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Earlier this week I was feeling desperate to find some new music for listening.  That all changed when my forever friend Jo introduced me to Cambodian rock n’ roll oldies; I’ve been hooked ever since.  Jo has been living in Cambodia for the last a year and half.  Today she kicks off a new column about life abroad as told, in this case, through music.  Enjoy!

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This week I left Phnom Penh for a long holiday weekend trip with friends to beach-y Sihanoukville. Right away we got a proper hang going on the beach with a bottle of wine, crabs and squid perfect in a Kampot pepper sauce (haggled over at the market!), and a gorgeous sunset over the Gulf of Thailand.

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For the finishing touch to get our beach hang jammin’, my friend started playing a soundtrack of Cambodian rock n’ roll oldies that knocked my socks off. At first I thought I knew the music – at times, it sounds like surf rock, Motown or even psychedelic – it sounds so familiar to the rock n’ roll I grew up with and yet completely foreign. It also sounds much more original than the conservative and sappy Khmer pop music being made today.

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I found out this mesmerizing music is from a creative burst during the 1960s & 70s between Cambodian independence from French colonial rule and the rise of the genocidal Khmer Rouge, in which there was a flourishing and unlikely Cambodian rock n’ roll scene. This music was influenced by the incredible rock music happening in the US and the UK filtered through a French lens, but decidedly Cambodian.

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The music from this time was mostly lost due to persecution of the artists by the Khmer Rouge and has been widely forgotten. When I pressed my friend for the name of the bands he said nobody knows and just to google “Khmer Rock n’ Roll.”  However, there have been some efforts to preserve and resurrect this musical moment, including a documentary released this year: “Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll.”

Living in Cambodia for the past year and a half has been a kaleidoscope of perspective-altering friendships and work, charming culture, remnants of a dark history, converging Asian and Western influences, and nearly constant sensory input. It often feels hard to make sense of it all and write home about how it has been to live here. So, to know about Cambodia and what I can’t articulate with words, please listen to this haunting and oh-so-cool music.

*Revisit Jo’s previous post on Sister Disco looking at portrayals of women in art through the unlikely combination of Karen O + Kandinsky

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I hope you won’t mind indulging me in one more set of pictures from Cartagena (yesterday’s set here).  New York City looked so cool and quirky to me on my way home last night.  As much as I enjoy exploring a new place and experiencing another culture, I equally love and appreciate returning home to see my own surroundings with a fresh perspective.  If it’s been awhile since you’ve been anywhere, take at least a day and get out of town!

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IMG_3967 I’m back in New York after a relaxing, sweaty week in Cartagena, Colombia. I most loved the colors of this highly walkable city. We stayed in a sweet guesthouse in Getsemani, a once run down and dangerous neighborhood that is now home to many delicious restaurants, small hostels and hotels and lots of street murals. During the day young kids played soccer in the neighborhood square; at night people sat along its perimeter eating and drinking from food carts.

When we weren’t in Getsemani, we were a short walk away exploring the windy streets of the walled-in colonial old city. It was so hot during the afternoons that we were constantly stopping to eat or drink something. The food was delicious, fresh fruit and juice is available at almost every turn. We ate amazing ceviche, arepas and empanadas from street vendors, drank limonada de coco (coconut limeaid) and, my favorite, fresh strawberry-lychee juice.

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My time at home was awesome. Ohio was greener than ever. There were so many wonderful things about being home. Here are just a few:

Swimming in Lake Erie and learning about the water snakes.

Ate BBQ at Famous Dave’s in Cedar Point.

Had a sunset golf cart ride through Put In Bay.

Made french toast, drank coffee and waiting for the storms to pass in Huron.

Saw a Friday Night Flick in Lakewood park and sat by the water and looked at the super moon.

Had two wonderful family dinners in our back yard and watched the sunsets.

Biked the Towpath on Albert’s birthday.

 

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