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"Don't Think I've Forgotten": Rockers vs. the Khmer Rouge 

Wednesday, May 6 2015
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Among the revelations in Khmer Rouge survivor Rithy Panh's highly personal The Missing Picture was the fact that Cambodia had a thriving rock 'n' roll culture prior to Year Zero. John Pirozzi's Don't Think I've Forgotten: Cambodia's Lost Rock and Roll takes a broader look at the country's music culture before the encroachment of the Vietnam War, and the subsequent genocide under Pol Pot, during which musicians and other artists had to lie about what they did to avoid being summarily executed. But while it existed, Cambodia's music scene had plenty to offer both the young and old — even their royal family, including Prince Norodom Sihanouk, put out lounge-music records. Rock 'n' roll started to take over in the 1960s — Cambodia had a Go-Go period! — and the lo-fi recording technology combined with the sheer energy of the performances by the Cliff Richard-inspired Baksei Cham Krung or the surf-heavy Bayon Band give the records a kind of timelessness. (There's also no denying the fact that Pou Vannary's recording of James Taylor's "You've Got a Friend" is superior to the original.) Among the interviewees are surviving musicians and relatives thereof, but most interesting is Thida Buth, simply credited as a music fan. She's who they were playing for, and why they need to be remembered.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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