When I visited Phnom Penh a couple of years ago, I was struck by the city’s mixture of despair and optimism. Despair because the country is still suffering from the fallout of the Khmer Rouge’s genocidal actions of more than 30 years ago. Despair because of the sweatshops, poverty and child sex trade. But there was also an optimism about how things can only get better in the future for Cambodia.
Naturally, these emotions manifest themselves in music.
Slate has this look at Cambodian hardcore.
Tin, the lead singer of Cambodia’s gnarliest rock band
, slaps his friend on the shoulder and says, “Let’s get fookin pissed ya nobhead,” before downing the rest of his beer. The 21-year-old rocker, who has rarely left his native Phnom Penh, taught himself English by watching gangster films until he talked like a Manchester scallywag. His accent is wildly incongruous with his delicate Khmer-Chinese looks.His band is called Sliten6ix
, and it’s part of a handful of groups that form the nascent rock scene in Cambodia’s largest city. (According to Tin, the band’s name is a portmanteau that combines slit
in order to describe the curative power of music; there are five members, with music forming a metaphysical sixth member.) They have no local music influences, as there is no history of rock music in Cambodia. The Southeast Asian country enjoyed a short-lived surf-rock scene in the 1960s, but the Khmer Rouge quickly crushed it.The scene, small as it is, resonates with the larger upheavals in Cambodian society—the unprecedented success of the leading opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, in last summer’s elections and the recent wave of mass protests
show how increased education and Internet access have led people to begin to question the current authoritarian government. After decades of war and its aftermath, Cambodians are finding their voice.
Keep reading. (Thanks to John for the link.)