World Bank’s #Music4Dev catches Dengue Fever

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During their brutal reign from 1975-1979, the Khmer Rouge killed an estimated two million people, targeting artists and intellectuals, even people who wore eyeglasses. Cambodian arts and music have been making a comeback through the education of younger generations. Educating and raising awareness of Cambodian arts also means employment for the master artists and possibly their students.

Los Angeles-based Cambodian rock band Dengue Fever supports that cause with their substantial fan base and philanthropic work with community rebuilding project Cambodian Living Arts. When the band tours in Cambodia, they put on benefit concerts, PSAs, and even loan songs to Cambodian Living Arts to use for promotion. “Those people who were killed were really responsible for that culture, so Cambodian Living Arts seeks out traditional artists,” says bassist Senon Williams. “Like there’s an instrument called the tro and there were only a few people left who played it. Now there are a whole bunch of people playing it, including kids.”

For people living in poverty, finding possibilities for employment is critical.  Lead singer and Cambodian native Cchom Nimol is proof. 

Nimol grew up in a refugee camp in Thailand; her sister was left behind in Cambodia. For years, the family had no idea what happened to her sister. But in the late ‘80s, they heard Nimol’s sister singing on the radio. They returned to Cambodia and the family was once again whole. After winning a popular singing contest called the Ansara Awards. Nimol decided to try her luck in the United States in 2001. As a star, she’s a source of inspiration for people in her country. “I’ve been living here for 15 years, but I like to go back to Cambodia to perform,” she says. “I’m happy that I can help my poor country.”

“When we visit schools like Cambodian Living Arts and the university in Phnom Penh, it’s nice to see Nimol there because she shows that you can go farther in life,” says Williams. “You can be a star in whatever you choose to do.”
While not everyone can show their support by being rock stars, there are other ways to help. “I think a lot of people give money, but they’re not engaged. For me, I learned that I can help people through my music in ways that I didn’t expect,” Williams says. “But you have to find what you’re passionate about. It’s really important to find what you can do and support the world around you .” 


Dengue Fever shared their support of education and arts preservation during a performance on World Bank's #Music4Dev

Check out our other #Music4Dev guest artists: