Cambodian rock -- before the Khmer Rouge destroyed it


Before the Khmer Rouge destroyed it

Mention should be made of a recent documentary shown on the BBC, Rocking Cambodia: Rise of a Pop Diva, following the rise of Srey Thy and the Cambodian Space Project as they try to bring back that retro Sixties Phnom Penh sound.

WFMU has done wonderful work in bringing the original recordings of Cambodian rockers before listeners. There are now several CD compilations, with some wonderful material on them. I got some from my brother-in-law as well. These artists sacrificed more for their music than just about any Western musician I can think of—and almost as importantly, it’s solid rock.

It never occurred to be before… if there are Holocaust deniers, why aren’t there any Khmer Rouge deniers?

The look of joy on Sieng Vanthy’s face is universal. Anyone making music they love will recognize it. Even the sad songs fill musicians with it.

Depressingly, there probably are, just Western culture & media takes no notice of them, but I bet you could find one.

Noam Chomsky was one for a while, in the early days of reporting it, but he had to admit he was wrong as the evidence came out.

Also, it has to be said that the Khmer Rouge weren’t as industrial about the killing as the Nazis: no ovens burning the bodies to ash, just piles and piles of corpses left to rot where they lay. So you can go and see the bones today, all over Cambodia, which experience has a more visceral impact than going to visit a derelict concentration camp.

Plus, the killings happened right across Khmer society; it wasn’t just a particular racial subgroup scapegoated, it was everyone who wasn’t a peasant and who wasn’t a member of the Khmer Rouge.

Nobody in Cambodia who was alive at the time can deny it: everybody saw it happen in front of their eyes; and if they weren’t born at the time, they can see the evidence and hear the testimony of their parents and their relatives who lost loved ones and friends.

Oh, there are.

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