Master Musician Song Heng’s life revolved around school and music as a young child in Cambodia. Born in July 1957 in Thailand, he was raised in Cambodia. His father was a traditional Cambodian music master and taught the young Heng the classical technique and repertoire over several years. In 1970, as the Khmer Rouge Communist Party took over the country, Heng was forced at age 13 to become a soldier for the Cambodian government. Cambodians were coerced into agricultural work and Heng was enslaved as a farm laborer.
From 1975-79, the Khmer Rouge regime killed over three million Cambodians, specifically targeting artists and academics. Song managed to escape the farm and essentially walked to the Khao I Dang refugee camp in Thailand, crossing through Vietnam. During his journey he witnessed terrible things and barely survived his escape. In Thailand, he managed to board a United Nations bus to a refugee camp. He was relocated to another refugee camp in the Philippines where he attended English classes and learned the art of jewelry making. A gifted artist, Heng was finally resettled in the United States in 1985 as a refugee. He was first housed in San Francisco, but he came east to Rhode Island, the place he now calls home. After arriving to the United States, Heng continued his jewelry-making studies at a jewelry school and applied for jobs. Today, he has his own jewelry business and lives in Cranston, Rhode Island with his family.
Heng greatly appreciates the Cambodian music he learned as a child and playing music brings back good memories of Cambodia and of his father for him. As a recognized master Musician, he teaches others how to play to keep traditional Cambodian music alive.