Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll Director: John Pirozzi
Director John Pirozzi composes an enlightening and passionate documentary about the musical explosion in Cambodia during the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. Ultimately the beautiful and artistic musical art made from these forgotten musicians, at least from a Western perspective, encounters a tragic end. Though the history of this time is brought back to stirring life through the eyes and ears of the people that heard and saw these musicians in Cambodia during these uplifting and tumultuous times. Assisted by archival footage and the striking music made during the time, “Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten” is an exceptional documentary of rediscovered music and the influential musicians that created it.
Music is a universal language, a combination of rhythms and melodies that speak a common language of emotion. The music throughout Pirozzi’s soundtrack is a reflection of the changing Cambodian culture, one that found Western influences combined with the traditional aspects of song and lyric that distinguished Cambodian popular music. There were the ballads of crooners and divas, the go-go style, girl groups, and numerous rock n’ roll forms; music in Cambodia was a product of the world’s popular music while also being distinctively individual. Hearing the music produced by these artists, Sinn Sisamouth with his jazz styled crooning and Ros Serey Sothea the soulful songstress, it wouldn’t be surprising today to see some crossover with their own hit songs. Unfortunately many of these talented careers would never come to full fruition because of the aggressive appropriation of power from Prince Sihanouk, a supporter of the arts who played a crucial role in Cambodia’s independence. The Khmer Rogue in 1975 would further harm Cambodia’s thriving culture by decimating the population of thinkers, artists, and supporters of Western methods.
“When two big elephants fight, who suffers? It’s the grass that takes the hit”. This comment is telling of the changing political and social atmosphere, the shifting and hostile takeover of leadership, and the effect of the Vietnam war at the borders of Cambodia. Massive powers pushing and colliding into one another, with the neutral country of Cambodia trying to avoid the conflict of the world but also the people cultivating a culture of change in the region. These relatively small forces are matched against larger more powerful forces, and the damage to Cambodia was devastating.
“Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten” is a film about music and musicians during a period of history in Cambodia, but it’s also much more. At the core is a documentary that displays the power of music, the power that provides hope and motivates change. It evoked an emotion for these Cambodian artists to explore creativity and express the feelings, positive or negative, happy or sad, public or personal, that they wanted to share with the world. What happens to Cambodia is not a mystery, and while history has proven brutal and unforgiving for the people and musicians on display in this film their story and music should not remain a mystery.
Monte’s Rating / 4.00 out of 5.00