Earlier this year I’ve been making efforts with reconnecting with my Cambodian heritage and what better way than through music? So, where does a Cambodian-Canadian east coast girl go to find Cambodian music? Spotify and YouTube to the rescue! Dang, technology does have its benefits.
I was initially listening to a lot of the ‘oldies’ that my parents would listen to growing up as a kid. I didn’t think much of it when I was younger, but as an adult I’m so thankful my parents kept blasting all that Khmer music even if I hated it back in the day. The music becomes a thread, it weaves itself into your fabric, your story. Music is culture. So when I listen to the music now, it feels like home.
It was estimated that 90% of Cambodian artists were killed during the Khmer Rouge massacres.
When the war ended, the efforts were focused on preserving what arts and culture that was left, including the music. It was a long journey for Cambodians to invest into new and original music by young artists. Check out this fantastic video of a TedTalk discussing this topic and for some context:
Eventually, thanks to Spotify (they’re not sponsoring this blog I promise!), I explored beyond the familiar oldies and discovered more contemporary and original music. This list is a sampling of the songs I’ve been jamming to lately. Enjoy!
- “Someone New” by Sinora Roath
This is your club jam and the music video is lit (did I used that slang right? Xennial here). It’s a mix of Khmer/English, so a bilingual club jam, yeah!
2. SreyLeak – សារ៉ាវា៉ន់រកគូ (Saravan Rok Ku) ft. Gobeshite & 12ME
This is a fun video, and I like the fusion of Khmer, English and French. I can’t embed video playback with this one but check it out on YouTube: https://youtu.be/DX7VCYLySZs
3. DJ Chee – អត់លុយក៏ឡូយ ft. Vin Vitou, Reezy x Vuthea វុទ្ធា (Ot Luy Kor Loy)
“Loy” is Khmer for ‘money’. Listen for it.
4. Khmer1Jivit – 2014 Saravan Feat. SreyLeak
Another hot hip hop fusion with vocals from SreyLeak.
5. ATIYA – កុកហើរតែឯង – Kok Her Tae Aeng
This is a cover of a feel good oldies. I dare you to listen to it without smiling.
6. Dengue Fever – Genjer Genjer
A smooth jazz track with a little groovy vibe.
7. Wannary – Chet Euy Chet
This is the track you play to get people up and dancing. #festive
8. LAURA MAM – KYOM MIN SOK CHET TE – ខ្ញំុមិនសុខចិត្តទេ!
This is such a fun cover of an oldies that I remember from childhood. Remade with dance and joy.
9. Laura Mam – Just Like You feat. VannDa
Mam wrote this as a love letter to all Cambodian women who have ever doubted themselves, been told you can’t, or who need to know that being a heroine is possible. For International Women’s Day 2021, this music video was shot entirely focused on the true story of three women who persevered in the face of adversity and overcame with grace, humility and strength. There’s also english subtitles to follow the lyrics.
10. Laura Mam – MADIZONE TMEY
Super groovy track! The video features various Cambodian artists and arts and culture.
11. Laura Mam – AWAKEN Full Visual Album
I became a fan of hers (can’t you tell?). She just makes music from the heart and I love how she tells a story through her music. This is played like a short film, but explores so many themes and incorporates both traditional and contemporary arts.
“Awaken translates to in my eyes, “trah dung”. It is a time for the enlightening of the mind for our people, a time to see myself as a Cambodian and Cambodia in all of its beauty and its flaws. I am awakened to see that truth. And I hope you will be too. In this project, I used many metaphors that I hope will make you question, open your mind, and think critically about all of our lives here, what we owe to ourselves, our nation, and our future generation.” ~ Laura Mam
12. Reezy – ម្ទេស (Chilli)
This is the silliest song about eating spicy food I’ve ever heard, but DANG, so catchy!
13. VI70 – បុប្ជាចិន្តាបង (Bopha Chenda Bong)
Let’s get back to smoooth and jazzzyy… Playback is disabled but you can watch on the YouTube: https://youtu.be/zBZfFvYZokI
14. VI70 – Just Friends (ត្រឹមជាមិត្ត) ft. RuthKo, Vuthea វុទ្ធា x DJ Chee
Just friends… uh huh. Reminiscent of that smooth and sexy 90s R&B. This is the steamiest video of ’em all. Also has english subtitles.
15. ទទួលការពិត – Realization.
And to wrap it up, grab a pina colada and kick your feet up and sip to this island beat. Is this Cambodian rasta/reggae music I hear? Because, cool.