When we left off the interview with Cambodia’s man in black, Christopher Minko we had gotten into music, social issues and disability sports, particularly his involvement with the Cambodian National Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team. They are more connected than one would have thought at first. I also left off with a YouTube video of Christopher Minko singing Mango Madness, Monsoon Sadness. In case you missed Part I it is easy to find a number of ways, including using the search box or clicking, Footprints – Latest Posts. For Part II we’ll start off with a Krom video which features the sultry voice of Sophea Chamroeun. You can play it as you read the rest of this interview.
KC: I’ve just re-read an excellent article about Krom, written by Christopher G. Moore, which he wrote late last year and has been published in two periodicals already called, PAINT IT BLACK. Most recently published in The Advisor and found at: http://theadvisorcambodia.com/2014/01/paint-black/ . As I’ve stated before I like Christopher’s writing on a number of levels, one of which is he helps me understand and bring attention to subjects that I intuitively know and agree with, but may not have articulated in my mind nearly as well as he does on paper or screen. Here is a quote from that article written by Moore which, as you might be able to tell, greatly influenced my introduction of this interview in Part I:.
“Krom is such a scream from a wounded soul. The lyrics consolidate into a dark pitch blasting our sensibilities in an echo chamber of pain. There is an existential scream and nothing prepares us for it in our cozy world of shopping malls, social media, offices, clubs and homes.” Christopher G. Moore
I am a fan of noir fiction. I can handle it because, for the most part, I know it is fiction. But the Krom lyrics are not fiction. I know that – you know that. I have enjoyed the songs of Krom many times, even though they made me uncomfortable at times, as I alluded to in Part I. But it is precisely the un-comfortableness that Krom evokes, in some, that makes your message all the more important. Your songs are the antithesis of Pop songs because what you write about, the horrors of child sexual exploitation and human and social injustices are not popular subjects, but they need to be. The worst things being sold in South East Asia are not packets of Chiclets chewing gum by eight year old boys and girls. Why is it important for you to write about and sing about these social injustices? What good has come from your work (musically and in the area of disability awareness) and what more needs to be done – and I speak of the social injustices which you put your time and effort into, particularly those that are occurring in Cambodia, Thailand and the region? .
Christopher Minko fields a question at the launch of Phnom Penh Noir – Christopher G. Moore is to Minko’s right
CM: Man – you throw them at me hey – the hardest question comes last – onto it –OK: Firstly –Fact: Human slavery (labor, sex and other) is at its highest point ever in the history of humanity – that’s a fucking tragedy – some of this I attribute to the horror of unbridled capitalism, particually since the collapse of communism, whereby we now have a world dominated by greed and selfishness, an ever widening gap between the rich and the poor ( which allow even greater exploitation of the poor and) power elites addicted to the worst traits of ego driven madness found in humanity
The sex industry – Nearly every one side steps the issue, they smile about it, joke about it, participate in it and waltz around it– but the blunt truth is this is an industry built on the sale of human flesh as an object of sexuality with exceptionally high profit margins and a high turnover of deaths as the women spiral quickly into a world of dependency on drugs and alcohol to numb the sale of their bodies over and over to aging old men on a daily basis – let me give you a blatant example using Thailand and CNN – CNN run their well meant ( but naïve) Anti Human slavery campaign – It focuses on sensationalism usually through a Brothel Bust which involves a celebrity and the bust action is filmed – despite all the good intentions CNN fail to point the finger where it needs to be pointed – at the ruling elites of the South east Asian nations that have allowed the industry of sex trading to proliferate and flourish as cold hard profit is at the end of the equation..–Why doesn’t CNN point the finger as it should? – Easy – In the case of Thailand, Thai International Airways spend millions per annum on advertising on CNN so CNN don’t want to upset Thai International along with the Thai ruling elite who own Thai International……….and so it goes………….It’s all interconnected this world wide billion dollar industry of sex trafficking – airlines, hotel chains, tourism PR and so on – all complicit in what can only be described as a major international industry (of human trafficking)reaping huge profits for an elite few despite the human misery imposed on countless women who are nothing more than sex slaves in the final analysis and usually subservient to a nasty pimp controlling them through a volatile mixture of drugs, alcohol and violence. I am not saying here that hotel chains etc are directly implicated in the sex trade- they are indirect beneficiaries ( accommodation, food etc) – (and may I add – those hotels in the “right locations “know exactly what their clients are up to – no matter how many stars they have….)…However – the real tragedy reveals itself when one sees how mainstream and integrated into society prostitution has become in many SEA nations over the past 5 decades ( I have watched the many many changes in Bangkok since the 1st time I arrived there in 1972) – an industry that flourished during the Vietnam war and was recognized by the ruling masters as a viable ( and very profitable) commercial enterprise where the commercial benefits of a foreign clientele needing to purchase sex was recognized and a subsequent hospitality industry purposefully built around catering for the “sex Tourist” was allowed and supported at the highest of levels. In fact it is publicly recognized that this now mainstream integrated profession provides a significant % of the Cambodian and Thai GDP (sadly Cambodia is following Thailand’s footsteps into the lucrative sex trade industry) – again – no matter how mainstream ( or accepted) this trade has become –One can never ever deny or justify, that behind the scenes, it remains a brutal world of young women and girls forced by poverty and entrapped, enslaved or even kidnapped into a criminally led machine that constantly needs to be fed with new young stock to satisfy the ever growing international appetite for commercial sexual services. This is why I change the text in the final words of the lyrics to Krom song “Down Sukumvit Road/ Where many a body is sold” from using “I’m walking down Sukumvit Road” (singular) to We are all walking down Sukumvit Road (plural) – as truth is we are all walking down these roads as we all allow this horrendous industry of sexual enslavement to exist .and even to, dare I say,…flourish…………as a blind eye continues to be turned….and encouraged
Click the YouTube link above to listen to:DOWN SUKHUMVIT ROAD by Krom
After all, Let’s not bullshit – anyone can take a walk down Sukumvit road and buy a woman ( or man or ladyboy – whatever suits you fancy) – yet the Thai regimes continue to deny that this industry even exists (“Soi Cowboy is just an illusion – remember we believe in ghosts”……….they say….). As I sing in Tango Traffic Tango – these are nations that quite willingly sell their daughters into the sex industry. As nations they are not yet mature enough to confront the tragedy that they impose on their own people – that requires real courage – and real change – unlike the ego and profit driven political charade currently taking place in the streets of Bangkok…
So many observe the Noir, …how many live the Noir I ask ? – How many can truly acknowledge the brutal reality that 98 % of these women do not want to participate on this trade but have no other choice due to poverty and very often family pressure – often sold by their very own parents as part of the so called “poverty alleviation “process (as many foolishly argue). Again, just take a walk down Sukumvit and look at the numerous deluded old white boys in their 60’s on a Viagra overdose drinking the morning beer with a scraggy 16 year old girl hanging on their wrinkled arms – It says it all in its obvious brutality and I want these deluded old fools to hear these Kromsongs in order to make these people feel uncomfortable as uncomfortable they should feel.
And in its own way I can’t deny a morbid philosophical fascination with what I find is the ultimate exercise in nihilism-a nihilistic exercise that involves that most sacred of human entities we call “love”, an existentialist drama that plays itself out every day in thousand of bars, brothels and hotels through SE Asia (and the rest of the world one could say.) – here we find lonely pathetic ancient men looking to purchase romantic love in much younger Asian women yet this love is an unattainable objective as the very women they court are no longer capable of love as the brutality of the process of endlessly selling one’s body has destroyed that women’s ability to genuinely love – a bitter irony if I have ever seen one yet thousands of misguided fools, each year embark, on this fruitless and tragic journey.
Blunt truth is the Krom songs need to be sung and need to be heard and there will be more krom songs that touch on these uncomfortable themes however the reality behind the current tragedy of the sex slavery industry is that these women are not only rendered incapable of love ( ….those cold Sukumvit eyes…), their lives are destroyed including often a very early death
The more we speak out about these injustices the better – in a world that’s gone stark raving mad
What good comes from the work ? / I have devoted a lifetime to the causes of social justice and will continue to do so now focusing on Krom as the main vehicle for this along with maintaining the disability work – Bottom-line is the worlds a shithole in so many ways – you can either try to do some good and effect positive change or you can selfishly turn your back on it all – I just try to do my best with my music and with my disability work and hopefully achieve some good things in a rather complex world acknowledging life’s horrors and beauties are so intermingled as to be beyond all understanding
In finishing I give you the best example of all that negates many of the bullshit arguments supporting prostitution and the sex trade through a myriad of questionable excuses – Look at Krom and Sophea and Sopheak, the Krom vocalists, who are a brilliant example of what can happen when a 12 year old girl is given educational opportunity rather than being steered down the path towards commercial sexual exploitation – Both Sophea and Sopheak grew up in one of Phnom Penhs most notorious slum / drug prostitution quarters – the legendary White Building- Yet they managed to avoid the horrors that surrounded them through becoming pupils of the renowned Cambodian Living Arts program and now at the ages of 22 and 23 they are fast becoming internationally recognized musical stars – what I am saying here is that every 12 year old girl deserves a chance of an education and nearly always –chances are they will go onto to lead productive lives as contributing members of their respective communities – after all – Look what Sophea and Sopheak have achieved… and imagine if all 12 year old girls were given the same educational opportunity……..
Anya Irmingard Minko. Born in Australia. Raised in Phnom Penh since age two. A third example of what educational opportunity can do.
KC: Thank-you, Christopher Minko for your blunt truth in this most interesting and for me most memorable two-part interview. Keep doing what you’re doing, mate. I hope to see you on a basketball court, at a recording studio, or at a live Krom gig soon.
Krom albums: Neon Dark / Songs from the Noir are available via ITUNES / CD Baby / AMAZON / SPOTIFY
Krom on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/user/themekongsessions/videos
Krom on Face book: https://www.facebook.com/KromSong
@Kromsong on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/kromsong
Official website: http://www.themekongsessions.com/
This two part interview may also be found at Thailand Footprint