Khmer Rocks
January 23, 2007 8:29 AM   Subscribe

Ros Sereysothea and Sinn Sisamouth were two of the more famous Cambodian musicians creating amazingly inspired music in the 60s and early 70s that fused Khmer with western rock. They were both killed by the Khmer Rouge; but not before leaving a powerful legacy that has inspired a short film about Sereysothea, a documentary and a band. They are still loved in Cambodia.
posted by PHINC (7 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Interesting post, thanks.

A remixed Dengue Fever track can be heard on my site, for those interested. Track used with permission of DF.
posted by dobbs at 8:47 AM on January 23, 2007

That's really interesting!
posted by serazin at 9:23 AM on January 23, 2007

The excellent soundtrack to City of Ghosts also features tracks from both artists. Great soundtrack, actually better than the movie.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 9:48 AM on January 23, 2007

I've heard some of Sisamouth's stuff. It was good. I was not aware of the end he came to. Sad.
posted by jonmc at 10:22 AM on January 23, 2007

great post - thanks.
posted by scody at 1:25 PM on January 23, 2007

I listen to both of them just about every day, literally - I have all three Cambodian Rocks discs and even with 6,000 competitors the shuffle falls on them every few hours. I had no idea what had happened to them, though. Guess I never thought to Google.

I can only recommend that everyone get acquainted with these paragons of raucous, garagey bar rock in the Cambodian tradition, though obviously I'll never hear their voices in quite the same way ever again. Thanks for the post.
posted by adamgreenfield at 1:57 PM on January 23, 2007

Funny, I just saw Dengue Fever on Sunday night.

Unfortunately, I wasn't really impressed. :-( The lead singer is good -- very clear and virtuousic Cambodian-style song with all the embellishments and grace notes as far as I can hear (I have a few other CDs of Cambodian rock and other things from around that area).

However, she didn't quite have that star presence -- very attractive, true, but not a star. You don't have to be fuckable to be a star and vice versa. She didn't have her moves down, which is fine, but she didn't have that flame.

And the rest of the band? Serviceable at best. The guitarist was a man with a long beard who was, well, serviceable. The bassist was pretty good but just a little sluggish. The drummer was kinda dull. The keyboard player actually made me laugh because during a section where he played a complicated part while the band sped up he faded himself out (he didn't just drop out, he was clearly sneaking out the back way because he couldn't handle it).

It was part of this event, which was OK but not great -- lots of competent musicians, though we didn't see the whole thing. The great exception was Le Trio Joubron.

Oh, Le Trio Joubron. Three brothers from Palestine, two who looked like twins and one somewhat different, thin, dressed in black, soft-spoken. The first thing I noticed was their incredibly beautiful ouds -- which one of them described as a pregnant guitar. The bodies were inlaid patterned wood, and the soundboards were cut in intricate scrollwork patterns -- perhaps the most beautiful instruments I've ever seen, at least none others come to mind. Astonishingly enough, after a couple of songs, the different brother announced that one of the twins had made all the instruments!

And the music... how can I describe it? The oud is like a balalaika inasmuch as the technique involves very fast plectum (plucking) work with the right hand, so you get what are essentially sustained notes on the instrument by strumming very fast. So oud music is generally full of brilliancies, lightning passages and accelerandos. But this went even further. Their music was partly improvisational in nature though each song has a pre-written tune -- and they'd seem to effortlessly split the parts of a song up and then invent new parts and throw them around, development, speed them up, regroup, divide up again...

And they were so happy to be doing this! It's a trait I've noticed in Indian classical musicians too -- no matter how serious they start, they're always grinning like lunatics by the end. It was like a game to them, one emitting a motif and looking at another who'd look back quizzically and throw back a counterpoint and then they're off on the game again.

These people had charisma, just because of the sheer love they have for their music.

(Also noted were the Andy Palacio & The Garifuna Collective, who weren't the virtuosos that the Joubron Trio were, but had their own star-power with a guest visit by an octogenarian hero of Garifuna music whose name I didn't catch, and a reasonable band including a fine guitarist.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:08 PM on January 23, 2007

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