Tonight and every night (in January) is open mic at Bona’s Pub, the new Phnom Penh music bar owned and run by Bona Thiem. The establishment is cannily situated on the corner of Streets 130 and 15 – a little musical oasis between the tuk-tuk clamour of Sisowath Quay and the brightly-coloured facades of all those disreputable establishments on Streets 130 and 136. Bona’s Pub is the kind of place you would happen upon rather than plan upon – a low key venue with a performance program relying more on improvisation and spontaneity than a planned schedule. One can never be sure which top city musicians will turn up out of the blue. The permanent fixture is Bona himself, a true modern legend of the Cambodian music scene who can play blues like Jimi Hendrix and sings with an authentic and soulful whisky-and-cigarettes growl. For many years, until its closure in 2014, Bona and Mel’s Memphis Pub was the only permanent late-night music destination worth contemplating. Hang loose enough and late enough at Bona’s Pub on any given night and you are likely to experience some fantastic music.
Bouchon enjoyed a memorable evening last night as the former Jazz Club Elite resident band Los Panas arrived to show an elegantly-dressed Phnom Penh crowd what authentic Cubano-Latino music really sounds like! While Los Panas are set to make several more Cambodian appearances before they return to Europe, Bouchon continues to ride a wave of good times and good music with two further gigs planned this week. On Friday night, the irrepressible man from France, MC 12ME, will be appearing with his vocal sparring partner Felix El Moreno. Both of these gentlemen are outstandingly positive proponents of the Phnom Penh music scene. 12ME has, in less than two years, absorbed the Cambodian language and culture to a degree which puts most of us expats to shame – recently achieving his goal of recording a complete original track sung and spoken only in Khmer. Cuban-born rapper, boxer and dancer Felix El Moreno is, for his part, something of a one-man party machine – lighting up each venue he plays with his full-on performance style.
Euan Gray has invited his longtime musical collaborator Darren Skaar to join him in the Bouchon garden this coming Wednesday night. Great trumpet players are in very short supply in Cambodia, meaning that we rarely get to experience the listening pleasure of real brass sections playing in real harmony. Australian-born Darren will be bringing his trumpet and his estimable jazz chops over from Bangkok for a short visit. The midweek smooth jazz session features Euan on tenor sax and crack band of hep cats Larry Martinez, Andrey Meshcheryakov and Toma Willen.
Jazz Club Elite will be throwing its doors open to a musical ensemble of a different kind this Saturday when it welcomes the famous Kheltica. The Tuol Kork venue has seen many fabulous jazz and Latin musicians on its stage since opening less than two months ago. The Celtic music octet (or sometimes nontet or dectet!) will be taking advantage of the voluminous environs of the new Jazz Club, along with the superb sound system installation. While it was certainly a squeeze to fit the entire Kheltica personnel on to the former Jazz Club stage, the new venue is bigger and better in every respect. If you haven’t yet made it up to Tuol Kork to check out Jazz Club Elite we would heartily recommend you doing so on Saturday.
Top Phnom Penh-based jazz and classical pianist Metta Legita will be reprising her jazz trio later this month at Jazz Club Elite. Metta has an excellent YouTube channel filled with her jazz material, live videos and several original ambient/relaxation works. Perfect for all those sober and quiet New Year’s evenings indoors (perhaps a rare thing for readers of Leng Pleng!)
Whatever you’re up to over the next few days, stay safe out there and… see you around the traps!