I am an avid YouTuber and I love being entertained! I ran across this group of young ladies who call themselves Universal Speakers. I haven’t seen or heard of an all female Asian rap group, so I decided to listen and see what they were all about. The smooth sounds of reggae influenced with a Southeast Asian flair definitely caught my attention. And then I heard them rap, but wait and then I heard them sing! I was totally caught off guard at first but then I started grooving and they had me sold with their catchy melodies. Their music and sound is universal, hence the group name. Meet these 3 ladies and find out what they are really about!
Vice – Sokvy
Sokvy Ngong, aka Vice, I was born October 10th, 1980 in the Phillipines camp. The daughter of proud parents who are refugees of Cambodia. My nationality is Laos, but my parents were raised in Cambodia. I currently reside in Long Beach, Ca where I grew up and plan on staying. I actually didn’t go to college as it wasn’t really for me, but I did graduate from a vocational school for Dental Assisting. I practice as a Registered Dental Assistant at a private dental office. As a hobby and for the love, I perform with my musical group/friends, Universal Speakers. When I’m not working or practicing for a performance, I likes to play Street Fighter, party, and just spend time with my family and friends.
Versa – Sarah
Born in Feb, 1980 in Tennessee. Yes, Tennessee!! My family was sponsored during the war and lucky me I was nationalized here in the states. I could have been born anywhere! My mom was pregnant at the time and I could have been born on the plane, on a boat, in the jungle…anywhere. To this day they tell me “how lucky I am.” I am the youngest out of four children, so I am the brat and spoil one. My parents were not as harsh and strict on me as the others, but they were still very strict. Raising their children in America is quite hard to adapt to the customs and Western ways. I was raised the as if I was in Srok Khmer, but lived here in America. I always loved “art”! I grew up drawing and painting then it went to poetry and song writing to doing music. Now I make my living as a graphic designer and create music for pleasure. Currently, I am married and have a wonderful daughter name Marley. She is half khmer and “saw”. My life now revolves around her and I love it! Family and Music!
Versatile – Lisa Mony
I was born in May and my birth zodiac is a Taurus so yes I could be stubborn but I’m a coherent stubborn. I love the color green. I have 2 younger brothers. I have a mom and dad. I love sweets. I currently live in Corona and work in Ontario. My current hobby is photography. There’s nothing like capturing moments & having the images tell its own stories. I also like to write short stories during my free time. When imagination and creativity forms in the mind, it reflects onto paper. Like the saying goes, ‘a mind is a terrible thing to waste”. I love and live for adventure. Doing outdoors things. So far, I’ve skydived and white water rafted. Next on my bucket list is ziplining, which, is at the end of this month, and I’m currently training to climb Half Dome at Yosemite National Park in September. Wish me luck on that one.
Are you 100% Cambodian, if not what else are you mixed with?
Vice – Sokvy: I am not Cambodian, I am Laos. However, my parents grew up in Cambodia.
Versa – Sarah: I am mostly Khmer and have a bit of Vietnamese and Chinese in me. I think most Khmer people have the neighboring countries blood in them. Srok Khmer is like America! Lol. Many different race but we’re all in one place.
Versatile – Lisa: I am half Cambodian and half Thai. My dad is Cambodian and my mom is Thai.
I hear some reggae influences in your tracks, have you always loved the West Indian culture and music?
Vice – Sokvy: Yes, ever since Bob Marley. It’s a nice soothing sound. And also the dancehall. When Sean Paul came out, it was over on the dance floor for me! .I love to dance so dancing to dancehall is refreshing. And dancing to roots is soothing.
Versa – Sarah: Yes, I grew up with my older brother and sister playing SKA music from the tape deck. Bands like “The Special and Madness”. I wore the colors “red, gold, and green” since I was a little. Musical Youth and Half Pint were my first reggae albums I owned. I really liked the Fu-Snickens, Super Cat, Culture Club and UB40 growing up.
Versatile – Lisa: Yes. Reggae music defines a culture of free spirit ness, trail and triumph, and most importantly, love.
What inspires you to write the music that you’ve compiled so far?
Vice – Sokvy: What I grew up listening to, influences of different genres of music. Whatever sounded good to my heart and soul. I lived in the ghetto for many years and all I heard growing up was rap (NWA, Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Ice Cube, Wu Tang Clan…etc) so my first love is hip hop then the rest. R/B, pop, reggae….etc.
Versa – Sarah: I started writing poetry at first then I wrote songs, I would take a popular song, buy the cd for the instrumental and make my own version of the song. I was definitely a “dreamer” lol. I wrote lyrics that were not appropriate for my age haha. My inspiration comes from everything surround me. It could be my own life, my friends life, me fantasizing, what someone spoke about to me the other day, and even how the beat just may make me feel.
Versatile – Lisa: I write because of my love for music. My personal experiences inspire me to write as well as the experiences of others, told to me. Writing music is my form of venting.
What is currently playing on your iPod?
Vice – Sokvy: Currently in my ipod are a bunch of dance music that are played on the radio now. ie: Far East Movement, “Fly like a G6″, New Boyz, “Back Seat”, anything from the Cataracs beat, I’m a big fan of them right now. And of course all of Universal Speakers Album, ‘”Universal Love and No Hard Feelings”
Versa – Sarah: I have 80s (Culture Club, Wham, Madonna, Stevie B, Debbie Deb, and other freestyle music artists, 90’s R&B / Hip Hop (R Kelly, Jodeci, Boyz to Men, Babyface, Aaliyah, Masta Ace, Tony Toni etc…), Alternative music from The Cure, Cranberries, Green Day, Linkin Park, Offspring, to Blink 182. Of course I have Reggae music. I listen to many different reggae artists (big or small names). My favorite reggae song right now is from Cecille called (Waiting and Follow Me). I also listen to instrumentals. I listen to alot of older music than newer songs. My ipod is the perfect car auxiliary .
Versatile – Lisa: My current playlist consists of Tarrus Riley, MJ, Mos Def, K-os, Incubus, MGMT, Atmosphere, Daft Punk, Keith Urban, ACDC & Duran Duran just to name a few. It’s a good blend of genres, I would think.
Which artists do you look up to musically?
Vice – Sokvy: I look up to Missy Elliott. She is the number one female artist to me because she raps and sings. When she first came out, I was in awe with her. She honestly taught me how to write my own songs and raps since she did that too. She may not be eye candy, but she has that cool confidence that she expresses in her rhymes. Something about her swag relates to me in every way. Probably cuz she doesn’t give a **** what people think about her.
Versa – Sarah: I first looked up to Babyface when I started writing songs. He writes a lot of songs for artists. I also look up to Missy Elliot for the same reason. Both write songs for many popular artist, vocal arrange them, and also are star themselves. Bob Marley of course. His lyrics are still being taken in parts and reused in songs. Many artists reference his lyrics. There are many to list that inspire me and that I look up to, but those are the main three. Oh, and I do look up to my husband “Dub PassenJah”. I look up to him a lot. His voice and style is amazing. I actually copy his style sometimes. Hehehe (smiling)
Versatile – Lisa: I look up to artists like the late Aaliyah & Michael Jackson, Alicia Keys, & Mos Def. Not just for their musical talent but also for the rectitude they’ve contributed to music.
I, myself love reggae and dancehall. Will you eventually put out a dancehall record?
Vice – Sokvy: Maybe someday. We would love to try for fun at least. Just need the right beat and maybe a good artist to collab with.
Versa – Sarah: I would love to!! If you know any beatmakers, please send them my way. We are always willing to collaborate with other producers and always give proper credit! Beats are what inspire me to write. Sokvy an I made a beat in the past and actually sampled Sean Paul’s voice into our track….lol. Of course we did not get permission, so the song was never released. Hehe. Definitely I am for dancehall. If the girls don’t want any part of it, I still will put a few tracks out with other artist.
Versatile – Lisa: Haha. I think when it comes to dancehall; I’d be dancing more than putting together the record.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years musically?
Vice – Sokvy: Jammin with a live band in Vegas, Thailand, Hawaii, Europe….and the list goes on. Doing cover songs is also good as well since we are getting older.
Versa – Sarah: Doing the same thing. I do want to branch out and perform out of state and in different countries. Traveling and performing is a great combination!! I also want to start producing more beats.
Versatile – Lisa: In 5 years, I see myself still having the passion to write music. If we all had the choice to pick what we love doing over a 9 to 5, then it’s a no brainer but we all have to do what we have to do. It’s the norm of society however; if I were to win that Mega Million jackpot then it’s a whole new story. :)
How did you come up with your group name Universal Speakers?
Vice – Sokvy: We all came up with it together in one sitting. One of us said, “Hey since we like ourselves so much we should be called ‘us’.” That was a joke, but when we broke down the letters in ‘us’, it’s ‘us’ between the ‘mic’ in mUSic. Get it? And since our music doesn’t really have a main genre, we named ourselves Universal and the S is for Speakers for lyrically speaking our minds through music.
Versa – Sarah: The other 2 girls made a statement and said “I like us” after hearing a track we recorded. Both of them thought it would be cool and funny to name the band “US.” Lol. So we end up using the letters and created “Universal Speakers” for U and S. Universal Speakers was the chosen name because we have different styles. We hit 3-4 genres of music: Hip-Hop, Pop, R&B, and Reggae.
Versatile – Lisa: Universal Speakers surfaced from the simple word “US” as in the three of us. We figured “US” could be acronyms for something. We sat there in Sarah’s room, trying to come up with clever to funny things that represented us as individuals and as a whole. Universal came about ultimately as us representing far more than a local female group. We wanted to be worldwide but what was bigger than worldwide? ‘Universal’. We wanted to be out of our elements & out of the stereotypes of any other Asian female group being R&B or pop singers. ‘Speakers’ was for what we wanted to say and put out there for all to hear. How do people listen and hear things best? Through loud speakers and that was the birth of Universal Speakers. What can I say? It just suited us.
If you had a chance to do a collabo, who would it be with and why.
Vice – Sokvy: I had a dream to do a track with Nate Dogg. I kind of think of myself as the girl version of him because when I freestyle a song, I tend to come up with a chorus related to the subjects he sings about. It’s all fun. I was pretty sure one day I may have a chance since so far my musical dreams have came true. He was on my list of dreams to pursue, but I was too late since he past away 3/15/11. Now he rests in peace and is free of pain.
Versa – Sarah: I would want to collaborate with Akon, because he has a hip hop and reggae feel or Sean Paul (it seems like everyone has done a track with Sean Paul) hehe. Also, this most likely can happen someday, I would like to do a track with reggae singer Half Pint. He is a great singer! When I was a teenager I went on Half Pints website and saw that he performed at a wedding. I told myself, when I get married I want him to perform at my wedding…….and it happened!!
Versatile – Lisa: Oh man, I have a few. Alicia Keys cause she’s so laid-back and chill. Mos Def cause he gets so creative with his work and Michael Jackson cause he’s the King of Pop! All are admirable people.
Okay, so we always ask this question. What is your favorite Khmer dish, and do any of you like to cook?
Vice – Sokvy: Ga theo and Mee ga thung. Yes I like to cook, don’t love it, but when I can, I’m okay at it.
Versa – Sarah: Wow, I only get to name one??? Well, I have to many so I would just list you my favorites!!! I love khmer curry! Chicken Rice, when my mom cooks the chicken and rice in a pot and puts (tuk-threy) all over it! Ga-Theo of course! Much better than Pho, especially if it’s from my mom’s kitchen. Lok Lak (beef and salad) and Bin Choi (the Khmer Omelette) I make Lok Lak out of my favorite! I tried the others, but didn’t succeed with the same taste as my mom’s dishes. I do make good fried rice, stir-fry oysters, and me-ka-thang (khmer pad-se ew is what I call it hehe)
Versatile – Lisa: Awe man, you totally stumped me with this one but my favorite Khmer dishes would have to be my parents’ dishes, which I get to eat only when I go visit them in LB. I don’t cook at all unless you call making a sandwich cooking. Don’t get me wrong, I like to cook but I love to eat more. :)
Check them out:
Originally Posted by Tyan Y.
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