It’s tempting to ignore it. What doesn’t directly affect you is inconsequential, peripheral. Hardship, systematic and dehumanizing. It’s the kind of stuff that maybe pops up in your Twitter or Facebook feed, depending on whether you follow stuff like Amnesty International. So you’ll hear about it in passing, governmental repression of certain minorities, ethnic or otherwise, around the globe. You don’t like it. You definitely don’t like it. But you forget about as soon as you scroll past it.
This isn’t an indictment; it’s not meant as a guilt trip. It’s something that we all do, “we all” meaning those of us in the Global North. That’s not to say it’s OK either. There’s a balance for each of us, a balance between sympathy and action, or, broader, downright indifference or even hostility and superhero levels of tangible relief. We have to measure where we are on two separate spectrums: how we see ourselves upon this continuum and how the world perceives where we actually are upon it. The two don’t necessarily jibe.
Lafidki is putting his money where his mouth is. Or something like that. And well he should, because one could imagine the artist, real name Saphy Vong, who was “born to Cambodian parents in a Thai refugee camp” and moved from city to city as he grew up, infusing in his music a sense of displacement and a longing for identity, a connection with a home. And so he adopts the plight of “the more than 20 ethnic groups residing in Cambodia’s uplands and mountains” who are labeled as primitive, savage, wild — “derichan” means “bestial,” after all.
Derichan is a short trip at less than twenty minutes, yet Lafidki packs an insane amount of variety into these eight tracks. (He is trying to call attention to more than 20 ethnic groups, remember!) He piles polyrhythms and eclectic sources, among them field recordings taken among the Cambodian tribes, on top of each other, blending beat-heavy passages with tense ambient and electronic outbursts. The result never wavers in intensity or focus, demanding strict attention and an ear for imagination as Lafidki casts narrative and subject into stark relief. You’re right there, the whole time, with him in Cambodia, among the population, experiencing existence and discord in all its flawed reality.
Lafidki compels your focus. What you do with what you get out of it is on you. But Saphy Vong’s done his part.
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