In the swinging 1960s, after nearly a century of colonisation, Cambodia had gained its independence and was ready to rock. Young musicians from the countryside flocked to the vibrant cosmopolitan capital city of Phnom Penh. Teenagers cycled along the Mekong River, guitars slung across their backs, on their way to rehearse Khmer covers of The Beatles or Pink Floyd. The city was a melting pot of sound: old fashioned rock’n’roll, early heavy metal, crooners and swooners and love duets. The music stopped on 17th April 1975: the Khmer Rouge army captured Phnom Penh, ending the civil war and beginning the genocide. Around 90% of the musicians died in the killing fields. But a few fled, to the US or France, taking what remained of their music with them.
In Away From Beloved Lover, Dee Peyok travels across Cambodia, piecing together the story of the country and its golden era of music. She interviews surviving superstars and their relatives in places as disparate as a traditional house on stilts by a rice paddy, an artist’s studio deep in the ancient forests, and a café in the new, divided Phnom Penh. Away From Beloved Lover is a musical travelogue that tells the story of Cambodia, past and present, in a thrilling new way. It is an immersive exploration of a country set to a soundtrack too long silenced, and finally able to play.