A number of Cambodia's 24 provinces feature in the popular music of the country and bus journeys between them are notable for the almost constant stream of Khmer music, typically with accompanying video. (On one bus I travelled in, the owner had replaced his rear view mirror with a small TV screen for benefit of his passengers!)
Although Battambang is over a day by bus from Kratie, and I'm yet to visit, one song that has caught my attention is 'Champa Battambang' (literally 'Flower of Battambang'). I hadn't heard it for some time so today I Googled it and found the recording above from Sinn Sisamouth, a star of the Khmer music scene in the 50s, 60s and 70s believed to have been killed by the Khmer Rouge. Many of his recordings were destroyed but this and others have surfaced and, luckily for me, loaded to Youtube. (An mp3 is available here.)
The song is full of sadness already but the old posters in the video add to this when you imagine what was lost in terms of arts and culture in 1975. Artists were a target of the killing fields and you can only wonder what people like Sinn Sisamouth might have gone onto if his career hadn't been horrifically cut short. Thankfully groups like Cambodian Living Arts are working to rebuild this once vibrant part of Cambodian life.
The lyrics of the song have been translated as follows, perhaps Dengue Fever should do a version as part of their own revival of the Khmer rock and roll scene (one American band and countless others have already done so, see below).
The centre of my heart!
It was hard to say goodbye
Since the day I’ve been away from you
I worry and think about everytime
The cycle of my destiny
I can’t stop missing you
If you were my spouse’s previous life
May you not forget our past time
It’s been long time ago, do you remember?
You are my breath
To you I always hope
Smile and hope to be yours
Since long time I wanted you
When will I see you again?
I feel sad everyday
Because of wanting Tchampa Battambang!