In the Spotlight Fever strikes the music scene

Joe Llorin, Staff Writer

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There’s an epidemic sweeping across the nation, but don’t worry, ladies and gentlemen – this is one fever you won’t regret catching. This is the sensation that is Dengue Fever, a band that, strangely enough, spawned from a love for Cambodian pop music.

Dengue Fever(pronounced “den-geh) is a band  from Los Angeles that was created in 2001 after brothers Ethan and Zac Holtzman discovered that they shared a love for 60s Cambodian pop music.

After adding David Ralicke, Paul Smith and Senon Williams to the group, the band went looking for a Cambodian singer. While in the Little Cambodia area Long Beach, they discovered Chhom Nimol in a nightclub. Nimol had previously been a well-known karaoke singer in Cambodia, having regularly performed for the King and Queen of Cambodia. She joined the band because she saw it as an opportunity to make money that she could send to her family in Cambodia. Dengue Fever was now complete with the addition of Nimol.

Along with Nimol’s ability to sing in Khmer(Cambodia’s official language) and English, the other band members bring to the table a lot of talent that can mix well with her vocals. Zac is the band’s backing vocalist and lead guitarist, Ethan plays the keyboard, Senon plays the bass, Paul plays the drums and rounding out the band is David, who specializes in brass instruments, most notably the saxophone.

As far as their music goes, Dengue Fever’s sound derives from 60s psychedelic rock music, with a mix of Cambodian pop and American indie music. However, according to a past interview with Spinner, Senon Williams commented “I’ll just call it rock n’ roll. That’s good enough for me. And if you ask me again, I’d probably say ‘we call it music.’ I feel self conscious limiting myself by describing our sound in a sentence.”

Dengue Fever’s self titled debut album was released in 2003, followed by an EP in 2005, but both albums featured music sung only in Khmer. Furthermore, many of the band’s material up to this point were covers of popular Cambodian rock songs, originally by artists such as Pan Ron and Sinn Sisamouth. In 2005, the band went through a “transforming experience” while touring in Cambodia. After performing with skilled musicians, reconnecting with their Cambodian fan base through Nimol’s family and recording new songs along the way, the band was given much inspiration for new material.

The band showcased their newly found inspiration with their third release “Escape From the Dragon House,” which not only featured their first set of English sung music, but it also flaunted original material. The album was a success, garnering high praise from around the world and Amazon named the album the #1 international release in 2005. The band’s success only continued to rise from then on and today the band has no intention of stopping anytime soon, having recently released their fifth studio album, “Cannibal Courtship.”

With the music world being ruled by hip hop, R&B, and indie rock, Dengue Fever breaks away from the mold with their fantastically unorthodox style, outlandish sound, and surprisingly excellent musicianship. The band as a whole fit well together, with Nimol leading them above and beyond the typical expectations one would have about a band playing 60s psychedelic rock music. For someone whose second language is English, Chhom Nimol is phenomenal, to say the least. Not only does she provide the band’s lead vocals, she also translates material for them, whether it be in English or Khmer. Nimol’s vocals are both soulful and voluptuous, and along with the aid of Zac’s fluid guitar work and calming vocals, the band proves to not only be a national contender in the music industry, but an international one as well.

Dengue Fever is currently touring the United States, promoting their new album, and continuing to experiment with their sound. Although uncertain, the band’s future looks brighter than ever as they continue to break away from the mainstream music scene while still looking for inspiration to incorporate into future material.

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