The Cambodian Music Festival provides a platform for artists infusing traditional and contemporary sounds and unites Cambodians of all generations to celebrate resiliency and pride through the healing power of music. This is more than just a fun day of being captivated by the original music of inspired artists. It is about supporting and participating in a larger movement to rebuild and restore an artistic legacy. The driving force of this renaissance is the refusal to be defined by this tragic past. Transcendence lies within the creation of these new works, which humbly strives to replace what was nearly destroyed. “The Golden Era” of music lives on, continuing to inspire new artists, serving as one of the strongest testaments to the power of music.
History of Cambodian Rock 'N Roll
From the 1950’s to early 1970’s, a fresh new sound swept the nation, marking a time that many called “The Golden Era” of Cambodian music. Skilled musicians picked up all the best influences of western rock ‘n roll, mixed with traditional Cambodian beats and go-go pop music. Thus, an undeniably unique new sound was born – Cambodian rock ‘n roll. This music was woven into the fabric of Cambodian society whose country was on the precipice of war and genocide. April 17, 1975 would be the start of the most radical restructuring of a society ever attempted. Guerilla soldiers stormed the capital and emptied the city of almost 3 million people marching them out to the country side to build an agrarian utopia in which families were torn apart, property and money were deemed worthless, and the entire country became a prison. Nearly four years later, in one of the bloodiest genocides of the 20th century, nearly 2 million Cambodians – out of a population of 7 million – died of targeted executions, torture, harsh labor, starvation and disease at the hands of Pol Pot’s brutal Khmer Rouge regime. Of the nearly two million Cambodians that died, it is estimated that 90% of all artists and musicians were murdered as well. Overnight, the music that swept the nation was stamped out. The Khmer Rouge wanted to wipe out all outside influences, specifically Western. They saw it as the culprit of the degradation of Cambodian society. These systematic murders by the Khmer Rouge was meant to stand as an example of the communist regime’s bloody oppression and determination to silence their voices.