Tag Archives: the melodians




By Elliot Fong

This was the first time I traveled with family in several years. Having not seen both my grandparents for a while, this was also a family reunion of sorts. I went in with the understanding that this was not my personal trip, but I had to squeeze in my own adventures whenever time allowed. However, I decided to look for vinyl records as a personal quest: specifically, Asian interpretations of American music (I.e.: funk, soul, rock n’ roll) during the ’60s and ‘ 70s.

In preparation, I spent hours researching online, and came across Vietnamese, Thai, and Cambodian interpretations of American music. This included traditional styles of Thai music such as luk thung, which became infused with funk and soul styles.  A wide range of other artists included Rita Razon, CBC Band, Liev Tuk, Ros Sereysothea, and others. There’s a lot of stuff on YouTube, and snippets of personal collections on Instagram and Soundcloud (check out user siamfunko for the luk thung and Thai funk uploads).

Researching music also brought attention to music culture in context within a larger historical landscape. Music culture and histories functions as an extension, reaction, and result of the situations occurring during particular time periods. For example, a significant amount of music and artistic culture from Cambodia were destroyed during the Khmer Rouge era. Recordings before 1980 are extremely rare, and it’s not easy to trace these histories. The KR killed up to three million people during the Cambodian genocide, in the process wiping out massive amounts of art and music.

While sharing some songs over the Internet with my friend Dexter, he brought up, how did black music get to Southeast Asia, in the ’60s? We discussed, most likely through the the black GIs. The US military at the time was still largely socially segregated. In Vietnam, groups like CBC Band played rock music for white folks. But where and how did off-duty military folks hang out, and who did they spend time with? How did James Brown get introduced to people in Thailand, and how did funk styles become integrated with luk thung? These questions brought up issues surrounding the largely buried histories of the relationships between black GIs and local people.

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Filed under CANNED TONGUE, Music