Last night, the Cambodian noir band Krom led by Christopher Minko and lead vocalist Sophea Chamroeun concluded an historic three night run, playing three very different venues, at Overground Bar just off of Sukhumvit Road, in Bangkok, Thailand to an overflow standing room only crowd. It was a fitting finale for the Phnom Penh based bi-lingual band (Khmer and English). The unique sound of Krom is always original and often a mixture of Khmer and English lyrics, with an unambiguous message of ugly truth.


KROM – L to R:  James Mao Sokleap; Jimmy Baeck; Christopher Minko; Sophea Chamroeun; Sopheak Chamroeun

(Photo: Eric Nelson – Venue Toot Yung Art Center)

The remaining band members are the versatile Jimmy Baeck, who plays either a soulful slide guitar, accordion or saxophone and backup singer Sopheak Chamroeun, the sister of Sophea. The talented sisters studied traditional Cambodian dance and music under the countries best masters, through the internationally acclaimed Cambodian Living Arts Program. Mr. Minko reminded the Overground crowd of the genocide atrocities inflicted upon Cambodians by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, which had a particularly horrific effect on those involved in the arts. The newest Krom member is bass guitar player James Mao Sokleap, who also serves as record producer for Krom’s upcoming third album.


KROM Lead Man Christopher Minko

(Photo: Alasdair McLeod – Venue Hansar Hotel)

Krom was born from a place of darkness and their songs frequently touch on personal and dark themes. Krom’s debut 2012 album is titled SONGS OF THE NOIR, which became popular after frequent radio station play. The following year their NEON DARK album also became a success, particularly with listeners in the United Kingdom. In early 2015 Krom will release, MEKONG DELTA BLUES.

Bottom line is the world’s a shit-hole 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. – Christopher Minko (From a February 2014 interview)

The above quote by Chistopher Minko should give you some concept of the man and the message he wishes to convey in his work and his music even if we have to accept, as he reminds us in song and lyrics, that we live in a world that has gone “stark raving mad.”

krom singer

KROM Female Vocalist Sopheak Chamroeun

(Photo: Alasdair McLeod – Venue Hansar Hotel)

The three venues that Krom played from December 18th, 19th & 20th could not be more diverse. The beauty of Krom is that their language of music can be understood by anyone, anywhere – even if the Khmer lyrics cannot always be. From the under the sky, 19th floor outdoor platform of the 5 Star Hansar Hotel, where they opened, to the Toot Yung Art Center, highlighting works by other artists, to the second level walk-up of the appropriately “Paint it Black” interior of the conversely named Overground Bar, Krom has a message to tell. They tell it with dignity and clarity: It’s not a pretty world out there.

Paint it Black

Christopher Minko and James Mao Sokleap

(Photo:  John Fengler – Venue: Overground Bar)

Woven into the Krom experience is, respect. You saw the respect in the eyes of Sopheak as she listened to her sister, Sophea. You sensed the respect as Christopher Minko graciously and literally took a back seat to the Khmer singers at times during the performances, to appreciate not only their voices but their culture, which is being preserved and expanded by performances such as these. And you heard the respect when Christopher Minko took the time to thank his good friend, Christopher G. Moore and some of the many members of the talented Bangkok expat community in attendance on closing night.

Overground Bar

Closing Night for Krom at the Overground Bar and Cafe in Bangkok, Thailand. December 20th, 2014

(Photo: Mark Desmond Hughes)

Connections were re-established and bridges were built. The journey for Krom from Cambodia to Bangkok will be easier and hopefully more frequent in the future. Bangkok has no shortage of things to do, musically and otherwise. Yet Krom created a genuine energy by their presence in Bangkok. There are more travels and more countries ahead for Krom in 2015, including Germany, France and Australia. Those who have experienced Krom tend to become fans. Of the music and the message. Both are worth exploring further.


Sophea Chamroeun

(Photo: Mark Desmond Hughes)

Visit Krom’s web site and support these fine artists and their message if you are so inclined.


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