Sunday, 5 May 2013

Poev Vannary - Mietophoum Collection CD

Poev Vannary was a Cambodian singer and musician from the infamous Khmer Rock era of the late sixties/early seventies. Educated in the United States, she was heavily influenced by the American pop scene of the period. Upon her return home she would go on to cover several western hits including It Never Rains In Southern Califorinia, (Albert Hammond), Get Down (Gilbert O'Sullivan) and It's Too Late (Carol King/Dennis Brown). Vannary was not only the first female Cambodian singer to play guitar on stage but also had the distinction of singing in English.

Little is known about Vannary's life and only 25 of her recorded works are known to exist, of which 21 have been collected on this cd. Audio quality is a bit rough, but that is unsurprising given the rigorous conditions the master tapes were subjected to to ensure their survival.

When the Khmer Rouge seized power of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh on April 17th 1975 it ended several years of civil war and foreign intervention. It also ended the Khmer pop and rock scene that had flourished since the early sixties. Within days the Khmer Rouge forced two million inhabitants - a third of the country's population - into labour camps to do agricultural work. Artists, writers, intellectuals and popular singers of the period like Sinn Sisamouth, Ros Sereysothea and Pan Ron were all targeted for displaying western influences and either imprisoned or sent to the work camps. Many were later brutally executed or died from amlnutrition and diseeases. Poev Vannary is thought not to have survived the Khmer Rouge years.

Artefacts such as records and books were destroyed, along with films and studio recordings. (A surviving Sinn Sismouth 7" single from the mid-sixties recently sold for £240 on ebay). Master tapes were smuggled out of the country and shipped to the United States, where they eventually found a safe home at the Mietophoum National Library in Long Beach, California. Many recordings were secreted about the homes of friends, fans and associates at great risk to their own lives.

While many musicians tragically and needlessly lost their lives under a cold-blooded regime, there is some consolation that their music refused to die. Although Cambodia's internal struggles continued long after Vietnam's successful 1979 invasion that brought an end to the genocidal rule of the Khmer Rouge, the music gradually resurfaced on the markets of Siem Reap. Foreign travellers purchasing these cassettes out of curiosity lead to compilation cds like the Cambodian Rocks series, giving the artists wider exposure to a niche market audience on an international level. Contemporay bands like Dengue Fever and The Cambodian Space Project continue to perform and record material by leading artists like Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Sereysothea..

1. Rom Leng Tgnai Saov /  Dancing on Saturday Night
2. Ouch! Sneaha /  Ouch! Love
3: Yom Os Tik Pnek / Cry Until Out of Tears

4. Anlong Monh Sneah / Anlong Love
5. Pka Os Lom Ong / Flower Out of Pollens (aka Get Down)
6. Soriya Asodongkot / Sunset
7. Bong Mean Tmey Heuy / You Have New Love
8. Yerng Rom Leng / We Dance
9. Anusavory / Memories (aka It Never Rains In Southern California)
10. Oh! Sneaha / Oh! Love
11. Avey, Avey Ning Plas Pdo /  Everything Changes
12. Msel Menh Mdong Theat / Yesterday Once More
 13. Nak Mdy / Mother
14. Kavey Songkhim / Poet's Hope
15. Minh Ach Bomplich Bong Ban / Can't Forget You
16. Jomreang Yukvakvey / Youth's Song
17. Thik Ho / Water Flow
18. Deung Chet Oun Te! / Do You Know My Heart?
19. Ber Mean Roub Bong / If I Have You
 20. Cherng Bong Gno Gnem / See You Smile
 21. Hous Pel Heuy / It's Too Late

If you enjoy this album I would encourage you to buy it (part of the proceeds go towards supporting the Mietophoum National Library and Cultural Centre). Mietophoum have an extensive catalogue of approximately 200 titles. The only outlet I know of to obtain these gems is eclinic-doc on ebay. The discs retail for £6.50 each and the seller offers very generous combined overseas shipping rates.

Not included on the Mietophoum cd is Beautiful Sunday, originally a transatlantic hit for Daniel Boone in 1972, which PV also released as a single backed with her take on Gilbert O'Sullivan's Get Down. Hear it on Youtube.

Another track that didn't make the above compilation is this upbeat number Rom Ning Knom, presumably an original. Available on Mietophoum Various Artists CD No. 7.


  1. Hey Sterling Cale chap, how you be? this is Dr Beeg from myspace days. Show me the ropes of this blogger shite, daddy-o, sos I can get more bang from my hang. Hope all is well. Nice site. Coincidentally I happened to also discover this Cambodian music series. Got two volumes a couple weeks ago. Hoping to explore more of it. Have some sundry volumes of primo Cambodian psych from many years previous. Cool stuff.

    1. Well, stone the bleedin' crows - Dr. Beeg! Good to hear from you. Golden memories of the halcyon Myspace days before the name of progress bolloxed it all up.

      I'm hoping to post more Cambodian stuff (and possibly a Korean psych gem, too) at a later date, although I've let this blog slip of late. But I shall endeavour to make amends.

  2. This is excellent! Many thanx................