When I was putting the album together, I didn't know what to name it. I was thinking about the Dalai Lama. I was thinking about drama, trauma, and I made up the word "Dalama." I looked it up in the dictionary, but there was no such word. I thought, I'm going to make up my own word and turn that into the story of my life.
I also did the artwork for the cover. I did the second one too. If you look at the cover of the second cd, you can see it connects with the first one. Each symbol represents a song. It's split down the middle into mirror images: on one side Angkor Wat, on the other the White House; on one side
flowers on the other a skeleton.
interview by : Sharon May
I was getting a lot of media attention and they were asking when I was going to do another album. I finally gave them a date: 3 March 2003, because that date was 03-03-03. I just liked the number.
SM: This was your second Dalama album.
P: I didn't know what I was going to write, but I knew I wanted to do a second Dalama. I started drawing the pictures, formulating ideas. A lot of producers approached me, but I already had my own, so I stuck with them because I believed in them. And I thought, It's not like we're doing this just for ourselves anymore. In three months, we knocked the album out. It was out for the New Year in April.
For me, personally, I think Dalama Two is more-I don't want to say creative, but I gave it its own life. It's not a duplication of the first album. It bears a similarity because it's an autobiography too. But at the same time, it holds its own ground. I mixed Cambodian traditional music with rap; I created a Cambodian hip-hop beat. And this time, I was really proud to say, all the beats and instrumentals were ours. We did the show for the Cambodian New Year, appearing on both stages in front of thousands of people; the crowd's reaction was phenomenal. I didn't have a chance to take it to Cambodia, but a couple of my friends did.
Right now, I'm producing a couple of other people's albums. One is for a Khmer female rap group, Universal Speakers. The other is traditional pin peat music. I really want to help revive that. There are only about four Cambodian master musicians left in the United States, and Mr. Chan Ho is one of them. He plays all the instruments. I was privileged to have him play interludes on traditional instruments for Dalama Two. There's also some traditional music with me rapping over it; his son played that.
SM: Could you talk about how you came to combine rap with traditional Cambodian musical forms, such as ayai?
P: Actually, when I wrote the flrst ayai, I wrote it in rhyme without any melody. But when I went to record it, the rapping didn't sound right. I needed a melody. So I came up with one, and it was an ayai. Ayai is sort of like rap music, but in a Cambodian way. Ayai is like one poetry master to another poetry master going out on stage or in front of a village and competing with their wisdom, their knowledge about certain subjects, like their land, but it has to continuously rhyme. So basically-rap. Not all rap is about streets and drugs and partying. There's every variety of rap.
With Cambodian ayai, it's sort of like that too. Sometimes they use bad language. I figure it's almost exactly like rap, but in Cambodian style, with Cambodian words. I got a chance to meet one of the famous Cambodian comedians, Prum Manh, when he came down to Long Beach for the New Year. He's very wise. He told me later it was not exactly ayai. It's called kong kaev.
Have you seen Oan Ouey, Srey Oan? It's an old Cambodian movie from before the war, with Kong Sam Oeun; he died during the time of the killing fields. In the movie, Kong Sam Oeun and Trente-Deux are selling street food, and they're singing to get the crowd's attention, competing with each other to get the people to buy their food. They're going back and forth about the prices, whose food is better. Like the rap battles I used to do in the park.
SM: Where would you like to go with your music?
P: I want to do Dalama in three parts, a trilogy. So far I have done two: Dalama, the end'n' is just the beginnin' and Dalama the lost chapter. The last one will be the beginnin' of the end. That will be a very dark album. I will squeeze all the light out of it. It will be about political turmoil. I'll do that one when the time is right.
The music that I do is not just about me. It's a movement. We are trying to break new ground, explore new music, new sounds. On the second CD, I mixed traditional music with rap. For my next one, I'm going to try to mix old Sin Sisamouth songs. You know who he is? The great singer who was killed by the Khmer Rouge. I'll mix it so that he sings a chorus and then me. And someday I wish to write screenplays.
SM: Do you see what you're doing as unique?
P: I see a lot of people doing a lot more than me. I think we are heading in a good direction. I'm just one of many trying to do what we can to help out. There's a world out there, and everybody's got to do something, play a role. I think I found my part. Before, I was building walls isolating myself from people. But now that I know what I can do and how people react to it, it's more like building a bridge than a wall.
SM: What do you think about the future and the role that art can play in healing people after the war?
P: I see there's hope. I see some things have survived. Like traditional music: the adults love it, because it's from before the war and it survived.
What I'm doing is completely different, but at the same time, it is connecting with that.
for more on the interview click here : http://www.mujestic.com/sharon_may___manoa___july_2004