Santana: the Cambodia Connection

I was on my way with some of the Sovanna Phum crew to pick up a new skor thom (big drum). Not just your run-of-the-mill drum, this huge object was essentially the cross-section of a tree. Kosal had plans for an animist blessing ceremony so the drum could get acclimated to the performance space and community. (You can see it in action every weekend.)

On the tape deck comes “Oye Como Va”. The truck driver grins and turns it up. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard Santana in Cambodia. Check out Cambodian Rocks (5th track) and you’ll discover Sinn Sisamouth’s reworking of “Black Magic Woman”.

(Wikipedia credits Sisamouth covering the song as “I Love Petite Women”, and “Quando My Love”, while the CD I have lists it as “I Recognize That Face”.)
It’s ususally best to go with tapes when digging up classic Khmer tunes, CDs are just one step further removed from the distant original recording.

There’s something about the guitar – the pitch, the style, the approach – that resonated deeply with Khmer popular music prior to the revolution, and still does today. I’ll hear Santana or covers of his music in the most unlikely places here.

I doubt the musician ever toured in Cambodia (or is getting any royalties), but if he came there’d be a sellout crowd. Got a Khmer Santana story? Drop me a line.

Santana Site:
Sinn Sisamouth:

Sketch idea by me, inks by Vuth, colors by Samphos. Tags:,,

Leave a Reply