Weekly Wrap - Commencing Thursday the 8th March 2018

Nothing on the Cambodian music scene stays the same for very long. Whether we are talking about high-art happenings or curious dance crazes… there is always something going on.

As mentioned by Leng Pleng back in January, a hugely important cultural milestone will be reached in Cambodia next year – when a new production of Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’ will be staged at an Angkorian temple. Following January’s early preview recital at FCC – The Mansion, a ‘semi-staged’ production of A Cambodian Magic Flute will be performed this Saturday at the Chaktomuk Theatre in Phnom Penh. The concert represents nothing less than the opportunity to experience cultural history in the making, as the Amrita Performing Arts dance troupe and several Cambodian traditional instrumentalists join with top opera singers from China, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam, with a score performed by the Saigon Philharmonic Orchestra. In the years to come it is hoped that this large scale and ambitious project will be looked back upon as a landmark event in the re-awakening of Cambodia’s arts, music and cultural life.

Bassac Lane will be getting themed up this Saturday night with some palm frond/grass skirt regalia and suitably Island-themed live music from Mirasol Aguila, Richard Pearl and The Jumping Jacks. Take it from me, foreigner musicians in Phnom Penh are acutely aware that we are living in a ‘small town’ in terms of numbers of gigging professionals and that audiences can tire of seeing the same faces playing the same tunes week after week. Theme nights like Saturday’s ‘Ola Aloha’ on Bassac, and events such as Scott Bywater’s themed Monday-night open mics at Good Times Bar are a welcome chance for performers to ‘switch it up’ and break out of their ‘comfort zone’ with some new repertoire.

You may already know Mr Richard ‘New York City’ Pearl as the irrepressible Banjoman – liable to leap into a Phnom Penh audience at any given moment with a lightning fast solo and a wide grin. What you may not know is that Pearl’s first instrument was the humble ukulele and his teacher was none other than Roy ‘Wizard of The Strings’ Smeck – a genius musical innovator who, among other achievements, performed, in 1926, one of the very first instances of recorded sound and celluloid film being combined together. Smeck’s student will be breaking out the ‘Uke’ for a set of Hawaiian, Calypso, and Jazz-inspired tunes at Bassac on Saturday, followed by a set of skanking reggae sung by Mirasol, backed up by The Jumping Jacks.

It is always hard to predict what curious musical missive will next be issued by the press secretary at Space Commander Julien Poulson’s CSPHQ, but the following under-the-radar Youtube video is particularly enigmatic. The message is hard to decrypt but has something to do with a forthcoming province tour, perhaps alluding to some planned Khmer New Year mayhem. In any case, the track is a banging Professor Kinski remix of ‘5 Lady Cows’ by The Cambodian Space Project… enjoy!

Whatever you’re up to over the next few days, stay safe out there and… see you around the traps!

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Joe Wrigley

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