Ben Sisario’s latest feature for The New York Times shines a light on ‘Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten’, a documentary about the rise and fall of Cambodia’s Rock Music scene in the 1960s and ’70s.
Southeast Asian rock (and funk, for that matter) from that era is a favorite of mine: Gritty recordings, slightly untuned instruments, but with unique melodies and phrasings which often hark back to traditional folk songs from the region. Of course, the energy and the optimism of the music feels bittersweet now with the knowledge that a secret war and a subsequent Khmer Rouge genocide would so destroy much of the culture – and kill many of the people who made it.
Thankfully, a modern resurgence of interest in this music is making it more broadly available. Compilations have emerged in recent years (like the ‘Sounds of Siam’ series by DJ Chris Menist) and modern bands like Cambodian Space Project use the classic sound as a template for new explorations.
Readers in the United States should check the listings for when the film is coming to town and, if you’re on the East Coast, you might even get a bonus concert from some of the musicians featured by the movie-makers1.
- If you get to go – I’m happy for you but, I must admit, also a little jealous. I’ll work on being a better person. [↩]