There were no deluxe studios for the musicians who recorded the devastating tracks contained on this double-LP collection. Nothing so grand. Most of these tracks were recorded live, with traditional instruments finding a place alongside any keyboards or guitars that could be found.
And yet, it was these experiments of Khmer rock musicians which transformed the nightlife of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh—and which many years later have seduced countless listeners around the world with their groovy sound. Alas, in 1975 came an entirely different type of transformation: the rise to power in Cambodia of the fanatical, anti-Western Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot. Within roughly four years, implementing their “concept of Year Zero,” Pot and his regime were responsible for the deaths of an estimated two million Cambodians, many in the notorious “killing fields.” Even the most famous and beloved Khmer musicians could not escape. Sinn Sisamouth (“the Emperor of Khmer Music”), Ros Sereysothea (“The Golden Voice of the Royal Capital”), and Pan Ron—all featured on this collection—met their deaths at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. Cambodian rock music is (rightfully) adored in Cambodia.
The music is wild and anarchic, rhythmic and undulating (in an “Ethiopiques” way, we’d say), or sweet and lyrical, but always moving, and with that deep soulfulness (regardless of actual musical genre or style) that singles out the best music. We have assembled what we consider to be the most definitive collection of classic Cambodian rock music to appear thus far—without the later overdubs that confuse the mind, without the artificial speeding up of tracks that often has marred compilations over the years; what you’ll find here are crucial Khmer rock tracks, made available in the best possible sound, assembled with love and respect for the artists who made the Khmer rock scene as thrilling as we find it to be.
And so, without further ado, welcome to “Cambodia Rock Intensified!”