Pre-War Rock Band Revamping Music With Film Festival Support

Almost all of the members of Drakkar, Cambodia’s hit rock band in the years leading up to the Khmer Rouge regime, have died or disappeared since the band’s heyday, but their songs live on in vocalist Touch Seang Tana’s head.

After more than 30 years away from the guitar, Mr. Seang Tana gathered a group of musicians to revive the Drakkar style in 2015, a reawakening of the band’s sound to coincide with the showing of a documentary on Cambodia’s lost rock and roll. Now, two years later, he is preparing to perform and record an album based on the band’s original hits, with help from the Cambodia International Film Festival.

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Touch Seang Tana performs in the band Drakkar’s first revival performance during the 2015 Cambodia International Film Festival. (Supplied by Cambodia International Film Festival)

While working for broadcast radio during the 1960s, Mr. Seang Tana cobbled together a rock band for a gig in Vietnam. The group transformed into Drakkar, a band that reached peak popularity with their 1974 self-titled album, just a year before the Khmer Rouge took over in 1975.

The recordings were lost, but Cambodians sing Drakkar songs without knowing the origins, said Mr. Seang Tana, who now works as a scientist and conservationist for the government.

To preserve the sound, the Cambodia International Film Festival is aiming to raise $2,500 over two weeks via a crowdfunding website to cover some of the costs of the band’s two performances during the 2017 festival this week and for recording a new album, said Cedric Eloy, director of the festival.

Drakkar performed on the festival’s opening on Friday night, and are set to rock again tonight at 7 p.m. on Diamond Island.

Contributors can receive VIP seats and passes for this year’s or next year’s film festival, depending on when they donate to the cause, Mr. Eloy said.

Mr. Eloy recalled Drakkar’s performance in 2015 at the festival after the screening of Cambodian rock documentary “Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten.”

“The performance was quite incredible—everyone started dancing,” he said. “A lot of concerts, most of the time people just stand and watch, but not this time.”

To support Drakkar’s musical revivial, go to:

Drakkar Show

What: Drakkar performs at the Cambodia International Film Festival 

When: Tonight at 7 p.m.

Where: Diamond Island

[email protected]

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