Foreigners are generally NOT keen on Cambodian pop.
Maybe they should pay more attention, as this savvy article spells out.
This music forms a constant background soundtrack to life in Cambodia, where the majority party oversees the vast majority of the media as well.
Of course, community advocates engaging with the powers that be also use music – beyond the highly public offerings from The Messenger Band and legendary Chapei player Kung Nei (a former resident of Dey Krahom) to ‘Gagnam Style’ – the latter used when delivering an anti-evictions petition.
Note the sunglasses and kramas. Protests are photographed and recorded studiously by the police. Which is why there are protest songs but very few singers who will publicly associate themselves with ‘controversial’ lyrics. For sharing topical songs, it’s all about context, as seen above.
There is a large body of colloquial Cambodian songs and slogans that have not been documented, arising from communities experiencing land grabs and economic distress. If you’re an anthropologist or ethnomusicologist, know Khmer and have a digital recorder, there’s a PhD thesis topic for you.
For the next Cambodia election, it will be fun to explore the aesthetic approach of candidates and platforms. It sure reveals a lot about their underlying perspective. But a dance-off or Cambodian Idol competition to choose representatives is probably off the cards.