Songs serve as a kind of national literature, chronicling the current situation in the country. However, the many copied songs passed off as new material by the Cambodian music industry nowadays show that the craft of original songwriting continues to be degraded and devalued.
The Bopea Music Festival was conceived with the purpose of promoting original songs created by Cambodians. Tin Kolmen, the founder of the festival, believes that the large number of copied songs is affecting the development of original songwriting in the country. He said the writing of original songs should be encouraged and more of them produced. As more original songs are written, competition is created and the younger generation is encouraged to make something new, he said.
“Creating original songs is a way of promoting our own culture. When we have a lot of original songs, we can spread our culture and lifestyle through the songs. But if we copy too many songs from other countries we are just bringing foreign culture to be spread in our own country,” Mr. Kolmen said.
However, he admits that so far the local music industry is working hard to improve original songwriting. The next step should be to reduce the number of copied songs, he said.
Ma Chanpanha, a singer and songwriter, has produced more than 30 songs since he first gained recognition as a singer in 2011. He said that a copied song is quite different from a cover song.
He explained that a copy likely involves stealing the copyright from the original creator. It is an illegal practice within the music industry. The singer or producer usually takes a song and uses only the melody. They change the lyrics and don’t give any credit to the songwriter or copyright owner.
“As we know, in Cambodia, for more than 10 years now, some producers are picking up others’ songs and making money from it. And those copied songs have been making money [for production houses] without any copyright agreement,” he said. He added that music producers believe that picking unpopular songs and making changes to them is the right way to make money from the music business in Cambodia.
In contrast, when covering a song, a singer uses the original lyrics or makes only minor changes. However, cover songs are performed or recorded because the singer likes the song, not solely to make money.
If they want to record the cover song for commercial release, they ask for permission from the copyright owner. “If someone covered one of my songs, I would be happy. Some people have approached me about covering my songs and some have asked if they can make little changes to my lyrics. And I’m okay with it as long as they come and talk to me first,” he said.
“But if they are using or copying my song or use my song in a drama or film without asking permission from me, I have the right to file a lawsuit against them,” he added.
Echoing Mr. Chanpanha, Man Vanda, a young singer and songwriter, said that he would be happy to see some of his songs covered as long it’s not a case of someone secretly using his melody and putting new lyric over it.
“I don’t see any problem if people want to cover my song. The more they do, the more popular my song will become. I would be happy to see that,” he said.
“Even if a cover version is more popular than my original version, I still don’t feel there’s a problem because in the end the audience still wants to find out who the original singer is,” he said.
Source: Khmer Times / Va Sonyka, Tuesday, 10 January 2017