Various - Dont Think Ive Forgotten: Cambodia's Lost Rock and Roll (OST) - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Various - Dont Think Ive Forgotten: Cambodia's Lost Rock and Roll (OST)

by Kevin Orton Rating:10 Release Date:2015-05-11

Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten is the soundtrack to a fascinating documentary about the Cambodian Music scene before the rise of the Khmer Rouge. From haunting instrumentals to psych rock, its clear Elvis, The Beatles, and The Stones didn’t just take the West by storm, but a certain former French protectorate which acheived independence in 1953 as well.

In the mid-1950s, Sinn Sisamouth emerged as the Cambodia’s most revered crooner. He was Cambodia's Elvis, and unlike Elvis, was a wildly prolific songwriter. So it’s understandable Sisamouth is represented on this soundtrack more than any other artist, with a total of five selections including the poignant 'Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten'.

Listening to the silky smooth, androgynous beauty of his voice, it’s plain to see why he was such a cosmopolitan star, taking traditional Cambodian folk elements and mixing them with Western sounds with seamless grace. His songs are the furthest thing from a mimicry of Western influences. They are uniquely and undeniably Cambodian, haunting and full of yearning, effortlessly moving from Latin to jazz to garage rock to bossonova and psych. A major talent.  

In the 1960s came the Golden Age. Stars like Sisamouth and chanteuses like Ros Serey Sothea threw themselves into rock 'n' roll with a gusto which can be heard in the rousing 'Dance A Go Go', a far cry from Sisemouth’s jazzy ballad 'Under the Sound of the Rain'. Sinn and Ros’ duet, 'Thevary My Love' sounds like a cross-between Enio Morricone's spaghetti western and a mysterious moonlit Khmer ballad.

However, once the Vietnam war began and the US began bombing Cambodia, the sound took on a harder edge. A major highlight is Yol Aularong, whose raw, manic sound and snarling yelps could almost be described as proto-punk, cut with an anti-authoritarian sneer that needs no translation. On 'Dying Under a Woman’s Sword', he sounds like the Cambodian answer to Screamin' Jay Hawkins. 

Where Sinn Sisemouth is all romance and sincerity, the spunky Pan Ron is more street and wise-cracking. Her sarcastic moans make for one of the sexiest tracks in the compilation. Elsewhere, Drakkar’s 'Crazy for Loving You' is irresistible, pure garage-psych. It's an incredible, unforgettable track - I've never heard anything quite like it.

Meanwhile, Baksey Chan Krong’s 'B.C.K.' can’t help but bring Link Wray to mind. And if you ever wanted to hear Carol King’s 'You’ve Got a Friend' sung in Khmer, Pou Vannery gives it a one-of-a-kind rendition.

The beauty and spikey inventiveness of the Cambodian rock scene is all the more precious for overshadowed by the dark fact most of these performers perished in Pol Pot’s killing fields, which claimed the lives of millions. Today, these performers are cherished not only by Cambodians but rock connoisseurs around the globe. Not to mention their massive influence on bands like Dengue Fever. It’s heartening to know surviving members of Drakker are rehearsing for a US Tour.

As with rediscovered talents like Sixto Rodgriguez, this soundtrack and documentary casts a light onto sounds that are too good, too unique to be forgotten. Western listeners may be unfamiliar with the names and the language, but the sounds here are as familiar as they are beguiling. A must see-film and a must-hear soundtrack.

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet
Related Articles