Are you a passionate musician who’s looking for a place to learn and grow artistically? Your dream is bound to come true at the heart of Phnom Penh as The Sound Initiative – a vocational music education center – opens its doors for singers, songwriters and music producers who want to raise the bar of all-original Cambodian sound.
TSI was officially launched in 2018, with a kick-starter event that included some of the biggest names in the music sphere. Yes, we’re talking about Laura Mam, Khmeng Khmer, Small World Small Band and other artists.
TSI provides a creative development programme to Cambodians aged between 18 and 30, and offer them an avenue to improve their skills in music and to prepare them in their musical journey. Applicants need to go through interviews before becoming a TSI member. At present, there are 15 young artists in the programme. They were picked out from about 150 applicants who all wanted to grab the opportunity to make a name in music.
Laura Baker, the managing director of TSI said, “It is an exciting time to be in Cambodia and it is exciting to see talents developing and to see the industry really starting to thrive.”
Within the programme, artists study songwriting and reading and producing music. With the right equipment and guidance, artists are given the big opportunity to make something great out of their passion. The music director at TSI gives one-on-one training to artists, depending on what the artist needs to work on. There are also sharing sessions involving all the 15 artists to learn about the industry and to get helpful advice from TSI ambassadors Laura Mam and Khmeng Khmer duo. The programme also provides Masterclasses on different topics led by TSI ambassadors and experts in the local and foreign music industry.
Aside from teaching modern music, the programme also enables young artists to learn and understand Cambodian music history. Through TSI’s well-structured music programme, artists have a chance to perform and show off their talents in public events.
Laura also emphasised that it is one of TSI’s main objectives to provide a safe environment for all artists – no matter the gender preference.
“We had few women who have applied for the programme. We have found that the women we have onboard this programme are growing month by month. They’re strong and talented, and with the right support will thrive. I can see a lot of potential in them.”
“I understand that some women are quite unsure about entering the music industry because of possible stigmas. But here at TSI, we have a supportive environment and a space where people can come and create music. We strong encourage women to apply to TSI and get experience working in music production and in studios,” said Laura.
One of the four female artists at TSI, Chive Chheng Heang, never thought she would become a singer or songwriter. But with the opportunity that TSI has opened for her, she is determined to make it big in the music industry after she gets the right training at TSI.
27-year-old Heang left Siem Reap so she can pursue her dream in Phnom Penh. Back in the province, she didn’t have any idea how to play any musical instrument, but just after a few months at TSI, she can now produce her own music and can play piano.
“It was difficult because I have never played any musical instrument before. I was only familiar with songwriting because it is my hobby since I was young, but I never really a formal training until I joined TSI,” said Chheng Heang.
Now that she knows the basic of music playing, she has also noticed an immense improvement on her melody and lyric writing. She will be releasing some of her original songs on social media soon.
Another young guitarist who also wants to make it big in music, Mok Sombo, 23, is trying to improve his songwriting skills at TSI. He wants to be a singer who can write his own lyrics and produce his own music.
“Here, I study art history, and get inspiration from it. They taught me a new method that will make me more inspired to write songs as well,” said Sombo, adding that most of the song lyrics he makes are based on his life experiences.
“I thank my mentor who always gives us freedom to choose our own concept. We can write the story whichever way we want. I think if I didn’t come here, I wouldn’t grow like who I am today and maybe no one invite me to perform on stage. But now I got it,” Sombo added.