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US band returns to Khmer roots for tour of Cambodia

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A Khmer-influenced pop band from California’s San Jose have arrived for the first time in Cambodia to perform in aid of NGOs supporting traditional arts.

Laura Mam and The Like Me’s have already toured Siem Reap and will play at Parkway Studios on Thursday night to raise money for Cambodia Living Arts and the Anvaya Initiative, a network for returning Cambodians.

The four-women band plays classic Khmer hits from the 1960s alongside R&B songs and their own music, which have gained a cult following on YouTube.

“Cambodia has been in our dreams of touring since the band started,” says lead guitarist and singer Laura Mam. “We used to sit around the dinner table before practice and dream about going to Cambodia and playing for people who need new music the most.”

The other three members of the band are Cambodian-born Helena Hong and Filippinas Monique Coquilla and Loren Alonzo.

One of their big hits is a version of Sva Rom Monkiss, where mothers, sisters, aunties and cousins join in the dancing on the video.

“Our household was a normal Cambodian American home full of karaoke discs and high quality microphones. My father was a wedding singer and let me come on stage occasionally and sing with him,” says Laura. “Both my parents encouraged me to listen very carefully to the music to find the right tone, even though they never had any music training either. Playing by ear became the natural way of doing things.”

The Like Me’s tour is sponsored by Friends of Khmer Culture, which is supporting a sustainable tourism and conservation project at Banteay Chhmar Temple.

Laura Mam and The Like Me’s play at Parkway Studios, 133 Mao Tse Toung Boulevard, on Thursday, March 3 at 8pm. Tickets cost $8.

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