Bochan: a Cambodian-American Idol


Friday, September 28, 2012

In the cliché version of the immigrant story, the hardworking parents want their first-generation kids to become doctors, engineers, lawyers — to have a more comfortable life and social prestige. Chhan Huy fled Cambodia during its horrific civil war in the 1970s, and settled with his family in California. He was an engineer himself, and a passionate rock musician, so his dream for his daughter Bochan was different: he wanted her to become a pop star.

Chhan had her singing for guests at the age of nine. By her teens she was playing with her father’s band, hitting banquet halls and noodle shops up and down California, singing American pop and Cambodian songs from the 1960s for fellow refugees — and writing her own lyrics in private. “He loved her," Bochan's mother Sien Huy, remembers. "But he wanted her to be a very good singer. That’s why he pushed: 'You have to practice, you have to scream!'"

“What you’re doing," Bochan remembers thinking, "is you’re taking the thing that I love the most, and you’re making me not like it anymore. And that was the biggest problem.”

Finally Bochan walked away from her father's band before their biggest gig, and then quit music altogether. It took a long time before she could find her way back, as a neo soul artist performing her own material. But Bochan is still trying to live her father's dream of making it to the big time.


Video: Bochan, "Chnam Oun 16"

    Music Playlist
  1. Oops!...I Did it Again
    Artist: Britney Spears
    Album: Oops!...I Did it Again
    Label: Jive
    Purchase: Amazon
  2. Hello, Hi; Circle Dance of the New Year; The Beauty of Daun Penh Hill
    Artist: Chhan Huy and house band
    Album: Live
    Label: Unreleased
  3. Yesterday Once More (Cover)
    Artist: Bochan Huy
  4. Believe
    Artist: Bochan
    Album: Full Monday Moon
    Label: Bochan Music
    Purchase: Amazon
  5. Love Me
    Artist: Bochan
    Album: Full Monday Moon
    Label: Bochan Music
    Purchase: Amazon


Brian Calvert

Comments [5]

Magul Ahmath from Santa Ana, CA

Taking the stage, especially in the Cambodian community, is like taking your first step as a baby in life. There is uncertainty but at the same time a sense of hope. In the end its rewarding. I have so much respect for this performer. She has taken a big step and as a Cambodian American, I know that with such step comes many struggles. What we as Cambodians have endured during this period of atrocities can never be expressed in words but if our eyes can allowed to be projected, the pain, the anger will magnify ten folds. This artist has done so by telling our story through her music. Thank so much for sharing and inspiring.

Oct. 06 2013 01:02 PM
Jenny from Studio 360

Hi Carrick --

Unfortunately, "Hello, Hi" isn't available. But you can find Bochan's album "Full Monday Moon" here:


Oct. 01 2012 03:07 PM
Marjan from Oakland

I appreciate an artist that can utilize her talents to communicate a powerful message. Bo's music evokes a strong emotional response, reminding us of defining moments worth cherishing. You have such a harmonious way of bringing your two worlds together. I love your heart-warming voice, the fun music and your beautiful costumes. Wishing you love and light.

Oct. 01 2012 03:13 AM
Carrick from Washington D.C.

Can I find Chhan Huy's song "Hello, Hi" anywhere? Or any of his other music?

Please respond - thx.

Oct. 01 2012 01:34 AM
Magdalena from Oakland

Bo's artistic realism, addressing historical truths without fear, draw tears of acknowledgment for those who suffered through this era. And those who have made it, not unscathed, to the other side. All my respect to this modern performer, addressing the issues of her past and her culture, through her uplifting music.

Sep. 29 2012 04:15 AM

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