WOMAD 2008 Featured Artist: DENGUE FEVER
WOMAD 2008 Featured Artist: DENGUE FEVER (USA/Cambodia)
Brooklands Park & TSB Bowl of Brooklands, New Plymouth
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It was the LA Times which suggested you could get an instant handle on Dengue Fever if you could imagine a band where a Cambodian beauty queen shares the stage with Rasputin, Barry White, Alan Ginsberg, Michael Hutchens and Brian Wilson. Such is the multidirectional pull of these groovy Californians - surely the only band on the planet whose sound is as equal parts West Coast psychedelia, Cambodian pop and Ethiopian jazz.
The band was formed seven years by the Holtzman brothers who discovered future lead vocalist Chhom Nimol singing in a Long Beach bar. The Cambodian dimension dovetails neatly with the bands preference for snaking guitars, dropping organs and horns that lazily drift in and out of the proceedings.
An instant hit in the Cambodian clubs of Long Beach and LA rock venues, the band’s debut album mostly covered Cambodian classics, in tribute to singers and songwriters killed by the Khmer Rouge. After their second album, Escape From Dragon House, the band toured Cambodia in 2005 – the first time Khmer Rock had been performed in Cambodia since Pol Pot took over the country in 1975. A documentary film of this trip, Sleepwalking Through the Mekong, has been a hit at international film festivals.
The band’s third album, Venus On Earth, also embraces jazzy European moods in the tradition of French chansons, without forfeiting deep Cambodian roots. “This music of the 1960s we’re drawing on still brings up a lot of pain for Cambodians,” says Paul Smith. “These songs are from a time and place that doesn't exist anymore, but music can be therapeutic.”
Amazon.com named their album, Escape From Dragon House, the #1 international release for 2005. In England, Mojo named Escape on their Top 10 World Music releases of 2006.