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Punk heroes

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Anti-Fate singer Propey, above, and drummer Jino below, performing at the Phnom Penh Railway Station during the Tiger Translate festival in February. Photos: Nick sells

The name might unfamiliar to some, to say nothing of the music they are playing. “They called us crazy for playing punk rock music,” says 22-year-old Propey, the lead singer and guitarist of The Anti-Fate.

Jumping up and down with that slender build typical of young Cambodian men, Propey’s onstage presence electrifies the performance in a way that only punk rock can.

The band began in early 2011, with the four punk devotees finding each other over Facebook, in a closed group called ‘Cambo Headbangers’, a base for likeminded fans of what remains, in this country, relatively obscure music.

The band members clicked right away and soon they started rehearsing together. They share many things in common – not only their passion for music, but also having experienced similar urges to give up their musical dreams.

“We were so discouraged,” Propey recalls. “Our friends and family had not the foggiest idea about the music we played. When we were on our own, we totally abandoned our dream. Later, when I met the others, we fought to get back our confidence.”

With many Cambodian ears are accustomed to the likes of K-Pop, hip-hop and other staples of the region, punk rock is something bizarre to them. All the same, The Anti-Fate does not see that as a big barrier to their future success.

“We don’t care about that. You see, we can’t satisfy everyone. We look at the bigger picture –that it’s a now or never situation to give birth to punk rock music in Cambodia.”

Even if their style eschews popular tastes, it hasn’t stopped them from attracting the interest of promoters and record labels, although the band has been wary of their entreaties.

“There used to be a company asking us to cooperate with them,” says Dominex, the band’s other guitarist. “But we never felt right working with them. We want to be our own boss.”

The Anti-Fate’s first album is set to be released by the end of 2012, a collection of their existing works and live favourites sung in English, accompanied by new songs written in Khmer on the back of popular demand from their fans.

Introducing punk rock in this society will not engender an overnight sensation, going so far against the grain as it does. The band claims not to perform for money or acclaim, instead content to be the first local punk band in Cambodia.

Propey is philosophical on the band’s chances for success: “For better or worse, at least we set a starting point for the next generation.”

The Anti-Fate will play at Equinox on Saturday September 15, Saturday the 22nd at Sihanoukville’s Led Zephyr bar, and Saturday the 29th at Sharky’s Battle of the Bands.

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