While in NYC last week, I happened upon this treasure. Right away I recognized the face of Sinn Sisamouth, famous Cambodian rock singer from the late 60s.
For those who do not know, during the 1960s and early 1970s Cambodia experienced a period of creative enlightenment. Although it was influenced by America and its sudden interference in Asian countries, this was a period of rising stars and a new morale for the Cambodian people.
Unfortunately, one of the worst genocides of all time (and not given any attention today in the West) was about to take place. 1.4 million people were killed (numbers could be more than that) by the Khmer Rouge, a regime that targeted creative types and anyone with intellect (this is serious they had an “anti-intellect” regime). They killed off all doctors, teachers, anyone in the entertainment industry. They killed the parents of any children that were young enough to brainwash. Their ideals were to create a society free of capitalist intentions. So, mostly all the artists on this collaborative record were killed for their involvement in music and acting and its links to the West.
I listened to the whole record in one sitting. It is an amazing reproduction and re-imagination of American rock music from this era. Listening to this piece of history is exciting and also made me feel sad. I don’t know if it was me inferring the emotion onto the record because I know the history or if the emotions were already there, but I feel a tone of sadness when listening to the music despite the upbeat style.
Here is a clip of Sinn Sissamouth and Sieng Dy in a film called “Aspara” from 1966: