Tuesday October 11, 2016

Ian Brennan gives a voice to survivors of the Cambodian genocide

Grammy-winning music producer Ian Brennan's latest project is a collection of songs gathered from survivors of the Cambodian genocide in the '70s.

Grammy-winning music producer Ian Brennan's latest project is a collection of songs gathered from survivors of the Cambodian genocide in the '70s. (Marilena Delli)

Listen 21:08

To Ian Brennan, music at its best is social work.

While the Grammy-winning music producer has worked with big names such as Lucinda Williams and Green Day, his latest project shines a light on some less-known musicians. 

They Will Kill You, If You Cry is a collection of songs gathered from survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime's genocide in Cambodia in the '70s.  

Brennan, who has also travelled to and worked with musicians in Malawi and Rwanda (his wife is Italian-Rwandan), flew to South Cambodia to record these songs. "The music of Cambodia has very amazing and interesting parallels to a lot of the music that came from the Deep South of America in the 19th century," Brennan tells Candy Palmater. 

Some have definitely drawn that comparison but Brennan notes that not everyone's reference points revolve around popular western music. This is why he hates the term "world music," and he even clarifies, "There is no music that is not of this world, not yet."

Part of Brennan's quest to record musicians around the globe is to assert a diversity of voices beyond the few prominent forces in music right now.

"The music industry is getting bigger, they're making more money but from few people," he argues. "I'm not sure those people are making the biggest contribution, culturally. Katy Perry is not going to enlighten you spiriturally, the same way that Nina Simone did."  

WEB EXTRA | Watch/listen to a teaser from They Will Kill You, If You Cry.