Bochan is a singer/songwriter from Oakland, California and her music video “Chnam Oun 16” (I am 16) is a cover of a 70’s Cambodian song by Ros Sereysothea about the coming of age for a woman.
Her version has a hip hop and post-modern rock feel with a few English lines here and there. The video starts out with flashbacks of the war in Cambodia and photographs of Cambodian immigrants. Bochan appears dressed head to toe in Cambodian fashion, wearing a “Sampot Chorabap,” a long Cambodian skirt.
Hearing Bochan sing the line, “They tried to stop us, they tried to rob us…I survived, we survived,” really hit a nerve in me. Though the Khmer song is originally about a coming of age for a woman, this plays on a lot of emotion. It’s also about staying true to your identity, even if people should ever deny you.
Bochan’s soulful voice isn’t the only thing different about this cover; half way into the song, although not present is rapper Raashan Ahmad, who adds even more flavor. As the video progresses, the message of this video becomes quite clear. Her journey through the jungle to what seems like a stage. Shortly after, a group of people gather, holding pictures of their lost loved ones. A few words come to my mind when I saw this video: not just female empowerment but self-empowerment, pride, and remembering where you came from.
Overall, this video is supposed to be a cover of a coming of age song but highlights a few problems that we face every day. I found this to be one of the most refreshing videos I’ve seen made by an independent Asian artist. In the end, Bochan dedicates this video to her late father who passed away in 2006, bringing the song into a full circle.