Just heard a great documentary on BBC Radio 4 about Khmer rock, the Cambodian pop sound of the 1960s and early 70s. You can listen to the half-hour programme again on the BBC iPlayer website but unfortunately only until 4 August 2009. If you’re too late to catch the show, the BBC news article Khmer rock revival seeks new audience sums it up neatly.
The documentary tells the story of how Khmer rock came out of a fusion of Cambodia’s traditional music and of its exposure to the Western rock and roll broadcast on the American Forces Radio Network. Interviews with those who witnessed and survived the Khmer Rouge regime, as well as with modern fans and musicians (including Dengue Fever), chart the growth of the Phnom Penh nightclub scene, its brutal demise under Pol Pot and the music’s current revival in Cambodia, Asia and the West. It’s well worth a listen not only for all the fabulous music played throughout but also to learn about the tragedy of Cambodia’s recent past.
I leave you with the ebullient sounds of Ros Serey Sothea’s Tngai Nis Khnyom Nham Sra (Today I Drink Wine).
For more Khmer music from this period, check out the compilation Cambodian Rocks and the KhmerMusic website. I’m looking forward to watching the film documentary Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll when it comes out.