Prach Ly came to the United States with his family when he was only 4 years old, to escape the genocide in Cambodia. He grew up listening to his mother's stories about the horror of the Khmer Rouge regime. Recently, he recorded a CD in his garage of song he wrote and performed, about Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge.
As soon as our feet hit the ground/ My mom busted in tears/ No words can describe/ A moment so rare/ And right by her side/ My father was there/ Staring at the sky/ Holding each other/ Realized we survived/ The genocide.
"Welcome", describing his parents reactions at arriving in America.
To Ly, the lyrics contained the truths he grew up with. His extended family had died in Cambodia, and his parents almost had, before they managed to leave the country. When no American record company expressed any interest in the music, Ly shrugged, gave some copies of the CD to his Long Beach buddies, and went back to running his karaoke shop.
I remember they shot him, shot point blank in front of his children... I can't maintain. I'm going insane. Hell on earth, it can't get any worse
One of the CD's Ly had given away made its way back to Cambodia. One record store owner who heard the CD was so impressed that he made 50 copies of the CD and started to sell them. Local radio stations and dance clubs started to play the songs over and over again. Young Cambodians, to whom the Khmer Rouge era was long forgotten (glossed over in school text books, scarcely mentioned in popular literature, older people hesitant to remember the terror of those days), are fascinated with both the songs and the history lesson.
Power, property, girls, money, what's the use of them, if relatives, children, spouses, families are split up
Back in America, Ly was rather surprised to learn of his CD's popularity. He wondered aloud about the piracy (he has not received any money from sales in Cambodia, and record companies in that country simply copy the CD themselves for sale) and hopes that his success will help him to get a record company to help him record a new CD, but he is happy that his songs have reached a larger audience. He believes that knowing the history is the only way Cambodia can heal and move forward.
Now I'm on a quest/ For the truth to reveal/ Cuz I still feel the pain/ Of all the lives sold/ From the Khmer Rouge/ The gang that put Cambodia/ Into a hell hole
"The Khmer Rouge"