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blog Cambodia; blog the planet.

Nov 2, 2005

Summer Bird

Songs, singers, times and places One of my history professors once said, "You cannot argue with a song". But then, he'd never heard Ayay. I'd mentioned earlier that 'His Name is Alive' (above) had done a song referencing Cambodia called Summer Bird. (The free download has been taken offline but I'm sure it will be available via other sources.) "SUMMER BIRD is a 1970's singersongwriter flavored track written about lost love using Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge's complete destruction of Cambodia as a metaphor. A quick reference to Jackson Browne's Running on Empty serves as a reminder of the Communist's original goals of becoming solely reliant on their own natural resources, ending the undeclared war that the United States had started after branching out from Vietnam, and also as a reminder of how a beautiful well-meaning dream could quickly become a nightmare of unimaginable proportions." Hold on. So basically, lost love is comparable to genocide? I think what we can really derive from this song is that the Khmer Rouge time has not only come to be seen as a significant moment of history, but also a symbolic image utilized freely in Western popular culture. The song could have talked about the gulags in Russia or the Great Depression to evoke the writer's personal desolation. Many writers like to clothe the stories of their lives in dramatic terms. It's a song written in English, by foreigners, for foreigners. It wasn't written and marketed for Cambodians. I like 'HINA' and will continue to listen to their music. But it's not really about Cambodia in any way. Each performer, each band has their own intentions. Some have a specific audience in mind, some are in it for the money, some sing mainly to satisfy their own tastes. A band that has specifically reached out to Khmer listeners, 'Michael Learns to Rock' has gotten a warm reception locally. My Khmer friends are 100% enthusiastic. After all, what's wrong with songs that are easy to sing, by a band that is happy to visit Cambodia to open the door as one of the very first international touring bands? My foreign friends are less enthusiastic - particularly about bands that seem to be primarily concerned with commercial success. But it's a matter of taste. In Cambodia, ballads and karaoke rule the airwaves. There are plenty of other songs about Cambodia - often by foreigners, for foreigners. One of the first songs critical of the Khmer Rouge (and sympathizers) was the Dead Kennedys' "Holiday in Cambodia". Far from a pop song or ballad, this was of the abrasive 'Punk Rock' genre, a kind of music that has never caught on in Cambodia. (In Indonesia, Thailand? Yes, but here there's no interest.) The song was met with incredulity and derision in 1980. However you can still find their bootlegged album "Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables" in the CD shops of Phnom Penh. And until recently you could find "Holiday in Cambodia" t-shirts: not so much of a joke now, decades later! Other musical tidbits: Other musical tidbits: *In 1979 there were some fundraising concerts and a record put out to raise money for famine relief in Cambodia. http://www.procolharum.com/99/gb_kampuchea.htm *SPK released a b-side called 'Kambuja' which I seem to recall utilized the vocals from a John Pilger documentary. *Kim Wilde's 'Cambodia' charted in the mid-80's. *There was another punk rock band called Angkor Wat which released an album in 1989, but I know little about them. *The Lemonheads released a song called " If I could Talk I'd Tell You", (1996) which refers to the Khmer Rouge in an effort to shock. And beyond obscure sounds like this, I'm enjoying the sounds of Dengue Fever (above), and am surprised that their albums aren't sold in Cambodia - legally or illegally. The band takes as its influence the brief period of Khmer Rock and Roll that predated the 1975 revolution. http://www.khmerrocks.com/ Just bought the local U2 Club "Hip Hop" compilation but am a little lukewarm towards it. Khmer hip hop still seems to be a developing musical form. Looking forward to hearing the new Prach album, which I'm expecting good things from. Am a little disappointed that the University of Fine Art is not teaching Jazz, as it had advertised earlier this year. Ah well, there's still the Khmer Fusion group. And let's not forget the traditional music of Cambodia - I've been fortunate to hear Chapei player Kung Nei live a few days ago (playing for the King-Father's birthday). He works with Cambodian Living Arts. And Folkways records has released some pre-revolutionary recordings of traditional Khmer music. Fascinating. Folkways http://www.smithsonianglobalsound.org/searchresults.aspx?sPhrase=Cambodia&sType=all Tags: ,

- jinja Link

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I love Dengue Fever - there is a song called "Sixteen" -- "Dawp Pram Moy"  


folkways links are broken! Looks like some excellent recordings to add to the music collection ...  
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