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This Dengue Fever Is a California Band Influenced by Cambodian Rock

Also: A question about which university in the United States in the oldest. And the Kings of American literature. Transcript of radio broadcast:


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.


I’m Doug Johnson. Today we play music from Dengue Fever …

Answer a listener question about the oldest university in America …

And report on four Kings of fiction writing.


The Kings of Fiction


Stephen King is one of the most popular living writers in the world. He has written more than forty books and two hundred short stories. His books have sold hundreds of millions of copies around the world. Most of his stories are about frightening and mysterious events. Stephen King is not the only writer in his family. His wife and two sons have also published books. Barbara Klein tells us about the writers of the King family.


Stephen King and his wife, Tabitha, met in college in the state of Maine. Both were already writers. They did not have much money or much time for writing because they soon had three children. But, both worked hard to find time to write. Tabitha King helped start Stephen's career. She rescued his early version of the book “Carrie” from the waste basket where he had thrown it in a moment of hopelessness. Stephen King published “Carrie” in nineteen seventy-four. It became a best seller. The money from this book as well as his short stories meant that the Kings could spend their time writing.

Over the years Stephen King has written many famous horror stories. These include “The Shining,” “Cujo” “It” and “Misery.” All of these popular books have been made into movies. His imaginative and unforgettable stories have made him one of the most famous writers in the world.

Tabitha King has published nine books. Her latest book is called “Candles Burning.” Her friend, writer Michael McDowell, started writing the book. When he died, she was asked to complete the book.

The Kings’ son Joe publishes his books under the name "Joe Hill." This way, he established a career that was separate and independent from his father. He waited eight years to tell his book agent that his father was Stephen King. Joe’s book, “Heart-Shaped Box,” has received great critical praise.

And, Stephen and Tabitha’s son Owen King also writes books. His published short story collection is called “We’re All in This Together.”

Tabitha, Stephen and Owen King recently came to Washington, D.C., for a reading event at the PEN/Faulkner organization. The three writers gave entertaining and often funny readings of their work. They also met with local students to speak about the importance of reading and writing. Stephen King said reading is like exercise. The more you read, he said, the easier and more pleasurable it becomes.

Oldest U.S. University?


Our listener question this week comes from Ali Awod. He wants to know which university in the United States is the oldest.

That question is not as easy to answer as it sounds. There are disputes among a few schools over the claim to being the oldest. The problem? Not everyone agrees on what a university is. That being said, we are going to go with Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The school's Web site avoids the “oldest university” debate this way. It says Harvard is the “oldest institution of higher learning in the United States.”

Harvard is three hundred seventy-two years old. It opened as Harvard College in sixteen thirty-six when the American colonies were under British rule. It had nine students at the time.

Harvard was named after its first financial supporter, John Harvard. He was a Christian clergyman from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He left his library and half of everything else he owned to the school when he died in sixteen thirty-eight.

Harvard admitted only men for most of its history. It opened an allied college for women called the Harvard Annex in eighteen seventy-nine. This was later established as Radcliffe College. Women were permitted to attend Harvard classes beginning in the nineteen forties. But it was nineteen sixty-three before women were officially enrolled in Harvard University and permitted to earn Harvard degrees.

Today, Harvard has about eighteen thousand students in undergraduate and graduate programs. It is considered one of the best universities in the country, the richest, and the most difficult to gain admission. Drew Gilpin Faust is the twenty-eighth president of Harvard. She is the first female president in the university's history.

Harvard has had many famous graduates. Several American presidents are among them, including the current president, George Bush. He graduated from Harvard's business school. A current American presidential candidate is also a former Harvard student. Senator Barack Obama graduated from its law school.

Harvard has also had its share of famous drop-outs. Bill Gates began at Harvard in nineteen seventy-three and left two years later without graduating. We think he did pretty well in life, even without the Harvard degree, but the school gave him an honorary degree last year.

Dengue Fever (the Band)


Dengue Fever is a six-member rock band based in California. They are influenced by Cambodian rock music from the nineteen sixties. Two brothers, Zac and Ethan Holtzman, formed the group seven years ago. Dengue Fever’s latest album, “Venus on Earth,” has songs in English as well as in Khmer. Critics are praising this record for its inventive and energetic sound. Faith Lapidus has more.


About eleven years ago, Ethan Holtzman visited Cambodia. He discovered that he liked Cambodian popular music from the nineteen sixties. So, he brought back recordings of this music when he returned home to the United States.

Later, Ethan Holtzman and his brother decided to form a band to play their own version of Cambodian rock music. But first they had to find a singer who would be true to the Cambodian music tradition. They asked the well-known Cambodian performer Chhom Nimol to join their group. She was performing in an area of Long Beach, California that has a large Cambodian population. Here is the song “Sober Driver” from Dengue Fever's album “Venus on Earth.”


Chhom Nimol comes from a family of well-known Cambodian singers. She and the American members of her band returned to Cambodia in two thousand five to perform there. Chhom Nimol has said that it was important to her to bring Cambodian rock music back to her country. Many of the stars of Cambodian popular music were killed or disappeared during the rule of the Khmer Rouge in the nineteen seventies. Dengue Fever has helped revive this tradition in an inventive way. Here is the song “Monsoon of Perfume.”


Dengue Fever will be playing their music in Europe in May and June. Crowds there might hear them sing “Tiger Phone Card.” It tells about two people in love who live far apart.



I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

It was written Dana Demange and Caty Weaver, who was also the producer.

Send your questions about American life to And please include your full name and mailing address. Or write to American Mosaic, VOA Special English, Washington, D.C., two-zero-two-three-seven, U.S.A.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.