If you, like me, scour the bins/internet for lost musical obscurities from all corners of the globe, “Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll”, should be a documentary worthy of your time. Not only does the movie feature unseen and rare footage of the area’s talented musicians, it’s a document of the troubled culture clash of a country beset by a bloody civil war.
On the border of the war in Vietnam and sandwiched between the American backed Cambodian military and the emerging communist power of the Khmer Rouge, these performers were true Rock and Roll rebels often facing imprisonment, or worse, for their westernized contribution to Cambodian culture. Two of the biggest names to emerge during that period, Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Sereysothea, both died under mysterious circumstances when the iron fisted Khmer Rouge came to power in the mid-seventies, so it’s safe to assume a similar fate for other, less recognized, artists. Circumstances were such that by the end of the Cambodian genocide, it’s estimated that as much as 1/3 of the population had been killed. Oddly enough, with that omnipresent threat, the wild sounds did indeed abound.
The music of sixties Cambodia was almost entirely unknown in the Western Hemisphere until 1996 when psychedelic reissue label, Parallel World, produced the compilation, Cambodian Rocks. The music, while clearly influenced by Western Rock, was clearly it’s own beast, incorporating indigenous folk and popular elements, creating a uniquely Cambodian psychedelic stew. The first volume of Cambodian Rocks proved so successful that it necessitated a sequel AND provided the blueprint for modern bands like Dengue Fever and Neung Phak to further develop and bring these sounds to the masses.
In addition to the above, fans can rejoice in the upcoming Sinn Sisamouth documentary, “Elvis Of Cambodia”, which should give the most complete, English language profile, of the legend to date.
The company producing King Of Cambodia also has a WordPress, so follow ’em and stay up to the minute!
WFMU’s page has the entire Cambodian Rocks Vol 1 hosted here: http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2007/12/cambodian-rocks.html
and thank youtube for Part 2
The Sublime Frequencies label has also made a significant contribution to our knowledge of Cambodian, and other similarly under recognized cultures, music.