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Dengue Fever: Vintage Cambodian Pop Remixed

During the Vietnam War, American and British pop music was broadcast in Vietnam on the U.S. Armed Forces Radio Network. Those broadcasts reached neighboring Cambodia, as well. And there, the sounds of Western radio inspired a hybrid of American pop and traditional Cambodian styles.

At that time the king of Cambodian music was Sinn Sisamouth. He and his singing partner, Ros Serey Sothea, had many hits, singing in the traditional style backed by music that sounded like psychedelic surf rock. But when the Pol Pot regime took over in 1975, most of the Western-influenced musicians were killed. The music was banned and recordings destroyed.

Decades later, brothers Zac and Ethan Holzman — a guitar-playing singer-songwriter and a keyboardist, respectively — discovered that vintage Cambodian pop and decided to create a band inspired by the music. They found a Cambodian singer with a beautiful voice who had recently moved to L.A. and formed a group they called Dengue Fever.The band's catchy, often dark instrumentations — along with singer Chhom Nimol's Khmer-language soprano vocals — are a compelling mix.

Dengue Fever's first record was mostly covers of Cambodian pop. Their new CD, Venus on Earth, is an all-original album.

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