Getting to know The Cambodian Space Project

cambodian space project

In January, Sydney Festival-goers can blast off and rock out with The Cambodian Space Project in ‘Cosmic Cambodia’; a high energy, sci-fi psych rock ’n’ roll take on a Phnom Penh karaoke bar. We asked the band to tell us more about themselves:

The Cambodian Space Project is a psychedelic rock’n’roll band out of Phnom Penh taking the sounds of Cambodia’s lost rock’n’roll on an undulating orbit of world touring. Meanwhile, Cambodia itself lacks the industrial base, the educational base and the political foundation for a an official space program like this to occur within it. It has no functioning university with an astrophysics or astronautics program, and marginal industry. Cambodia operates no satellites and, not having an orbital presence, has no space power. The government of Cambodia in in Phnom Penh has no plans for attempting to further any ambition in space development or research, but may once things stabilise, if they ever do.

“Cosmic Cambodia” is a spaced-out jungle cabaret that we’ve been developing as a rock opera “Hanuman Spaceman”. It’s a set of CSP songs that reflect and propel a narrative that is based on lead singer Kak Channthy’s own journey as well as that of the ancient Ramayana character, Hanuman – the shape-shifting, trickster monkey god and also the story of Cambodia herself – it’s a performance conjuring many aspects of Cambodian’s beguiling and difficult history from ancient past to King Norodom Sihanouk’s 1960’s ‘Golden Era’ to the tragedy of the genocidal Khmer Rouge reign through to rapidly modernising, present day Cambodia

Our performance at the Sydney Festival will be a great chance for those who caught the documentary on The Cambodian Space Project on the ABC recently, to catch-up and hear what the CSP live show sounds and looks like. Also, for those yet to discover the amazing sounds of Cambodian psych rock then here’s your chance to enter the world of Cosmic Cambodia.

We want to champion the story of Srey Channthy – the barefoot diva of the Cambodian rice fields and to pick-up with where Cambodian rock’n’roll was brutally cut-off when Khmer Rouge forces took Phnom Penh in March 1975 – we’re borrowing from the pre-war songbook and updating this in a spectacular way with Channthy and CSP’s own songs like Have Visa No Have Rice, Motown collaboration Black to Gold and the anthemic Whisky Cambodia

It might surprise people to learn that in just six years of working and touring with the CSP, the band’s beatmeister Bong Sak has only learnt two words of English “awesome” and more recently on our last visit to Australia… “gaw juss”.

We’ve never been a normal band.

We’re currently listening to Mexican garage.

In 2016, we’re going to break-upon re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere then release our Black Box set.

Cosmic Cambodia will be happening in Hyde Park and in Parramatta for the Sydney Festival. For more information and tickets, go to the Sydney Festival website.

bobby townsend


Interview by Bobby Townsend.