Alternative voices are in independent music and Sonny Inbaraj Krishnan found that out in Show Box last weekend.
It was a Saturday night of underground music in Show Box showcasing top independent bands in Cambodia, promoted by Yab Moung Records. They rocked, they screamed their lungs out, they writhed, they jumped and they head-banged.
The showcase, filmed by a Chinese documentary maker, is to show the outside world that independent punk, trash metal, and blues rock thrives in the kingdom of wonder.
Yab Moung Records, founded in 2012, is an independent, collectively run record label that provides a platform for Khmer alternative music and art.
Yab Moung was formed to promote the unique alternative music scene existing within contemporary Khmer society.
“From Mekong inspired Blues to Phnom Penh Hardcore, the music coming from this movement is unique within South East Asia in its context, style and drive.
“Yab Moung’s mission is to make Khmer alternative music and creativity more accessible and to promote this within Cambodia and throughout the rest of the world,” says the recording collective on their Facebook page.
Newly-formed The Leviathans were the opening band for the showcase, followed by Mekong Blues band Phnom Skor, punk rockers Doch Chkae, Vartey Ganiva band and popular trash metal head-bangers Sliten6ix.
“The Cambodian music scene is no longer reserved only for a bourgeois urban elite but can now be accessed by working-class and marginal people, making room for more diverse and alternative voices heard through songs they write themselves,” writes LinDa Saphan in an academic paper titled: “From Modern Rock to Postmodern Hard Rock: Cambodian Alternative Music Voices”.
“Contemporary Cambodian music encompasses an eclectic variety of musical genres and influences from many cultures,” she adds.
Women are also adding their voices to the emerging independent music scene in the country.
“Women singers are composing their own songs, factory workers are singing about their hardship and working conditions, and political singers and protest songs are now part of the musical landscape,” says LinDa.
Upcoming punk star Vartey Ganiva is one of these women artists making social commentary through her songs and her YouTube clip “Evil Husband (Pdey Chongrai)”, about an abusive partner, is already making waves in the underground scene.
Due mention must be made to Show Box, which still gives a space for independent bands. It’s heartening to know that the bean-counters have stayed away from this place and allowed alternative music to thrive.