Almost 90 percent of artists were killed in Cambodia in the 1970s, when the extreme communist group Khmer Rouge was in power. Arn Chorn-Pond was a child then, and he survived in a labor camp, ironically, by playing music. "The Khmer Rouge asked, 'someone want to play music for us,' so I raise my hand, I know probably they will give me more food," he said.
He escaped, was adopted by an American pastor, and after many years in the U.S., he now lives again in Cambodia.
Chorn-Pond is one of the artists performing in New York this month and next, as part of the Season of Cambodia festival. He said he believes music and the arts could re-connect the US and Cambodia in a different way. "This would make my brother's and my sister's life mean something," he said.
He spoke to WNYC about his life story while rehearsing in a studio in Chelsea.