Doch Chkae, the metal band born upon a rubbish dump

The Stung Meanchey dumpsite in 2008

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Satoshi Takahashi/Getty Images

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Thousands dealt with the Stung Meanchey dump, seen here in2008

It was the most effective symbol of the hardship under which many lived in mid-2000 s Cambodia: a vast rubbish dump on the borders of the capital.

For many, the Stung Meanchey dump near Phnom Penh was home. About 2,000 males, ladies and children would sort through the 100- acre mountain of rubbish in dreadful conditions searching for recyclables to sell.

Stung Meanchey was likewise an unsafe location. Some were squashed by dump trucks while scrambling to get a prime area when waste was released. People would fall ill through exposure to open sewage and damaging toxins.

Amongst those born in the dump were Sok Vichey, Oops Theara and Ouch Hing. “We ‘d have no food for days, we just hung around the city with plastic bags to choose up cans to offer,” Vichey, 18, says.

” It was very hot under the sun and we had no water. We didn’t go to school. We had no option.”

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Timon Seibel

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Oops Theara as a child living on the Stung Meanchey dump.

Theara’s mother had died and his dad had left. He was dealing with his auntie and her 7 children on Stung Meanchey. Vichey lived next door and had actually also lost his daddy. His mother spent her days sorting through rubbish on the dump for a couple of dollars a day.

They were not alone. In 2007 about 47%of Cambodians were residing in hardship, according to the World Bank in Cambodia, with lots of residing on less than a dollar a day.

By the time Theara, Hing and Vichey had reached their teenagers, their staying relative could no longer provide for them and they were placed in the care of regional NGO Moms Versus Poverty.

It existed they met Swiss-German social employee Timon Seibel.

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Timon Seibel

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Oops Hing, Theara’s more youthful sibling, as a boy on the dump.

The young boys’ childhood on the dump had actually left them angry, and not able to control that anger. “Especially Theara,” Timon says. “He has this mindset of the strongest wins and everything he has or can get he needs to eliminate for it.

” He might never actually accept his fate of not having moms and dads. When he’s manic, he’s extremely active and pleased but then he falls into a big depression. In between he utilized to have these truly, truly strong attacks of fury. He would beat other kids and threaten them.”

Theara visited a therapist who recommended attempting to discover his dad. He eventually found him and discovered he was a rich designer who had never informed his household about Theara. His father began giving him cash, however then decided he wished to sever contact once again.

Timon tried whatever to reduce the kids’ anger – football, art classes – however absolutely nothing worked. Running out of concepts, Timon, a fan of metal music, took them to see Cambodian hardcore leaders Sliten6ix perform at a bar in Phnom Penh.

Lastly, something clicked.

” I simply stood in front of the stage and was like what […] is this music?” Vichey says. “I didn’t comprehend what they were singing. The drums and guitars, I actually didn’t comprehend.

” However after the show we got interested in this sort of music, it was rather simple to play so we started jamming.”

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Florian Gleich

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Oops Hing, Oops Theara, Sok Vichey and Sochetra Pic (left to right).

Timon introduced them to the likes of Slipknot and Rage Versus The Machine and the kids immediately related to the aggressive nature of the music – a far cry from the emotional love tunes loved by lots of Cambodians.

” I like metal more due to the fact that we can shriek out our anger and we can play whatever we desire,” Vichey says. “We go to the music space, just switch on the amp and launch our anger inside. It’s been a truly hard life in the past.”

It was then that the boys chose to begin a band – Doch Chkae.

Indicating “like a pet dog”, the band wanted a name that represented how society made them feel as trash pickers residing in abject hardship. This encounters in their lyrics, shrieked in their native Khmer.


Nobody has a life like me,

Every day I live like a pet dog,

We search for our food, walking the streets,

I pick up the waste wherever I discover it,

If I didn’t do that, I would not even have this life,

I do that because I don’t have parents


Doch Chkae started playing programs around Phnom Penh in 2015 and launched songs including Kham Knea Doch Chkae (Bite Each Other Like Pets) on Yab Moung Records, Cambodia’s only heavy rock record label.

Nina Ruhl, who resided in Phnom Penh but has actually given that returned to her native Germany, ended up being a fan of the band after seeing them play live.

” You can see the crowd they resemble: ‘Oh they are cute’ and then they start playing and instantly the energy changes in the space and individuals will jump and head bang and see them from a whole various perspective,” she states.

” I never ever liked metal music before but when I see the people I go nuts.”

Doch Chkae started making small waves on the world’s metal scene and in 2018 were welcomed to play Wacken Outdoors in Germany, one of the greatest metal festivals on earth. But their visa was denied after German authorities deeming the band a flight danger. “In typical language? They were too bad,” Timon says.

Numerous from the metal community raged about the decision and more than 10,000 signed an online petition calling for authorities to reconsider. The band was ultimately given a visa and in August, played a victorious show at Wacken before a crowd of thousands.

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Dominik Probst

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Doch Chkae played a triumphant program at Wacken Open Air in August.

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Dominik Probst

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Doch Chkae with their mentor, Timon, far left, at the festival.

” I was so thrilled,” lead singer Theara, now 20, states. “We played 8 songs, ended up and they were shouting: ‘One more song.’ They looked really happy, they desired us to keep going.

” I ‘d never seen anything like that before. There were so lots of individuals.”

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Dominik Probst

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The band gave a Q&A at Wacken Outdoors.

Regardless of playing to a crowd size practically unusual for Cambodian bands outside the nation, the media there continue to show little interest in Doch Chkae.

” No one pertained to interview us, it was silence,” Theara says. “They don’t like that music, there’s lots of screaming and it’s fast. They do not comprehend it.”

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Timon Seibel

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The band play a program in their old area.

There are plans for a brand-new workshop led by the band, which will introduce heavy music to other young Cambodians having a hard time in poverty. The band hope music will influence others, like it provided for them.

The Stung Meanchey dump was closed a decade ago although numerous still live and work there. Hardship has dropped considerably in Cambodia in current years, although lots of continue to be left amidst the nation’s rapid financial development.

Regardless of their success in Germany, the band members are still living a hand-to-mouth existence, doing odd tasks and selling merchandise online when not rehearsing or playing live.

Doch Chkae are recording a brand-new EP and hope to embark on a trip of Europe after its release. Although they feel ignored by many in their homeland, metal music – and the interest of the metal-heads of Europe – has provided them hope for the future.

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Angie Ronson

Angie Ronson is Editor-in-Chief at THRS. She covers the transformative impact of new technology on all sectors.