One of Australian Hip Hop’s more diverse trios, Astronomy Class feat. Srey Channthy attended WOMAD 2015 over the weekend showcasing their unique musical style with their third album ‘Mekong Delta Sunrise’. Having performed with Srey Channthy, from the Cambodian Space Project only a handful of times the audience were treated to the creative exploration of hip hop beats by Astronomy Class.
The on-stage energy did not leave one person in the audience untouched as the story of the Khmer Rouge genocide and the death of Cambodia’s musical greats was unwoven by the albums display of reggae, club, psych and Khmer – pop.
So how did the album’s producers Chasm, Sir Robbo and vocalist Ozi Batla come up with the concept to pay tribute to Cambodia’s Khmer Pop music from the 1950s to the 1970s you ask? The artists explain the concept for the record began in 2012, when they were invited to Cambodia to perform a set in the old Train Station in Phnom Penh. It is here that the fascination started with Khmer pop music and its tragic past of the Khmer Rouge genocide.
In early 2013, the albums collaborator Channthy, the spiritual successor to Cambodia’s golden age started working with Astronomy Class. At the heart of the group, Channthy was able to provide to the producers first hand stories and insights into Khmer Pop that was unparalleled, herself having studied under the only great Khmer singer to have survived the Khmer rouge genocide.
The dark theme of the album has undetones of happiness and optimism with Channthy’s songs ‘Woman Wants to Drink’ and “Four Barang in a Tuk Tuk’ which Channthy was thrilled to tell the crowd the story behind. Batla interjected to advise that this was not a true story – believe him or not, ‘Four Barang in a tuk tuk’ tells the tale of Batla himself hoping to catch a glimpse of the beautiful sunrise over the Ankor Wat temples. As any tourist does, he decided to stay awake all night drinking beer. His youthful exuberance was put to rest when one too many beers caused him to fall asleep (beer in hand) in the tuk tuk moments before the sunrise. True or not, the song got the audience pulsing.
For now, the band are hoping to do more shows together. If you get the opportunity to see them, Astronomy Class are not to be missed. However, If you can’t wait to catch some of their tunes, their album is available in every format including cassette! For purchases go here.
The band are working on establishing contact with families of the genocide victims to pay some sort of royalty for their inspiration. As well as some portion of profits to worthy charities in Cambodia.
Review by Taryn.R. for allaussiehiphop.com.