In the 1960s and 1970s, a new kind of music emerged in Cambodia—a psychedelic garage sound that combined the country’s traditional music with elements borrowed from rock and pop records imported from the West. But just as the genre was really taking off, it was cut short, as artists like Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Sereysothea were killed by the Khmer Rouge during the genocide of the late ’70s. Just like that, a vibrant new chapter in rock history was brought to an abrupt end.
Yet Cambodian rock has experienced a revival in the 21st century. One band helping resurrect the sound is Dengue Fever, who formed in the early 2000s when keyboardist Ethan Holtzman traveled to Cambodia and learned about the country’s lost but not entirely forgotten mid-century rock scene. Returning to Los Angeles, Holtzman recruited his brother, Zac, and a Cambodian vocalist, Chhom Nimol, to perform some of those old songs. The band released their self-titled first album in 2003 to great acclaim.