Writer Pidor Ham attends the launch of Small World Small Band’s debut album and listens to some of the latest original sounds to come out of Cambodia. Photography by Pidor Ham.
Artists of all forms are storytellers, and good artists always have stories to tell through their work – this is the theme that is explored throughout Small World Small Band’s (SWSB) debut album release, 2×5.
Focusing on creating original music from start to end, the group – Riem SokPhirom, Rithy LomorKesor, Morm Picherith and SophyRong David – are one of a handful of bands spearheading the original music movement that is set to sweep across Cambodia.
During Cambodia’s Golden Age of the 1950s and 1960s, the country was home to a swathe of talented composers, singers and musicians, who used storytelling as their main tool to write unique and original songs. During this time, stories coupled with beautiful melodies varied from song to song, and were never viewed as dull or redundant.
However, during the Khmer Rouge, music in the Kingdom was banned and musicians targeted during the killing of the country’s creatives. It is believed 90 per cent of Cambodia’s artists perished under the Pol Pot-led regime.
This quashing of creativity has led to a dearth in original material, especially in the music scene. Radios and TVs across the country play Cambodian music that follows the same themes of love and romance.
Aiming to shake up the music scene and re-inject a craving for unique sounds is SWSB. The group’s members have put their heart and soul into their first album in the hope of resurrecting the art of storytelling among their peers, as well as encouraging other artists to produce original songs instead of copying.
The band members have worked on their own songs tirelessly, starting from composing new melodies, drafting lyrics that are based on real life, to their live stage performances.
“Our album 2×5 tells stories about the individualism and the life of each member in the band,” says manager Rithy LomorPich (Yoki), who is also founder of Plerng Kob, a non-profit organisation that brings together young Cambodian art lovers.
She adds that the idea of including the true stories of each member in the songs to create a brand-new taste of music and make the songs more relatable to audiences. “Hopefully, the meaningful messages left by the writers in the songs will find a spot in listeners’ hearts,” she adds.
At the album launch party, Picherith, the youngest member of the band, says one of the songs, ‘Dear, father’, is inspired by his deceased dad. The song shares the relationship between Picherith and his father during his hectic time working with music in the past year and his deepest remorse towards what happened to his dad.
SWSB believes listeners may find some of the songs emotional yet inspiring at the same time, but this is how artists communicate with their fans, they add. This first album is living proof to all Cambodians, who are waiting for music that comes with something more than just a love story.
In a collaboration between Plerng Kob and #IAmOriginal, the music foundation supporting creative and innovative music in Cambodia, under the support of Smart Music, Wall’s Cambodia Ice Cream and Close Up, this first album debut is set to start a huge movement in Cambodia’s music industry.
The album can be downloaded at Smart Music App, a platform to support original music in Cambodia, while an upcoming concert will be announced on their Facebook page Smallworld Smallband.