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Dengue Fever (band)

Dengue Fever
152 Dengue Fever (6763912845).jpg
Background information
Origin Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active 2001–present
Labels TUK TUK Records, M80 Music, Birdman, Real World
Members Chhom Nimol
Zac Holtzman
Ethan Holtzman
Senon Williams
David Ralicke
Paul Smith

Dengue Fever is an American band from Los Angeles who combine Cambodian pop music and lyrics with psychedelic rock.


The band was formed in 2001 by Ethan Holtzman and his brother Zac after Ethan was inspired by a trip to Cambodia. As Ethan and Zac were searching for a vocalist to sing in Khmer, lead singer Chhom Nimol was discovered in a nightclub in the Little Phnom Penh area of Long Beach. She was already a well-known karaoke singer in Cambodia, but decided to move to the United States after visiting her sister, and thought it was a good chance to make more money to send to her family back home.[3] Zac is a vocalist and guitarist, formerly with Dieselhed, while Ethan plays the Farfisa organ. Rounding out the band are bassist Senon Williams (who played in Radar Bros until January 2009), drummer Paul Smith, and David Ralicke on sax.

Their self-titled debut album was released in 2003. All lyrics on the earlier albums are sung in Khmer, while the third album introduces some songs in English. Many of the songs are covers of 1960s Cambodian rock tunes by such artists as Sinn Sisamouth, Pan Ron, and Ros Serey Sothea, but some are originals, first written in English by the Holtzmans before being translated.

Dengue Fever at the Bluebird Theater in 2012

In 2005, the band toured Cambodia during the Bon Om Thook water festival, to critical acclaim. The documentary film Sleepwalking Through the Mekong documents the band's touring in Phnom Penh and other major Cambodian cities. There, singer Chhom Nimol, whose family included renowned singers from the 1970s onward, reconnected with the Cambodian fanbase, many of whom remembered the heyday of Cambodian rock from that era. The trip was a transforming experience for the rest of the band as they performed with master musicians and recorded new songs along the way, providing the band with new material. The film also reveals aspects of modern Cambodia, as the band crosses a cultural chasm with the same spirit as Cambodia's original rock pioneers.[4]

Also in 2005, their second album, Escape from Dragon House, was released, containing more original songs. Escape from Dragon House was one of's Top 100 Editor's Picks of 2005. It was re-released on limited edition colored vinyl on August 26, 2008.

Dengue Fever at Beautiful Days Festival 2008

In June 2008, Real World Records released Venus On Earth in all territories outside of the U.S. and Canada.[5] Peter Gabriel, founder of their new label, said of the deal, "We have Dengue Fever coming out on Real World Records (outside of the USA) - it’s really cool stuff, with the small Cambodian singer and big American guys behind! They’re California based but have taken 60’s Cambodian pop as their main source of inspiration and it’s done with a lot of style. It’s spirited, impassioned stuff." Venus On Earth was selected as one of the best world music records of 2008 by the iTunes Store.

Dengue Fever has entered into partnerships with a number of charitable organizations to support causes in Cambodia. They are involved with the wildlife and forest conservation organization Wildlife Alliance,[6] and have donated recordings for charity records with the Sweet Relief Fund, a charity that aims to provide financial assistance to musicians dealing with illness, disability, or age-related issues. The group also compiled a collection of Cambodian rock music from the pre-Khmer Rouge era, entitled "Electric Cambodia", in 2010.[7] All proceeds from this album were dedicated to Cambodian Living Arts.[8]

Dengue Fever were winners of the 8th annual Independent Music Awards for best World Fusion Album.


  • Dengue Fever (2003)
  • Dengue Fever (EP, 2005)
  • Escape from Dragon House (2005)
  • Sip Off the Mekong (EP, 2006)
  • Venus On Earth (2008)
  • Sleepwalking Through the Mekong (Soundtrack, 2009)
  • In the Ley Lines (Live, 2009)
  • Cannibal Courtship (2011)
  • Girl From the North (EP, 2013)
  • The Deepest Lake (2015)
  • Ganadaramaba (EP, 2016)

Use in other media

"Ethanopium", a cover of a song by Ethiopian jazz musician Mulatu Astatke, was included in the soundtrack of Jim Jarmusch's 2005 film Broken Flowers.

"One Thousand Tears of a Tarantula" was included on the soundtrack for the second season finale of the Showtime series Weeds, as well as on the recap of that episode for the third season.

The band's Khmer cover of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" was included on the soundtrack of Matt Dillon's 2002 film set in Cambodia, City of Ghosts.

"Seeing Hands" was used as the theme tune to the 2008 UK television series Sanchez Get High.

"Escape From Dragon House" was featured in the fourth episode of True Blood.

"Sni Bong" was used for the weather section of Episode 21 of the podcast Welcome to Night Vale.

"Integratron" (named after the Integratron; often misspelled "Integration"[9][10][11]) was used in a sketch of Saturday Night Live Korea that parodies the video game franchise Grand Theft Auto.

"New Year's Eve" was used for a bwin commercial in German television.



  1. ^ Huey, Steve. "Dengue Fever". AllMusic. Retrieved October 23, 2016. 
  2. ^ "Psychedelic Cambodian surf band Dengue Fever to visit Bay". San Francisco Chronicle. February 4, 2015. Retrieved October 23, 2016. 
  3. ^ Warner, Brad (2008-03-17). "Interviews > Dengue Fever's Ethan Holtzman". Archived from the original on 2011-06-29. Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  4. ^ Synopsis, Sleepwalking Through The Mekong (2007 documentary about Dengue Fever)
  5. ^ Venus On Earth by Dengue Fever from Real World Records
  6. ^ Jenkins, Mark (June 9, 2011). "Dengue Fever: Turning up the heat at Black Cat". Washington Post. Retrieved August 5, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Dengue Fever Presents :: Electric Cambodia (A Compilation)". Aquarium Drunkard. Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  8. ^ "Music Review: Dengue Fever Presents Electric Cambodia - Blogcritics Music". Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  9. ^ "iTunes - Music - Venus on Earth (Deluxe Edition) by Dengue Fever". Retrieved 2014-11-23. 
  10. ^ "Dengue Fever Integration 1hour - YouTube". Retrieved 2014-11-23. 
  11. ^ "구남과여라이딩스텔라(goonam)+뎅기피버(Dengue Fever), [email protected]상상마당라이브홀 20141123". Retrieved 2014-11-23. 

External links