Saturday, December 10, 2005

The magic of Khmer Pop

v/a "Cambodian Cassette Archives: Khmer Folk & Pop Music Vol. 1"

I bought this Sublime Frequencies release in New York. I became interested in Cambodian pop after reading an article about it in "Mojo" a while back. Apparently Cambodia had a flourishing pop scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s. before all pop practitioners were extermnated by the Khmer Rouge. This record collects a load of tracks from the scene, mostly lifted from cassettes the compiler located in Californian public libraries. These in turn seem largely to have been at least semi-pirated, and not too bothered about details like naming the performers or titles of songs, with the result that more than no tracks here are credited to Unknown.

The compiler mentions another interesting thing about Cambodian pop music - that it is forever being remixed. Whenever someone brought out a new cassette of the music they would always overdub it with new vocals or new keyboards or something. Like George Lucas they cannot leave well enough alone. This record catches most of the tracks in versions before they had synthetic noise dumped all over them.

Anyway, this is a great record, with that crazy pop sound I've come to expect from non-Western pop music. I love the way the way these kind of records show the reapproptiation of western musical ideas in local contexts to produce something bright and new. In this case the tracks are mostly perky up-beat numbers that you could imagine being great floor fillers. They're all sung in foreign, making it easier to focus on the music without being distracted by the verbiage.

What with this, my Bollywood music, and my Arabian pop records, I think I might just have enough world pop to DJ an entire set of that kind of thing, were some forward thinking person to be daring enough to look for such a thing. I could even live the dream and throw in a couple of DDR-tastic tunes.


ian said...

According to Google, I am the internet's leading authority on Khmer Pop. This is somewhat disturbing, as everything I know about the subject comes from the sleevenotes to that record and an article I read a couple of years back in "Mojo".

ian said...

I am no longer the world's leading authority on Khmer Pop.