Jay Chan, who’s birth name is “Chanthoeun Pen” was born in a refugee camp on the boarders of Thailand and Cambodia in the early 80s. His parents were survivors of Cambodia’s killing fields. During the genocide his father disappeared presumably killed by the Khmer Rouge regime.
Leaving Jay to be the man of the family, he was his mother’s youngest and only son at the time. After immigrating to America Jay became his mother’s eldest son and the only one not born in the United States. Jay was entrusted with the responsibility of helping raise and mentor his two younger brothers who were both born in America and only knew of Cambodia from the stories his mother and uncles who tell them.
Being a big brother gave Jay a purpose he felt it was his duty to learn all he could about Cambodia, so his younger brothers never forget the struggles of not only his family but the millions who never made it out. He got that connection through the music his mother played and the songs she sang.
It was the sounds of her youth of a happy vibrant Cambodia the majestic Pearl of South East Asia. Jay was in awe of his birth country, inspired by the music and the stories his mother would tell him of life before the war.
As a young boy, Jay exhibited a natural affinity for music, inspired by the musical talent of his mother who was a local Cambodian singer. As Jay grew and adjusted to life in America, he discovered that his biological father did actually survived the war and was currently living in Australia through his uncle Mr. Kong Vanna, *another Cambodian singer who lived in the land down under. His dream of reuniting with his father happened in 2009 and that reunion remains one of the greatest moments in Jay’s life. That meeting instilled in Jay the determination to pursue his passion for music.
The first Cambodian song that Jay learned to sing was the classic ballad “Ae Na Tov Tansua?” (Where is Heaven?) by the legendary Sinn Sisamouth, an icon in the Cambodia’s Musical History. Jay would sing this classic non-stop in the shower, in school, during lunch, at home, during dinner even in bed Sinn Sisamouth’s melodic voice serenade young Jay to sleep.
Being raised as a teenager in the United States, during the 90s Jay was heavily influenced by the music of that era. His favorites included R&B artists such as Usher, Brian McKnight, Boyz II Men, Shai and All-4-One. But unlike other Khmer American teens, Jay also had a deep yearning to connect with his Cambodian roots.
He attributes his love for Khmer Music to his Mother. Being a Khmer singer herself she unknowingly exposed young Jay to the sounds of the iconic Sinn Sisamouth, soon he couldn’t get enough he had to learn all he could about this widely known yet mysterious musical icon of Cambodia. He became a sponge of anything Sinn Sisamouth, he began collecting, listening, learning, reciting, any and all things Sinn Sisamouth.
It was almost an obsession, one in which saved his life. Jay was no stranger to the pitfalls of life for young Cambodian youths in America. He is from that era the 90s and that area code 209. Which really needs no explanation if you know the history of the times. It was music, his mother, his biological father, his family, his high school sweetheart (who is now his wife) and lok tha Sinn Sisamouth that saved him.
So he pours his heart and soul into every song he sings, every lyric he writes, every performance he gives, whether it be a classical remake or an original you’ll get nothing but his all.
He derives inspiration for the lyrics in his songs from personal experiences as well as inspiring love stories from the people in his life. With the continued support of his fans near and far he promises to uplift Cambodian music, with a nod and tip of his fedora as respect to Sinn Sisamouth he hopes to blend the two worlds, that he is both apart of Cambodian American. Smooth poetic lyrics that your Cambodian grandmother will love combined with the Rhythm of 90s R&B.
As a musical artist and songwriter, Jay brings to the world an inspiringly unique sense of self – a fusion of two musical genres, Cambodian and R&B – both worlds apart, yet when brought together, can touch the lives of many. Jay’s genuine personality, warm smile and compassion in sharing his musical gift with the world fuel his drive to continue writing songs and making music to change the world.