge with everybody,” said Charles Edwin Scia-Scia, a close friend from Florida. “She doesn’t keep it to herself and criticize people. She wants to help people.”

Back at school, Bosba Panh said she wants to sing opera one day, to bring Cambodian music to the world stage. “I want to bring it out to the world, that we do exist, that we also have our own identity in our music, and that we are still progressing.”