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Singer-songwriter Kak Channthy, dubbed the Cambodian Amy Winehouse, dies in car crash at 38

Singer-songwriter Kak Channthy, dubbed the Cambodian Amy Winehouse, dies in car crash at 38
Kak Channthy performing with her band the Cambodian Space Project. Channthy was killed in a car crash Tuesday at age 38. (Cambodian Space Project)

Cambodian singer Kak Channthy, the lead singer and songwriter of the Cambodian Space Project, died Tuesday in Phnom Penh. She was 38.

Dubbed the Cambodian Amy Winehouse, Channthy was killed in a car crash when the tuk-tuk she was traveling in was struck by a car.

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"She was a Cambodian hero and now, so sadly, a legend of her people and her time," Channthy's ex-husband Julien Poulson told the BBC. Poulson, who is Australian, co-founded the band with Channthy in 2009. "Her music, her voice, her life and her story have touched so many people from many different walks of life and from all around the world."

Channthy grew up poor in rural Cambodia's Prey Veng province before eventually moving to Phnom Penh, where she worked her way up through a string of low-paying jobs, some of which earned her less than a dollar a day.

In 2009, while singing at a beer garden for $2 a day, she caught the ear of Poulson and they went on to form the Cambodian Space Project.

The band was inspired by the country's vibrant rock scene of the 1960s, widely considered Cambodia's golden age before the Khmer Rouge eradicated all traces of modern culture and music.

The Cambodian Space Project helped to usher in a revival of the 1960s rock scene, taking on the mantle of great Cambodian singers of the gilded era including Ros Serey Sothea, Pan Ron and Sinn Sisamouth, all of whom died during the genocide that lasted from 1975 to 1979. The band is one of the few Cambodian rock bands to make it overseas.

Most recently, Channthy started a side project, Channthy Cha Cha, which led her to play local shows in Cambodia.

Channthy's rise from poverty to global acclaim was the subject of a 2015 documentary, "The Cambodian Space Project: Not Easy Rock 'n' Roll," which premiered at the Sydney Film Festival. She is survived by a 13-year-old son.

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