Exploring origins and gratitude with Savan Muth of Samurai Champs

This musician reflects on finding success, going back to his roots in Cambodia, and showing gratitude through music.

This is the second installment in a two-part series featuring rising hip-hop duo Samurai Champs. Read part one with Marvin Chan here. 

Savan Muth had just come back from an amazing tour in Asia. 

The tour to Singapore was a significant milestone in the careers of Muth and his rapping partner Marvin Chan, but it also marked a different milestone in Muth’s life: his first time travelling to Asia after his parents escaped the Khmer Rouge genocide. 

Cold Tea Collective sat down with Muth (during his four-hour layover, no less) to get the low down on getting invited to Music Matters Live and going back to the place where his parents escaped from.

Photo Credit: Natasha Jung

How did the trip to Singapore come about? 

Muth and Chan formed Samurai Champs and started to perform together after a long and storied friendship throughout high school, admiring each other’s musical stylings. 

After playing a multitude of shows, they were invited to perform at SXSW.

“That was the riskiest operation that we did because it was like gambling,” said Muth. “We didn’t know if we were even going to get in, then we were putting money into investing in promotions and trying to stand out amongst artists that were in a much higher tier than us. We [were] the underdogs.”

Luckily for the duo, their performance at the venue, Swan Dive, secured them a spot at Music Matters. Talent scouts ended up being in the packed audience the day they performed at SXSW and asked if they would come down to Singapore to play for Music Matters. 

Going back to his roots

With only three short days to explore Cambodia, Muth and Chan traded sleep for a chance to experience the country that his parents grew up in and see a few of its wonders, such as Angkor Wat. 

 “Our tour guide was so good and passionate about telling stories,” said Muth. “He took us to this secret cliffside that a lot of Cambodians are scared to go to because a lot of the Khmer Rouge people still live there. They’re exiled in that area and can’t go into the cities because of what happened during the war.”

Muth’s tour guide ended up taking them to a secret location in the mountainside to see where the stones that made the temples [of Angkor Wat] were cut from.

“It was just breathtaking to see,” said Muth. “It was pouring rain. I remember our tour guide saying, ‘Isn’t it so nice to be one with nature to see all of this? This place is already in the works [to be turned] into touristy areas, so this is probably one of the last chances that you’ll get to see this.’ So that was amazing.”

Showing gratitude through hard work

Like many immigrant families, Muth’s parents fought hard to build a life for their family in Canada. 

Muth describes showing gratitude towards his parents through hard work. Typically, a child works hard to get through school, to get their degree, and to ultimately be able to take care of their parents when they’re older. 

“That’s the ultimate gratitude that you can give them,” Muth said. 

However, Muth is humble about the success of Samurai Champs and has difficulty translating those accomplishments to his parent’s generation.

He explains that although it’s exciting for them to see their son’s success, it’s not the same thing as being able to bring money home or buy them a new house.

“But hearing about experiences that they weren’t able to experience makes them feel like they did something right,” Muth said. “I’m able to show them gratitude just by spending more time with them. We’re so busy that now all they want is for me to be around, for me to be there to talk to them about my experiences because that’s what they’re so drawn to.”

Making his parents proud

Last year, Muth pulled off the ultimate dream come true for his parents when Cambodian star, Meas Soksophea, reached out to Samurai Champs because she wanted to meet and do music together. He was surprised that they were able to attract their attention solely through social media.

“She doesn’t even live in Canada and she made a stop in Saskatoon just to visit and to see us,” Muth said. “After meeting her, we clicked, and it felt like it was just meant to be. We were able to do a song together, and when it comes out you’ll be able to hear it.”

Muth’s parents drove from Regina the next day to come see Soksophea, who is a Cambodian artist that they follow. So excited, they embarked on a three-hour drive as soon as they finished work just so they could meet Soksophea in person.

Having this shared experience with his parents was a nice way for Muth to give back to his parents through music and for him to show his gratitude, which Muth is full of.

“I’m grateful for my family, for music, and for the relationships I have been able to build—with Marv, with Trifecta—through music,” said Muth.

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