|Students surprised the audience with an impromptu dance party on the risers that were used in the spring musical of Ragtime during the performance by Dengue Fever. – Ashleigh Mower for Cate School.|
Dance Party! The last Convocation of the year had the students up and dancing in the aisles of the Hitchcock Theater as Dengue Fever came to town. Singing in her native Khmer, vocalist Chhom Nimol led the 5-piece band in their trademark fusion of 1960s Cambodian pop tunes and psychedelic indie rock. Moving to the music, Cate students danced, bopped, shouted, and clapped their way through the set. Seniors Joel Serugo and Ajibola Bodunrin, along with juniors Chris Figueroa and Musa Hakim, even showed up on risers behind the band as impromptu backup dancers, eventually joined by as many friends as would fit. The band took it all in stride, with Nimol turning to the dancers and shouting, “Stay right there!”
The band took a short break from the music to speak to the audience about the genocide that took place in Cambodia in the 1970s under the Khmer Rouge. Music was decimated in the country, as musicians were among those executed by the communist government to make way for a proposed all-new society. Nimol’s family, which included musicians, was impacted by the purge. Dengue Fever revives this almost-lost music and transforms it to suit a Cambodian-American band from 21st-century Los Angeles. The students in Cate’s diverse community related to this fusion. “I really liked how the music merged Cambodian culture with our own,” said Maddie Denis ’19.
Back to the music, Nimol led the audience into “Hold My Hips,” originally a traditional Cambodian circle dance with stylized hand and arm movements enthusiastically imitated by Cate students on and off the stage. By the end of the evening, the saxophone player had lept off the stage, bobbing and weaving his way through the students, while the guitarist and bassist danced together and the students clapped and whistled. “We had a connection with Dengue Fever because we could get out of our seats and dance,” said Bella Hillyer ’19. The concert was a great way to end the Convocation program for this year, and the students are already hoping for a repeat concert next year.