Image by Rezwan

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May 17, 2017

Dengue Fever

No, I am not talking about the mosquito-borne tropical disease that appears in many South and South-east Asian countries. Dengue Fever is an American band from Los Angeles who performs psychedelic rock fusioned with Cambodian pop and lyrics in Khmer language. I first heard the enchanting lead singer Chhom Nimol (the first name is Nimol) in Radio Paradise, the High Definition radio channel.

Then I looked up at Google to find out more about the band. Ethan Holtzman (plays Farfisa organ) was inspired by Khmer music during a trip to Cambodia and decided to form a band in LA with his guitarist brother Zac Holtzman. They discovered Chhom Nimol, who was already a well-known karaoke singer in Cambodia, in the Little Phnom Penh area of Long Beach. Their debut album titled Dengue Fever was released in 2003 and they produced a number of albums containing remixes of 1960s Cambodian rock tunes by artists such as Sinn Sisamouth, Pan Ron, and Ros Serey Sothea.

The most interesting thing is that some of the songs the band perform contain originals, first written in English by the Holtzmans before being translated into Khmer. This makes the band's main fanbase growing in Cambodia. Dengue Fever toured Cambodia several times and their songs were much cherished there. The documentary film Sleepwalking Through the Mekong documents the band's tours in Phnom Penh and other major Cambodian cities.

The band also helps a number of charitable organizations to support causes in Cambodia. Dengue Fever were winners of the 8th annual Independent Music Awards for best World Fusion Album.

Watch their live performance in the KEXP Public radio studio (Seattle) recorded February 10, 2015.

There are only a few Bangla bands with foreign crew members - like Lokkhi Tera and Seth Panduranga Blumberg performing with Anusheh Anadil in Jatra. But I doubt whether there is any band created by foreigners that use lead singers in Bangla and focus on Bangla traditional songs.