In many ways, hip-hop surprisingly gained the interest of young audiences despite the lack of progress in original Cambodian music until recent years. It is believed that the prominent rap element of hip hop blends naturally with verbal Khmer traditions of singing and poetry recitation.
VannDa, like many others his age, belongs to the younger Khmer generation, whose perspective has been shaped by exposure to a wider range of musical forms as a result of technology and increased globalisation.
In the music video for “Time To Rise,” VannDa combines his excellent rap skills and prolific lyrics with a performance by legendary Master Kong Nay, one of the last living ambassadors of the nation’s musical tradition using their native Chapei vang deng.
The young cast of the film, which features traditional clothing, art, and architecture, embraces their culture with pride, demonstrating how VannDa works to uphold tradition while relying on the creative energy of hip hop.
With more than 94 million views as of today, “Time To Rise” is the most viewed video by a Cambodian artist in history, confirming his position as the face of Cambodian hip hop.
VannDa has achieved unbelievable stardom due to his logical approach to problem-solving and his persistent work ethic. However, the musician believes his bond with his Baramey Production crew is a big part of why he has been successful.
Furthermore, he carries an unpretentious honesty that is remarkable for an artist of his caliber. As a teenager, the rapper sold coconut shavings while also learning music production and hip hop through YouTube videos.
He officially started working in 2016 after moving from his hometown of Sihanoukville to the nation’s capital, Phnom Penh, with just $100 and the blessing of his parents.
VannDa’s early music leaned toward soft rock and he achieved some success before making a name for himself as a hip hop performer.
After joining Baramey in 2019, he focused himself on hip hop and released his breakthrough track “J+O” in 2019, which brought him widespread fame.
His persistent poems challenging the status quo in Cambodia were winning him new followers, and eventually, this tendency for nonconformity would be the driving factor behind his entire body of work.
Hip hop has evolved into a viable cultural preservation medium in many ways in a country that is in rebuilding stage.
VannDa currently leads a new generation of Khmer artists who are persistent and lively in their effort to rework historical artefacts while looking to the future.