As part of a world tour, the US band Dengue Fever will bring its brand of psychedelic, ’60s-inflected Khmer rock to Phnom Penh next month for a free concert sponsored by the US Embassy.
“It was just a really good opportunity. They were in the neighborhood, they’d been here before, and it’s a great story when you have American musicians, with the exception of the lead singer, who are playing music pretty heavily influenced by the Cambodian music of the ’60s,” US Embassy spokesman John Johnson said yesterday. “It shows the partnership and what can happen when members of our two countries get together to create something.”
The May 13 concert will commemorate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Cambodia and the US, Mr Johnson said, and will probably be held in the park opposite Wat Botum.
The US Embassy is also planning other events for the anniversary, including a concert by a US Marine band and a symposium on the history of relations between the two countries that could feature former US ambassadors to Cambodia.
While here in May, Dengue Fever will also play a benefit concert for the performing arts organization Cambodian Living Arts and hold a Q&A session at Meta House after English and Khmer-language screenings of their 2009 documentary “Sleepwalking Through the Mekong.” The film followed the band as they made their way through Cambodia in their first tour of the country in 2005.
“Since they’re working with CLA and CLA is working closely with us it was not hard to arrange,” said Nico Mesterharm, the director of Meta House.
Dengue Fever, who are based in California, pair a Cambodian lead singer with a group of five American instrumentalists. The band is heavily influenced by the sound and style of Cambodia’s 1960s “golden age,” especially the music of Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Sereysothea. In January, they released an album called “Electric Cambodia” that collected 14 of the band’s favorites Cambodian classics, with all proceeds going to CLA.
“We’re not trying to dissect the music, we’re just using it as a catalyst to write new songs and create something out of the ordinary,” bassist Senon Williams told The San Francisco Chronicle earlier this year. “But as we continued playing, we learned more about the genocide and the history of the music and musicians. It wasn’t as important in starting the band but it’s become increasingly important now that we’re more connected to that culture and its roots.”