Showing posts with label Southeast Asia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Southeast Asia. Show all posts

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Dengue Fever and the rebirth of Cambodian rock'n'roll

I interviewed Farfisa (keys) player Ethan Holtzman for this story, he's on the left.

Dengue Fever is not just another band from Los Angeles passing through the Bay Area Friday night (they were an answer on Jepordy the other night!). They are carriers and interpreters of an art form from another time, place and represent a community of musicians who died for making that art. I don’t think that they look at themselves that way and I know that sounds a little dramatic, but hear me out:

Dengue Fever plays covers as well as their own tunes, inspired by Cambodian rock popular in the 60s and 70s. On January 10th, Minky Records will release Dengue Fever Presents Electric Cambodia, 14-track collection of vintage recordings popular during that era, featuring musicians such as Sinn Sisamouth, Pan Ron, Ros Sereysothea and Dara Chom Cha. Proceeds of this record will donated to Cambodian Living Arts, an organization devoted to supporting the revival of traditional Khmer performing arts and inspiring contemporary artistic expression. The organization was featured in the documentary Sleepwalking Through the Mekong about Dengue Fever’s visit to Cambodia. Dengue Fever wants to give back to the community that inspire their music.

To Read the rest of my article click here

This is "One Thousand Tears Of A Tarantula" - Metallica's Kirk Hammett named this song his 2nd favorite song of the 2000s in Rolling Stone's Best of the Decade poll.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Missed Bay Area Shows: Dengue Fever & Kings of Leon

As I head down to Los Angeles tomorrow for my 10 year high school reunion (yikes!) I am gutted to miss two more local San Francisco shows.

Overseas sensation Kings of Leon will be playing at the Warfield on Friday, October 17th and Saturday, 18th.  We Are Scientists and The Stills will be opening.  Man, what a fantastic show. Understandably, it looks like these two Leon shows are sold out.  

Spin Magazine wrote a great article about the Kings and their tumultuous relationship as brothers (and one cousin) and their struggle in being one of the biggest bands overseas while still being virtually unknown here in their own country.   They headlined the Glastonbury Festival in England and are very popular among folks I was talking to in Australia, including my aunt.  Even though they are selling out two nights at the Warfield, you can't usually judge the national popularity of a band by a Bay Area hipster turnout.  

After listening to their album a few times, I'm totally jumping on the bandwagon that got going years ago. Once you get past their glam rocker prettiness (Jonas Brothers much?), they're pretty awesome.  

Here's a bit of "Use Somebody."

Also, Los Angeles based band Dengue Fever will be playing a show at Bimbo's 365 Club (my favorite venue in the area might I add, it's so Ratpack!) on Friday, October 17th at 9pm. Throwback San Francisco soul band Lord Loves a Working Man will open.  Tickets are $16.  This show is NOT sold out.  

I've now missed Dengue fever two or three times, and I'm sorta pissed about it, especially considering I think I've been in LA when they've been San Francisco, but that's the way it goes.  

Dengue Fever is especially interesting to me because of Cambodian born vocalist Chhom Nimol.  Most of her lyrics are in the Cambodian language, although she does in some instances sing in English. Dengue Fever has consistently retained a Southeast Asian pop music feel in the guitars and rhythms.  Chhom's moves are also based on traditional Cambodian dance.

When Chhom lived in Cambodia she performed for the King and Queen.  When Dengue Fever toured Cambodia in 2005, it was the first time since 1975 any band had performed music like this kind. The documentary Sleepwalking Through the Mekong was made about this experience.

Lord Loves a Working Man brings the house down as well.  Bring your dancin' shoes!

Here's a video of Dengue Fever's "Sni Bong"

I added some Kings of Leon and Dengue Fever tunes to my playlist over on the right there.

And on that note, anyone in the area feeling crazy enough to see Tina Tuner with me next week?  It's expensive, but man, it'll probably be worth it.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Thai Elephant Orchestra

I visited the San Francisco Asian Art Museum last night and, as typical, I parked myself next to the music section in the gift shop and checked out what they had.  After being entertained by some cool Afghan dance music, I found this (watch the video) and knew I had to tell you about it.

American Richard Lair has trained elephants how to play music in Northern Thailand, much like those that have been taught to paint.  Lair and his assistants teach the elephants how to play instruments and then conducts them in concerts for visitors.  These instruments are specially made elephant-sized traditional percussion and string Thai instruments. Other than the harmonica, which the elephant can grasp with the tip of its truck, the elephants play instruments that can be struck with either a mallet or with a bare trunk.

Lair says,
"For some of the elephants is just a job, but for four or five of them they really like to play, and two or three and absolute musical geniuses.
"The orchestra is interesting because the elephants don't play tunes, but what they really do have is a really strong sense of rhythm and that is really where the secret is.  I think the music is wonderful because it is not written down.  You really have to open up your mind and open up your heart because you never know where it's going."

I love where the narrator points out that the deity Ganesh is an elephant.  It's no surprise to many people, especially the musician in this video, that elephants can be accomplished musicians.

Read more about the elephants and their "imitation" of music in this article by composer, academic and producer of the Thai Elephant Orchestra records David Soldier.  You'll find the part on the Thai Elephants on page 4.  I don't know if anything can be called musical "imitation,"  but then it depends on your definition of music which is Soldier's whole point.

I definitely call what these elephants do music, but I don't know if I personally would listen to the whole CD at home.  But if and when I go to Thailand, I will gladly pay to see them perform,  but then again I feel that way about a lot of music I see around me.