Music lovers of all stripes - ex-pats, tourists and locals alike - are set for a
unique experience as eclectic Los Angeles-based rockers Dengue Fever bring their
mix of surf guitar, rock 'n' roll and traditional Khmer music to Cambodian audiences
through a range of local performances beginning this week.
The eclectic six-member band Dengue Fever, fronted by Cambodian lead singer Chhom Nimol, is scheduled to appear on local television on November 26. According to band members, the group will also perform at various venues around Phnom Penh.
Dengue Fever was formed in 2001when brothers Ethan and Zac Holtzman met Chhom Nimol
who had just recently arrived from her native Cambodia. The brothers Holtzman were
scouting night clubs in the Little Phnom Penh neighborhood of Long Beach for a lead
singer for a new project - and Nimol proved a perfect fit.
The now-famous concept for the band began even earlier. Ethan Holtzman, who plays
the group's Farfisa organ, was traveling through Cambodia when he fell in love with
the haunting lilt of certain traditional Khmer musical styles. At the time that he
was becoming especially enamored with the honking saxophone and chunky guitar rhythms
of Cambodian pop music of the late 1960s, his traveling companion came down with
a case of dengue fever.
Now, four years and two albums later, the band returns to the country that supplied
the group's musical inspiration.
Chhom Nimol and guitarist Zac Holtzman, who once played for US rock band Dieselhead,
arrived in Phnom Penh on November 12. The four other band mates, who are scheduled
to arrive on November 21, are also an acomplished group. Senon Williams has played
previously with a US band called Radar Brothers and David Ralicke has gone on tour
with artist Beck. Nimol's brother and sister are well-known Cambodian singers.
Dengue Fever will also join with local musicians for four-days of jam sessions designed
to produce three recordings.
Dengue Fever was gained limited fame on the nightclub circuit in Los Angeles and
San Francisco. Their fascinating fusion of Cambodian sixties-era rock, garage music,
fuzzy surf guitar, Ethiopian jazz and lyrics sung predominantly in Khmer is strikingly
singular. Zac Holtzman said he is a fan of Cambodian musical instruments like the
Charpey, and singing styles such as the Sara Van, which inspired the song Sleepwalking
through the Mekong on their latest album.
The band's self-titled first album, released in 2001, was a collection of covers
of Khmer-language standards from the 1960s.
Now, getting together with local musicians is what Holtzman is most looking forward
to while visiting Cambodia.
"It's going to be great. I think we'll just keep it loose at first and find
out what kind of stuff they like to play," he said. "Everybody is just
going to jam and we'll see what happens."
The band is scheduled to appear on CTN on November 26. Band members said they will
also perform at the Peace Pub Café and several other venues around Phnom Penh.