Back in the '60s and early '70s, in a tiny kingdom in Southeast Asia very few Americans had ever known of and rarely even heard the name of up to then, a rock 'n roll revolution was happening.
Cambodia was a pretty Westernized nation at the time and it's capitol, Phnom Penh was surprisingly modern and trendsetting compared to most of Asia during those years. Many rock and roll bands were formed during the Vietnam war, taking rock and roll music that was brought to Cambodia by American soldiers stationed there and blending it with traditional Cambodian music to create probably one of the most unique sub-genres of '60s rock ever heard, one that could have easily held it's own along with the American and British rock that influenced it, even in if it was sung mostly in Cambodian.
But the kingdom became destabilized with the Vietnam war raging at it's border. The Khmer Rouge and it's leader Pol Pot had taken over Cambodia in 1975 and began the most bloody genocide and torture the world had ever seen since Hitler's Germany. Over two million Cambodians, one third of it's ENTIRE population were slaughtered in what became infamously known as The Killing Fields.
Virtually all musicians, artists and intellectuals were sent to work in forced labor camps, many were worked, starved or in the case of many women, also beaten and raped to death. Many people merely in possession of these Cambodian artist's records or tapes were killed or sent to camps to suffer the same fates and the records/tapes were destroyed. Very few original studio master tapes survived. However, a handful of songs have survived on 2nd or 3rd generation cassette tapes and vinyl discs that were smuggled out of Cambodia or hidden, from which came a few compilations released in the '90s, one which I found in 1998 and my own interest in this lost music began.
There is a forthcoming movie that chronicles this lost era just before the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia called Don't Think I've Forgotten: Cambodia's Lost Rock & Roll.
Here is the trailer for it:
Here's one of the biggest Cambodian rock hits. "I'm 16" Ros Sereysothea
UPDATE: 1/11/14 - Don't Think I've Forgotten premiered in Phnom Penh. It's US release is still unknown. But here's a recent article about the film and some of the artists:
UPDATE: 3/8/15 - The movie is currently being screened at selected film festivals across America. It's unclear if there will ever be a Netflix showing or Blu-Ray or DVD release of the film.