Various - Cambodian Cassette Archives: Khmer Folk And Pop Music Volume 1 2xLP


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Label: Sublime Frequencies

Our Review:

The history of Cambodia's flourishing and rich music scene was - like the greater culture and society of the country in general - cruelly severed in the early seventies by the Khmer Rouge during their "cleansing" program. All our favorite performers were undoubtedly victims of the Khmer Rouge during this period. In the following years Cambodians who fled the country set up communities around the globe and among the other parts of their culture they treasured, the music of these lost performers was not forgotten. Throughout the seventies, eighties and nineties the scattered communities set up recording studios and continued to produce music just as amazing as those lost golden years. Enter Mark Gergis. From 1999 to 2004 Mark diligently scoured the Asian branch of the Oakland Public Library, checking out each and every cassette of Cambodian music produced in the period from the early seventies to the present. Many of the cassettes were unfortunately unlistenable; not merely because they'd been played thousands of times, or left on hot car dashboards, but because they were being slowly bulk erased by the library employees themselves as they would unwittingly pass them over the magnetic security system used to prevent book theft. Even with the best intentions of the public library as a repository for culture, Cambodian music was slowly being erased one cassette at a time. Of course, there was no public outcry. At this point, people had moved on to the newest thing (no doubt something recorded by one person with an electronic keyboard and other MIDI gear). It seems to happen everywhere: recent history is wiped clean for whatever happens to be hot at the moment. So, it was that Mark culled together a collection of songs that are as amazing as they are rare. One thing particularly striking about many of the tracks is that, they include both traditional Cambodian instruments alongside western instruments. There are tracks with Khan (the inimitable mouth organ of Southeast Asia) playing alongside electric guitar (which is often times being played in the style of a traditional Cambodian stringed instrument), saxophone, drums, electric bass and organ. Some of the combinations and bizarre genre bends are truly off the wall – such as the track, unfortunately to remain untitled for now, a proto-metal Cambodian pop ditty featuring echoey and brash female vocals and a Queen-era guitar solo. While there are a few of the more modern pop tunes – of the primarily keyboards and drum machine variety – here, none are of the overly westernized Asian pop that is so ubiquitous these days. There are also 6 tracks of older tunes that were recorded in Phnom Penh between the mid-1960's and the early 70's (one of which was overdubbed by an American operated studio with a drum machine beat.) This is a truly amazing collection.