Cambodian Liberation Songs

Banteay Ampil Band

Cambodian Liberation Songs

Banteay Ampil Band

19,90€ - Vinyl (LP+DL) 12,90€ - CD 9,90€ - Digital

Released in 1983, Cambodian Liberation Songs is a mysterious and overwhelming record. 

As a genuine piece of history, this “call from sorrow and fierce passion” makes use of a whole range of Cambodian music, from folk to rock, to express sufferings and complaints.

Extended reissue including 10'' booklet with liner notes and exclusive photos, postcard and redeem code.

“When I arrived at the Khmer-Thai border in September 1980, disorganized resistance cadres were busy repairing old guitar instrument by using shing line for guitar strings and employing a rusty, empty gasoline tank as a drum. They played old Khmer pop songs. [ ...] They performed for themselves and for appreciative audiences of villagers. Other informal musical groups also came together to entertain themselves and others. 

One day in 1981, I photographed what was generally called the Bamteay Ampil Band.” 

Gaffar Peang-Meth, November 2016

Cambodian Liberation Songs is a painful call from forgotten resistance fighters. It is a captivating record, a touching testimony of Cambodian history that brings to the world the breathless voice of these resistance members from the Banteay Ampil Band. 

Released in 1983, Cambodian Liberation Songs is a mysterious and overwhelming record. As a genuine piece of history, this “eloquent sadness and fierce passion” runs the gamut of Cambodian music, from folk to rock, expressing their suffering and pain. 

On 17 April 1975, the Cambodian people, already crushed under national and international conflicts, was commanded by force to forget their own past; it was Year 0 of the Khmer Rouge calendar. Almost four years of genocide would follow before the start of a war between the Vietnamese army and the Khmer Rouge. Resistance units engaged in the conflict against what they considered a Vietnamese invasion. This record, produced by a resistance group, was given the reference number KHMER 001. It was undoubtedly the first record composed and performed by non-Khmer Rouge Cambodians after the tragic events of 1975-79. 

The refugee camp of Ampil, near the Thai border, witnessed the creation of the Banteay Ampil Band. Musicians and female singers who had hidden their talents during the genocide, gathered around the composer and violinist Oum Dara to engage in a new struggle: the resistance. Oum Dara, who had been a composer for Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Serey Sothea among others, adapted several of his creations. It is therefore, with a poignant charm, that the Banteay Ampil Band binds together the golden age of Khmer music from the 1960s with the traditional repertoire and the context of their daily struggles. Violin, guitar and voices work together to produce melancholic and intense songs - the stirring tone of grief expressed by these resistant fighters. 

The band went to Singapore to record Cambodian Liberation Songs, the only record of the “Khmer People’s National Liberation Front”.

“En septembre 1980, quand je suis arrivé à la frontière entre le Cambodge et la Thaïlande, les cadres désorganisés de la résistance s’employaient à réparer des vieilles guitares avec du le de pêche en guise de cordes. Pour la batterie, ils utilisaient des réservoirs d’essence vides et rouillés. Ils interprétaient de vieux morceaux de musique populaires Khmer. [ ...] Ils jouaient pour eux-mêmes et pour un public admiratif de villageois. D’autres groupes de musique se sont réunis. 

Un jour, en 1981, j’ai photographié ceux que l’on appelait généralement le “Bamteay Ampil Band”. 

Gaffar Peang-Meth, Novembre 2016

Appel douloureux des maquisards oubliés, le disque Cambodian Liberation Songs enivre et émeut. Témoin de l'histoire récente du Cambodge, il porte au monde la voix haletante des résistants du Banteay Ampil Band. 

Sorti en 1983, Cambodian Liberation Songs est un disque mystérieux et bouleversant. Véritable pièce d'histoire, cet « appel du chagrin et de la passion ardente », se saisit de tout un pan de la musique cambodgienne, du folk au rock, pour exprimer douleur et revendications. Le 17 avril 1975, déjà écrasé sous des conflits nationaux et internationaux, le peuple cambodgien est sommé par la force d’oublier son passé, c’est l’an 0 du calendrier Khmer rouge. Aux quatre années de génocide qui suivent, succède une guerre opposant l’armée vietnamienne aux Khmers rouges. Des groupes de résistants prennent part au conflit contre ce qu’ils perçoivent comme une invasion vietnamienne. Ce disque réalisé par un groupe de résistants porte la référence KHMER 001. Il est sans doute le premier composé et interprété par des Cambodgiens non Khmers rouges après les événements tragiques de 1975-79.

C'est dans le camp de réfugiés d’Ampil, à la frontière thaïlandaise, que naît le Banteay Ampil Band. Rassemblés autour du compositeur et violoniste Oum Dara, des musiciens et chanteuses, qui ont caché leurs talents durant le génocide, s'engagent alors dans une nouvelle lutte, celle du maquis. Oum Dara, qui a notamment mis en musique Sin Sisamouth et Ros Srey Sothea, adapte certaines de ses créations. Et c'est avec un charme poignant que le Banteay Ampil Band lie l'âge d'or de la musique khmère des années 1960 au répertoire traditionnel, et au quotidien de leur lutte. Violon, guitare et voix s'accordent dans un chant mélancolique et intense, tonalité vibrante de la souffrance de ces résistants.

C'est à Singapour qu'ils iront enregistrer Cambodian Liberation Songs, l’unique album du "Front National de Libération du Peuple Khmer".



本作は、このベトナム傀儡政権打倒の為に立ち上がったレジスタンス勢力、クメール人民民族解放戦線 (FNLPK)の音の記録です。

時にはクメール・ルージュの残党とも手を組みながら、ベトナムのカンボジア侵攻に反対する国々の支援も得て、プロパガンダ活動の一環として組織されたFNLPK直下のタイ国境近くのバンティー・アンピル難民キャンプで結成された10人組楽団BANTEAY AMPIL BAND。各キャンプへのドサ周りや海賊解放ラジオ、FNLPKのオフィシャルな行事等で活動した彼らが、カンボジア内戦の真っ只中の82年、写真撮影の禁止を厳命された渡航を経て、越境シンガポールで残した録音集。当時少数のLPとカセットが作られた唯一作が発掘音盤化です。

クメール・ポップの悲劇の大歌手SIN SISAMOUTHやROS SREY SOTHEAのコンポーザーとしても知られるヴァイオリニストで、ポル・ポトによる芸術家への粛清から必死で隠れ逃れてきた40代のOUM DARAを中心に若いミュージシャンや女性シンガーが集められた彼らは、人々の日々の苦しみを表現しつつも、愛国、民族意識鼓舞、抵抗戦士賞賛、反ベトナム、反共産主義等の喧伝に利用されていきます。解放という正義の裏に作り出された他民族=敵への憎悪もたぶんに意図的に含まれている全12曲。



"The 2015 documentary Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten told the tragic story of Cambodian rock musicians who thrived in the ‘60s and were killed when Pol Pot began his reign of terror in 1975. The Banteay Ampil Band’s 1983 album Cambodian Liberation Songs is, in the words of reissue label Akuphone, propaganda. But this largely plaintive and occasionally rocking music is the propaganda of resistance.

Oum Dara composed music in the ‘60s for singers like Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Serey Sothea, who disappeared or were killed after the new regime outlawed any music that was not nationalistic. Furthermore, Pol Pot for the most part killed anyone who wasn’t a peasant, so his one-to-three million victims included many of the nation’s best-loved musicians. Oum escaped with just deportation, avoiding harsher punishment by keeping his talents a secret. He took shelter in a refugee camp in Ampil, near the Thai border, where he formed the Banteay Ampil Band.

Also known as the Band of the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front, the group went to Singapore to record their only album, distributed in vinyl and cassette editions like musical samizdat. While its music at times recalls the doomed artists on the Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten soundtrack, it’s an even more somber affair.

Oum, who played violin and keyboards, conducted members of the band, which included two female singers, three male singers, bass, two guitars, violin and drums. Song arrangements echoed music from an era that had been largely destroyed, and Oum and his group preserved its memory and inspired the resistance.

Even with the rock instrumentation, ballads dominate. “My Last Words” opens with a sorrowful vocal from female singer Khoy Sarim. “Please Take Care of My Mother,” led by male vocalist Meas Sopha, is a moody rocker with a biting one-note guitar line. The aching violin that opens “Tuol Tneung (The Hillock of the Vine),” a duet with Khoy and Meas, is a Cambodian blues that evokes the pain of genocide. “Please Avenge My Blood, Darling” is in a similar vein, the intense violin timbre accompanying Meas on another soulful lament.

Somewhat more upbeat, at least musically, is “Don’t Forget Khmer Blood,” a duet led by Nhep Davy and Khuon Khemarin that has a wistful melody and rock guitar fills. Melodic, reverbed surf-like guitar opens “Destroy the Communist Viet!,” another duet by Nhep and Khuon, and “Look at the Sky.” “Follow the Front” is appropriately martial, with a marching beat, and it puts the cheesy organ of the ballad “I’m Waiting for You” in a startling context of pre-Beatles pop appropriated for propaganda.

The album ends with its most rocking number, “The Vietnamese Have Invaded Our Country,” led by Khoy with a fuzztone guitar intro and a male chorus that almost affects a rockabilly hiccup. Perhaps it’s a function of Western music not reaching Cambodian ears, but it’s curious that this resistance music of the early ‘80s is in such stark contrast to the angry political punk that came out of the West in the ‘70s and ‘80s; The Dead Kennedys did not appropriate local musical styles for “Holiday in Cambodia.” Cambodian Liberation Songs documents the gentle music of a people struggling to recover from genocide. It’s sobering to hear pop music forms that seem so benign to Western ears used to tell the story of a national tragedy.

Pat Padua. Spectrum Culture. March, 2, 2017.