It’s been a long time since “Cambodia” and “rock’n’roll” have been used together in a sentence. When the genocidal thugs of the Khmer Rouge overran the country in 1975, they did their very best to stomp out anything in the country that didn’t meet their political, social and philosophical view. The cities were empty in favour of disastrous agrarian reform. Millions died in the notorious Killing Fields and within the walls of Tuol Seng, the horrific prison and torture centre. (I’ve been there. Words cannot describe its inhumanity.)
But back to rock. Before the Khmer Rouge too power, Cambodia had a lively music scene. But as much as authorities tried to obliterate this part of the culture, they couldn’t kill it. It was terribly, terribly wounded, but after more than 30 years, it’s starting to feel better. There’s something of a renaissance in Cambodian rock’n’roll.
Documenting everything is a new film called Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll. The New York Times has a full story on it. But first, watch the trailer.
Here are some samples of what it used to be like before the KR moved it.