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Cambodian Rocks: A psychedelic garage rock compilation with deep historical significance

Put together from a collection of miscellaneous cassette tapes from the 60’s and 70’s, Cambodian Rocks tells an important – and somewhat haunting – story. Released in 1996 by Parallel World Records, the track-listing went unknown for 12 years before being identified by renown digger and label-head Gilles Peterson (Brownswood Recordings). As these recordings took place before the Cambodian genocide (1975-1979), many of the artists on this compilation were targeted by the Khmer Rouge regime simply because they were musicians and therefore a threat to their ideals. Much of the art and literature from this period was destroyed in an attempt to eradicate Cambodia of all external (western or otherwise) influence. This is evident in Cambodian Rocks, with many of the tracks featuring fuzzy, reverb-drenched rock ‘n’ roll guitar instrumentation and rhythms reminiscent of western acts such as The Doors and Santana. Adding this to traditional Khmer style vocalization and innovating techniques, the music produced is unquestionably unique. At the time, many of these artists were wildly popular and the local music scene thrived.

While there isn’t much that can be done about reversing the tragedy that occurred, learning about the stories behind the music and making an effort to preserve these remnants of the past is all that makes the difference between these artists living on through their music, and not being forgotten.

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