I’m generally a calm and easy-going kind of person but this evening, I was overtaken by a state of extreme agitation after watching a music video. I experienced a mild feeling of irritability that eventually turned into full-on shivers down my spine, like a low that comes at the end of a liquid sugar rush. It is a scientific marvel, and may well be the first time that anyone has ever caught a disease directly through an iPhone. There is a name for it: Dengue Fever.
Vocalist-lyricist Chhom Nimol bops away, alongside her bearded co-singer Zac Holtzman on the B-52-sounding track, Rom Say Sok – named after a lady in a folk tale about a crocodile, a king, a ship, a mountain, magical hair and a chicken coop.
The band says, “the song tells the tale of a legendary Khmer woman, who was teased about her very long, magical hair. When her enemies sent torrential rains and a giant alligator to destroy her, she used her hair to dry up all of the water and kill the alligator”.
The fun-factor of the 1980s-style schlock video was over-shadowed by the length of his beard. I kept wishing I could shave Zac’s beard. I wanted to find him, hold him down and shave it right off his face, but that would be some kind of assault and could possibly be misconstrued as a hate-crime as he could be sporting it for religious reasons. Why else? There is a low probability that he moonlights as a guitarist for ZZ Top. I had to get up and pace the living-room floor while repeating the word “ugh!”.
I turned the phone back to my eyes just as he placed the electric head-shaver gizmo to his face and I saw skin. I actually yelled “aaah,” in relief. Who are these guys? Damn it! I’m watching the video again.
The diversity of DENGUE FEVER’s musical influences runs the gamut from bebop to hip hop, jumps over to North America and back to Asia. On Taxi Dancer Chhom wanes like Debbie Harry. The background beat on Ghost Voice is reminiscent of Tom Tom Club’s Genius of Love . Tokay sounds like a soundtrack to a traditional Bollywood blockbuster, except the lyrics are Cambodian. I scroll through their portfolio consisting of four other full-length works and collections of other favourite Cambodian roots music. I’m loving the vintage artwork. Escape from Dragon House would be at home in the Motown section on any record-rack in the 60s.
It’s been several hours. I now understand the connection between Zac’s beard and the magical hair that Rom Say Sok used to soak up the water in the river. It’s metaphoric genius.
At this point, I’ve been thoroughly infected by this disease and I’m about to pass it on. The super-cute Dengue Fever released their 10-track album The Deepest Lake on their independently-owned Tuk Tuk Records Jan 27 in US/Can and worldwide on Feb 2.
by Cherryl Bird
Toronto, Ontario, Canada