The Cambodian rock scene of the s—s has also become a matter of interest to record collectors around the world,   while specialists like Dust-to-Digital have embarked on projects to locate and restore surviving records. The Cambodian rock scene of the s—s was very robust, with hundreds of active performers. Information on many of them remains lost after the chaos of the Khmer Rouge regime, while some others remain to be discovered by Western journalists and enthusiasts. The list below includes those musicians whose works have become available in the West.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Redirected from Cambodian rock ss. This article is about the music genre. For the bootleg compilation album, see Cambodian Rocks. See also: Music of Cambodia. Cambodia portal Music portal. The Royal House of Cambodia. Phnom Penh Cambodia: Monument Books. Fontes Artis Musicae. Argot Pictures. Journal of Popular Music Studies.
The Sydney Morning Herald. The New York Times. Folio Weekly. Public Culture. Archived from the original PDF on 23 September Khmer Scholar. Retrieved 3 April The Guardian. Retrieved 23 March Daily News. New York. Retrieved 3 October The Phnom Penh Post. Retrieved 12 April Retrieved 29 May Art 21 Magazine. Cambodian rock of the s and s was a thriving and prolific music scene based in Phnom Penh , Cambodia , in which musicians created a unique sound by combining traditional Cambodian music forms with rock and pop influences from records imported into the country from Latin America, Europe, and the United States.
This music scene was abruptly crushed by the Khmer Rouge communists in , and many of its musicians disappeared or were executed during the ensuing Cambodian genocide. Due to its unique sounds and the tragic fate of many of its performers, the Cambodian rock scene has attracted the interest of music historians and record collectors, and the genre gained new popularity upon the international release of numerous compilation albums starting in the late s. Cambodia gained independence from France in , under the leadership of young king Norodom Sihanouk.
Cambodia's international relations with France and various countries in Latin America fostered the importation of pop records into the country, while children from wealthy Cambodian families often attended school in France and returned with French pop records that were widely traded among fans in Phnom Penh.
By , American and British pop and early rock and roll records began to appear in Cambodia, inspiring teenage fans in particular. By the mids, Sinn Sisamouth had become Cambodia's most well-known pop music performer, and his music increasingly incorporated rock music influences, including psychedelic rock and garage rock.
By this time, the Cambodian music scene was further influenced by Western rock and soul music via U. Pen Ran also known as Pan Ron was one of the earliest rock-oriented female singers in the Cambodian scene, first emerging in with traditional pop songs but moving into rock music by via duets with Sisamouth as well as her own songs. Sisamouth was also instrumental in launching the career of Ros Serey Sothea , who had been singing at weddings and quickly became the leading female singer in the Cambodian rock scene after her emergence in This was another factor in the genre's unique sound.
Sothea maintained an active career with her own songs as well as many popular duets with Sisamouth. The Cambodian rock scene was also notable for its prolific nature, with musicians recording large numbers of songs that were continuously released as singles.
For example, Sinn Sisamouth is confirmed to have written more than one thousand songs, and the true total is likely to be much higher.
Their rock n' roll records, which were popular with younger people, were released alongside works in other genres including traditional Cambodian music, romantic ballads, and film music , with those latter genres remaining popular with the country's older music fans.
By , Norodom Sihanouk had lost the support of many urban and educated Cambodians due to his inability to keep the hostilities of the Vietnam War from spilling across the country's borders. Armed Forces Radio that had been broadcast to troops in nearby South Vietnam and could be picked up in Phnom Penh, allowed new musical influences to infiltrate the Cambodian rock scene.
Additional examples of this new wave of Cambodian rock musicians include Meas Samon , who combined the showmanship of a comedian with satirical lyrics and psychedelic rock sounds.
This latest wave of rock musicians, plus established stars like Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Serey Sothea , continued their music careers throughout the early s. However, the Cambodian Civil War took its toll on the country, as did American bombing campaigns associated with the Vietnam War. The Khmer Rouge regime, led by Pol Pot , wanted to return the nation of Cambodia to an idyllic notion of the past by implementing a radical form of agrarian socialism while simultaneously shunning outside aid and influence.
More than half of those who died during the genocide are believed to have been directly executed. Musicians posed an apparent threat to the Khmer Rouge regime due to their influence on culture, incompatibility with an agrarian lifestyle, and foreign influences. Many of Cambodia's rock musicians disappeared during the genocide and their exact fates have never been confirmed. Due to these musicians' enduring popularity with the Cambodian people, reports differ on how some of them died.
Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Serey Sothea are both believed to have been summarily executed by Khmer Rouge soldiers out of fear that their popularity could foment resistance among the population. Meas Samon is believed to have been executed at a work site after refusing to stop playing music during breaks.
Some Cambodian rock musicians survived the genocide through various hardships. For example, Drakkar guitarist Touch Chhatha was among many professional musicians who were forced to play traditional and patriotic music every day to Khmer Rouge troops.
She lied and said she was a banana seller, which probably saved her life as the Khmer Rouge were already known to target musicians for imprisonment or execution. As with many other aspects of pre-Khmer Rouge Cambodian culture, much of the country's rock music and information about the musicians was lost during the chaos of the regime.
Therefore, except for fans' personal memories, much of the s—s rock music of Cambodia was lost until it was slowly rediscovered starting in the s. Relations between the Khmer Rouge regime and neighboring Vietnam collapsed in late , igniting the Cambodian—Vietnamese War.
Vietnamese forces sent the Khmer Rouge into exile in Thailand  and installed Heng Samrin as the new leader of the restored Cambodia. Those who did not return were considered dead, including musicians. After the fall of the Khmer Rouge, surviving Cambodian rock musicians regrouped and attempted to locate missing colleagues. Sothea did not survive the genocide but Saboeut took the opportunity to reunite Cambodia's surviving rock musicians, maintaining a list of contacts.
Saboeut's efforts are widely credited with reviving Cambodian popular music in the aftermath of the genocide. As with all other aspects of Cambodian society and culture, the country's music scene faced a tough but relatively fast recovery. This resulted in a sound that is often described as psychedelic or garage rock ,  and Sothea became the leading female singer in the thriving Cambodian rock scene. Romantic ballads would remain her most endearing work amongst the more conservative populace.
Little information about Ros Serey Sothea's personal life has survived, though her personality has been described as modest and reserved. She is known to have been involved in a few high-profile relationships. As documented in the film Don't Think I've Forgotten , when she arrived in Phnom Penh she was courted by fellow singer Sos Mat and they eventually married.
As Sothea's career moved forward, Sos Mat became jealous of her success and of the men who came to watch her perform, culminating in physical abuse. Believing that her career would be ruined by the stigma of divorce, Sothea went back to her family in Battambang but was convinced by Sinn Sisamouth to return to Phnom Penh and resume her career.
Sothea's popularity rebounded and she met a prominent member of a film-making family while recording film songs. This relationship led to marriage and the birth of a son, but for undocumented reasons the marriage was short-lived. Ros Serey Sothea disappeared during the Khmer Rouge genocide and her exact fate has never been confirmed, with multiple sources making contradictory claims. For example, her sisters have alleged that Sothea is likely to have died immediately after the Khmer Rouge seized control of Cambodia in April ; as a famous entertainer with "western" influences, qualities widely known to be disdained by the Khmer Rouge, she would have been targeted for imprisonment or execution immediately.
Her whereabouts at the time are also uncertain, with some sources claiming that she had traveled to Pailin Province for the Buddhist New Year, as the lyrics of her final recordings are on that topic, though others are skeptical of this claim because of the dangers of traveling in Cambodia during that period. One or both of Sisamouth's parents were partially Lao.
His father died when he was a child and his mother then remarried. Sisamouth learned to play stringed instruments at the age of six or seven, and showed a natural singing talent. He was often invited to perform music at school functions. At about age 16 he graduated from primary school and moved to Phnom Penh to study medicine; this plan was apparently meant to please his parents when his true goal was to become a musician.
Sisamouth graduated from medical school around the time that Cambodia gained independence from France in He initially worked in a Phnom Penh hospital as a nurse,  but was soon hired by the Cambodian national radio station as a singer with its band. The Queen invited Sisamouth to join the Vong Phleng Preah Reach Troap the classical ensemble of the Royal Treasury with which he performed at royal receptions and state functions.
In the mids, the romantic ballad " Violon Sneha ", composed by violinist Hass Salan, catapulted Sisamouth into stardom across Cambodia. Sisamouth became known for his crooning voice, which has been likened to that of Nat King Cole ,  while his stage presence has been compared to that of Frank Sinatra.
Norodom Sihanouk , a musician himself, encouraged the development of popular music in Cambodia. Initially, pop records from France and Latin America were imported into the country and became popular, inspiring a flourishing music scene based in Phnom Penh. Sisamouth had become established as Cambodia's most popular singer and songwriter. Nevertheless, his popularity did not eclipse that of other recording artists such as Eum Song Seurm and Huoy Meas. He collaborated directly with Mao Sareth and Chounn Malay, among others.
He also wrote songs for, and duetted with, other popular Cambodian singers to nurture their careers. For example, starting in the mids he recorded many popular duets with Pen Ran. He was interested in Buddhist scripture, and he learned Pali from the Buddhist monks. He enjoyed reading books, playing soccer and flying kites. In about he finished elementary school, and went to study medicine in Phnom Penh, where he lived with an uncle. Despite the rigorous demands of medical school, Sisamouth still managed to find time to learn how to sing and compose songs.
Just as he had in elementary school, he became well known in his school for his musical skills and lyrical talent, and was asked to sing at school ceremonies.
One prominent elder Khmer statesman from the Sangkum and Lon Nol years, now living in Paris, has made the claim that he hired Sin Sisamouth and his band at his wedding in that year. If the claim is corroborated, this could probably be the first indication of Samouth's earliest public performance at the age of By the time Cambodia was granted independence from France in , Samouth's fine singing voice landed him a spot on national radio as a regular singer.
He also continued his studies, working at Preah Ketomealea Hospital. Music career Early hits and musical talent Samouth possessed a clear crooning voice which, combined with his own compositions about the pleasures and pains of romance, made him an idol.
He sang many ballads, as well uptempo rock numbers that featured prominent, distortion-laden guitar, pumping organ and loud, driving drums. Other arrangements were more Latin jazz-sounding, featuring woodwinds, brass, and auxiliary percussion. Samouth composed melodies on a mandolin. His songs were usually of a sentimental nature, reflecting on the longings, pains, and pleasures of romance.
His lyrical talent was a result of hard work as well as natural ability. He was known to have used up to three different dictionaries in searching for just the right word in the Khmer, Sanskrit, or Pali languages. In the early s he became a protege of Queen Kossomak Nearyrath. He was selected to join the Vong Phleng Preah Reach Troap classical ensemble of the Royal Treasury where together with Sos Matt, he performed at royal receptions and state functions.
A number of songs he wrote subsequently bore the unmistakable melancholic melodies of traditional Khmer music he performed in those formative years. Sometime in the mids a romantic ballad "Violon Sneha", composed by violinist Hass Salan or Hass Salorn , catapulted Samouth into stardom. Three songs from this period were to be re-released much later in the early s. This latter work, underpinned by a superb piano accompaniement, is a perennial Ramvong favourite at Khmer weddings. Dedicated fans should consider making more of these songs available on the web to future generations of Khmer listeners.
They are priceless examples of Samouth's earliest vocal style and the poetry that pervades his art. His "Champa Batdambang" won immediate acclaim across the country. In a rare appearance on Khmer Republic television[verification needed], Samouth's interviewer recalled that "Champa Batdambang" was the first opening song at the inauguration of the station in What captured Samouth's audience in this period was the use of a four-piece, rock and roll band instrumentation with guitars and percussion, a departure from an orchestral backing band of wind instruments, piano, violin and the odd accordion.
Beginning in "Khnang phnom anussavry" seemed to mark a change away from the "Champa Batdambang" sound, with the use of the acoustic guitar.
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