Dengue Fever: “Uku”
In 1997 Californian organist Ethan Holtzman took a trip to Cambodia. On that trip Holtzman discovered the sounds of 60s Cambodian rock, a strange brew of fuzzy guitars and eastern melodies. Holtzman was hooked. When he got back to the states he teamed up with his brother, guitarist Zac Holtzman, and formed Dengue Fever.
Originally conceived as a Cambodian rock cover band, the Holtzman’s ran into a problem: neither could sing in Khmer. They found Chhom Nimol. She was singing in a nightclub in Long Beach, California’s Little Phnom Penh. The band moved from all covers to writing their own material. In 2003 the Dengue Fever released their self-titled debut. Two years later, the band released their follow-up Escape from Dragon House as well as a film called “Sleepwaking Through the Mekong” documenting their 2005 tour of Cambodia. Cannibal Courtship, the band’s fourth studio record, was released earlier this year and contains today’s song of the day, “Uku.”
The song is a perfect example of the Dengue Fever’s effortless ability to combine East and West. The track snakes along on a languid rhythm. Hypnotic guitar lines intertwine with Nimol’s ethereal vocals. You don’t have to speak Khmer to pick up the mood in her singing. Even if you never make it to Cambodia, you can give Dengue Fever a spin, close your eyes and imagine yourself floating down the Mekong.