dublab travels the globe with a mission of sharing as we discover. “Field Reports” are an opportunity for eager ears to join us on a voyage through amazing lands. We reflect glimmers of exotic essences through sounds, words and images, creating an expansive trailblazing experience. Please join us for this journey to Cambodia…
1. Ros Sereysothea – “Pink Night / When we meet again”
2. Sinn Sisamouth – “Knowing too much without seeing with my own eyes”
3. Sinn Sisamouth – “Where has she gone”
4. Sinn Sisamouth – “Wedding day”
5. Ros Sereysothea – “Wooly Bully”
6. Pan Ron – “Leftover Smile / Don’t you wish to love me?”
7. Ros Sereysothea – “Sweet Sixteen”
8. Pan Ron – “Like a Blossoming Flower”
9. Pan Ron “Like a Flower growing in the mountains”
10. Ros Sereysothea – “No one to marry to me”
11. Pan Ron – “Saving you from the River.”
12. Unknown – “It’s too late baby.”
13. Unknown – (Instrumental Karaoke Jam) “
14. Unknown – (Instrumental Karaoke Jam: “Besame Mucho” )
15. Unknown – (Instrumental Karaoke Jam: Ace of Base “All that She Wants”)
16. Unknown – (Instrumental Karaoke Jam)
17. Unknown – (We’re going backwards all the time – interlude)
18. Ros Sereysothea – “Cha Cha Cha”
19. Pan Ron – “Watch how they Dance”
20. Ros Sereysothea – “I’m so Shy / Can I please see you”
21. Ros Sereysothea – “The tears on my face.”
22. Pan Ron – “I already have husband for myself”
23. Ros Sereysothea & Sinn Sisamouth – “Hello… Hello….”
I love places with loose and blurry lines. I’m magnetized by countries where each moment holds mystery. Cambodia fits this description like a shining star. It is the land of living on the fly. Every footstep is an adventure and great beauty can be found amidst clutter and chaos.
Cambodia is an ancient land freshly reincarnated. It has a long, glowing history but was blighted with the darkness of recent decades. Through the 1960’s and 70’s Cambodians suffered atrocities at the hands of the US war machine followed by the home brewed horrors of the Khmer Rouge. In the aftermath of this hellish era the future was left blank. I was excited to visit a world where tomorrow was wide open and peace was cherished deeply.
Cambodians write each day anew but have a high reverence for their heritage. Echoes of the ancient Khmer Empire are still a vivid: the eternal architecture of Angkor Wat, the elegant movements of golden dancers and classical Cambodian court music with its rich intricacies. These arts have lasting power but we all know western waves taste like sugar. Like the rest of Southeast Asia, when pop came crashing down, Cambodia was swept into a frenzy.
Cambodia’s pop kingdom of the 60’s and 70’s was lorded over by the singer/songwriter Sinn Sisamouth who wrote thousands of original, hit tunes. He ditched the sappy orchestras in favor of a tight band that blazed his ballads and pop jams onto every radio. Sisamouth explored searing rock music landscapes and even swayed into Latin vibes to keep Cambodian babes bouncing. His female counterparts and frequent duet partners were the lovely ladies Pan Ron and Ros Sereysothea. Together, these three singers formed the heart and soul of Cambodian music for two decades but it all ended in tears.
The golden age came to a close with a blood curdling jolt, when in 1975, the Khmer Rouge forces took over the capitol Phnom Penh. They used the three pop stars as pawns in their mind control game by forcing these once soulful artists to sing empty, nationalistic anthems. Eventually Pol Pot’s psychotic, killing machine spiraled deeper into paranoia and he started cleaning house. Specifics are not known of the fates of Sisamouth, Ron and Sereysothea but it is clear their end came in the Killing Fields.
Pol Pot’s murderous regime tried resetting the calendar to Year Zero by erasing traces of the past but he could not. Memories still sing brightly in this country. Genocide is kept especially close to heart as a warning to future generations. Thankfully the three greatest music stars of Cambodia have not been forgotten and today as you drive down city streets you’re likely to see their eternal smiles shining from posters or their music blasting from boom-boxes.
My Cambodian musical mementos all came in the form of cassettes. Vinyl records are almost impossible to find as they, along with films and books, were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge as bourgeoise artifacts. The tapes have a unique quality that make them feel even more special. They are jarring and noisy yet float with a warm hiss befitting the exotic songs within. Through these tapes, which I first heard in my Phnom Penh hotel room on a knock off Sony Walkman, I started to fully absorb a Cambodian spirit that was nearly lost to history. These songs are buoyant with the thrill of love made and lost. Even in their most melancholy notes there is hope. It is this hope that keeps Cambodia moving forward with a heart full of memories and a mind set to tomorrow.
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