Cambodian Soul Sounds

Cambodian Soul Sounds: tracks, stories, and compilations highlighting Cambodian psychedelic rock & soul from the ’50s to the ’70s.

cambodian soul sounds


Cambodian Soul Sounds is a Stockholm, Sweden-based label that shares compilations highlighting songs and stories from Cambodia’s thriving psychedelic rock and soul scene from the ’50s to the ’70s. The compilations, curated by Richard Rossa, raises funds to support organizations that are trying to preserve and rebuild Cambodia’s cultural life. My personal favorite is Vol. II, which includes what might be my favorite cover of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude.”

From Richard Rossa via Facebook:

“The music scene in Cambodia during the 50s to the mid-70s was swinging hard! Khmer musicians of the era were influenced by western rhythm & blues, rock n’ roll, and music from Latin America. Musicians like Sinn Sisamouth studied these musical styles when traveling abroad, many Cambodians also tuned in these songs on US Armed Forces Radio during the Vietnam War and got influenced by the western sound.

The combination of styles and culture created a truly unique touch to the vivid rock music of Cambodia.

But…It all ended on April 17, 1975, the day the Khmer Rouge took over Phnom Penh. With many others – the artists were executed or sent away to prison camps to die. Cambodia fell into darkness.

During these years pretty much every original recording and master tape were destroyed. Listening to this music would have got you killed. But thanks to vinyl collectors who risked their lives concealing or smuggle their records out of the country there is still a bunch of them out there ready to be restored and archived for future generations to enjoy.

Cambodian Soul Sounds vol 1 is a compilation of old songs I managed to pick up myself when traveling in Cambodia. Even if the recordings presents a charming distorted sound, songs were also really low, but with a lot of high frequencies cutting through, making it somehow unpleasant at loud volumes. As a DJ and producer, I took matters into my own hands and reworked the recordings to give them a warmer and more suitable sound for your earphones or the DJ to blast at maximum volume at the local psychedelic soul party. Just as I do.

I am doing this because I know this music deserves a place in the context I am working in – as a Dj. It will help to find new listeners, promote and raise awareness of Cambodia as a whole. However, with its tragic history, this legacy needs to be treated with respect. I am doing this work to raise funds for project in Cambodia such as the work for music preservation and also to help disadvantaged children. The project is 100% non-profitable and every revenue from these track sales or streaming are going straight into these projects.

With this work, the lost musicians of Cambodia can continue to give aid back to their country long after they passed.”

Cambodian Soul Sounds: Facebook SoundCloud

Krom Monster

Krom Monster: combining traditional Cambodian Khmer with modern electronica.

krom monster


Phnom Penh electronic collective Krom Monster recently released two instrumental demos as a preview for its upcoming second LP.

From the Bandcamp bio:

“Bringing together ancient Cambodian traditions and the right-here-right-now. Khmer instruments, ragged beats, digital noise and lush soundscapes.”

And from Incidental:

“A quintet combining traditional Cambodian instruments with improvisation and experimental electronics.

In May 2010, Incidental initiated a series of cultural collaborations with khmer artists and cultural organisations. During this work, David Gunn led a six week residency with young musicians from Cambodian Living Arts, exploring the ground between traditional Khmer instruments and modern electronics.

The work resulted in the formation of Krom Monster, a new experimental quintet, and the first of its kind in Cambodia – resampling traditional instruments, reworking traditional themes and blending Khmer themes with contemporary electronics, urban musics and free improvisation.

The residencies culminated with a sold-out live event at the Centre Cultural Francais Phnom Penh, and the subsequent release of Krom Monster’s debut album in 2010. To quote from the original liner notes:

“Beisach”. Or in english, something like “demon”, or “monster”. That’s what the music we were playing made our Roneat player, Nisa, think about. Cthonic gods from older times, isolated, wandering out in the forests and floodplains, sometimes crying, and sometimes laughing. I guess it takes all kinds of monsters. 

In the years since [the opening up of Cambodia in the 1990s], massive efforts have been made to conserve and recover what was left behind. Vital work to be sure, but in the rush to conserve, contemporary forms have often been lost in the shuffle. When so much is lost so brutally, it is maybe difficult to remember that culture is always losing something, always changing – that culture is perhaps best understood as a continual process of strange forgetting.

… this project is not about “authentic” Khmer music, or authentic anything, at least for me. Authenticity is a dangerous word. And particularly in a context such as this – where music industries only seem able to hear music from some parts of the world when it is seen as something rooted in place and history, as something “authentically” local. Volk Vultures, John Fahey might have called these forces, and they don’t help anything.” 

Krom Monster: Bandcamp SoundCloud