"Through the Arts Envoy Program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the U.S. Department of State is pleased to bring the rock band Dengue Fever back to Southeast Asia,” said Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Thomas Hodges. "The U.S. Embassies in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam are looking forward to working with the Los Angeles-based band this month on their Electric Mekong Tour. The band will do a variety of shows and conduct workshops with local musicians in order to foster goodwill, engage foreign audiences and provide insight into American culture and values."
Dengue Fever, whose exotic blend of Cambodian rock, Afro grooves, surf, and garage psych returns with Cannibal Courtship, the group's first studio album since 2008’s Venus on Earth and their Fantasy Records/Concord Music Group debut. With 11 new tunes, Cannibal Courtship, features songs sung in English, and Khmer (Cambodian). The album also features beautiful backing harmonies by The Living Sisters. With Cannibal Courtship, the band has reached a powerful new plateau, deftly balancing the wide-ranging influences that inform their sound and songs. Longtime fans will get their required dose of Nimol’s haunting vocals and the band’s spooky, kinetic, mood-swinging sound on the new disc but the group, which produced the set together, has upped the creative ante. The band's eclecticism gels instantly on the slinky, spiky rock of "Cement Slippers,” "Family Business,” "2012" and "Cannibal Courtship." They display a deep pocket and soaring vocals on the Cambodian dub track "Uku,” deliver bilingual, gear-shifting drive on "Only a Friend,” and mesmerize on "Mr. Bubbles.” Cannibal Courtship is, like the tropical malady that gave the band its name, wildly infectious.
"Before it was partly Cambodian and partly indie rock,” explains Dengue Fever bassist Senon Gaius Williams of the band’s evolution. "Now it’s 100 percent both.” Brothers Ethan (keyboards) and Zac (guitar) Holtzman started Dengue Fever in 2001. Once they added the saxophonist David Ralicke, drummer Paul Smith and bassist Senon Williams, they went looking for a Cambodian singer. Enter singer Chhom Nimol, who performed regularly for the King and Queen of Cambodia. Her powerful singing, marked by a luminous vibrato that adds exotic ornamentations to her vocal lines and hypnotic traditional dance, complimented the band’s driving Cambodian/American sound.
Since their inception, the band’s unique take on 60s Cambodian pop and American surf rock has garnered praise and attention from fans and critics alike. True Blood named an entire episode after one of their songs and featured the band’s music throughout the show, Spin highlighted the band in their ‘Breaking Out’ section, and profiles on the group have appeared in the New York Times, Magnet, Wired, and NPR’s "Fresh Air” and Radio Australia. Ray Davies from the Kinks called them "a cross between Led Zeppelin and Blondie.”
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