That shouldn’t be too hard as the band embodies the term ‘world-music', combining 1960s Cambodian pop with psychedelic surf-rock. Their exciting and idiosyncratic cross-pollination of exotic Southeast Asian, Indian and African melodies and western rhythms has garnered them celebrity fans such as Genesis legend Peter Gabriel, Hollywood actor Matt Dillon, Metallica’s Kirk Hammet and a global cult following. Indeed, their fusion of fuzz-toned reverb-drenched guitars, Afro-tinged organ sounds and jazzy beats wouldn’t go amiss on a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack.
Their music has been featured on popular US TV shows True Blood and Weeds, Dirty Sanchez in the UK, and on Jim Jarmusch’s acclaimed Broken Flowers soundtrack. The band was even the subject of documentary film, Sleepwalking Through the Mekong in 2005, chronicling their visit to their spiritual home.
After an inspired trip to Cambodia in 1997 that left a friend with, you’ve guessed it, dengue fever, guitarist and vocalist Zac Holtzaman formed the band with his Farfisa organ-playing brother Ethan in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles in 2001. Upon discovering former karaoke singer Chhom Nimol in the Little Phnom Penh area of Long Beach, the six-piece lineup was completed by bassist Senon Williams, drummer Smith and brass player David Ralicke.
Their self-titled debut was released in 2003 and featured a host of classic Cambodian rock covers by artists such as Sinn Sisamouth, Pan Ron and Ros Serrysothea and original music, sung in Khmer by Nimol. The 2005 follow-up album, Escape From Dragon House, was listed as one of Amazon.com’s Top 100 Editor’s Picks, while 2008’s Venus On Earth was selected as one of the best world music records by the iTunes store.
Smith says that Saigon can expect “a good rock & roll show” and promises not to hold back. “We always give 100 percent on stage, even when jet lag is trying to weigh us down! The more people participate and give back energy, the more worked up we get, so remember to bring your dancing shoes!”
Hi-Fi, 2nd Floor, Lucky Plaza, 38 Nguyen Hue, Q1, Ho Chi Minh City