Greetings Leng-Pleng-ers, this week expat singer-songwriter and poet Scott Bywater gives us the run down on all the latest musical happenings, enjoy!
One of the delights of Phnom Penh music scene has been the wide variety of acts, the musical melting pot that sees collaborations rise out of the miscegenation of musicians thrown together in what in other circumstances would be unlikely combinations. It might be a blues band, but it’s made up of Japanese, English and Swedish members; it might be country, but it’s two Canadians, two Khmer, a Brit and a Yank. Preparations for the high season are afoot with a surge in entertainment options for the discerning crowd, in venues large and small, indoor and outdoor.
Bona’s Pub has thrown its hat well and truly into the live music scene recently, putting together a list that this week includes everything from (tonight) the noise/punk/grunge of UNAU (Japan/Cambodia/France) – the new project for scene veteran Gildas Maronneaud – via Khmer favourites, classic rock and acoustic singer-songwriters… to Latin (with dancers) and the inevitable blues jams.
Performances are both inside and on their new outdoor stage, on an ideal people-watching corner. “We are responding to our customers who are asking for a range of different artists on different nights,” said Bonthoeurn Thiem, brother of Bona, who is managing the bar. Similarly Good Times Bar, now under new management, remodelled and reimagined, is rekindling the live music side of their business. Their schedule offers a selection of Cuban rapping, reggae, acoustics and an open mic. New owner David Stegnitz says “It’s about creating a hangout place. We are keen to hear from new performers who are looking for a stage. Or they are welcome just to jam.”
For sampling the variety of music on offer this weekend, there is a choice of jazz on Fridays, with Metta Legita and Sebastian Adnot grooving among the trees at Botanico, or Mary and Takeshi swinging at Farm to Table. If you’re more into blues there’s the Blues Routes trio at Meta House and 4 On The Floor featuring Kenny and Larry at Oscar’s on the Corner, then the Fender Benders at Sharky Bar on Saturday. Or soul – dance until your feet hurt tomorrow night with the new and sensational South East Asia Soul Revue at Duplex.
Alternatively, Friday sees FCC Rooftop offer up the wicked harmonies of The Wicked Harmonies, Bassac Lane hosts an acoustic quartet version of Anglo-Irish lads Complicated Business for the first time, and on Saturday Alchemy celebrates their second anniversary with 90s antics of The 99 Boyz.
Perhaps the highlight of the week though is the second instalment of the Original Sessions, a series of unplugged and acoustic concerts designed to promote the performers of Cambodia in intimate, personal settings. This month emerging Cambodian singer-songwriter Vartey Ganiva presents the more acoustic side of her repertoire at the cutting-edge arts and technology hub Factory. Here she is rocking out at the Diamond Moon Festival last November – expect a quieter performance on Sunday afternoon!
September is a month where many freshly arrived expats are taking their first tentative steps out into the nightlife of Phnom Penh, wondering where to go and what to do. Those with an interest in music performance could do worse than check out the ebb and flow of the open mic scene – a great chance to meet like-minded people, jam and get into the flow. Despite the recent disappearance of a couple of these gatherings, new open mic opportunities keep popping up frequently – and there is still one on almost every night of the week (sometime two). They vary in size, structure, equipment and instrumentation, and usually reflect the personality of the bar, the patrons and the host, so if you’ve seen one you certainly haven’t seen them all. This page, Phnom Penh Open Mic tries to keep its finger on the pulse. And here’s a further tip: if you meet someone new to town, tell them about Leng Pleng so they don’t miss a thing.
Come Monday and Tuesday, Oscar’s on the Corner are offering up a double header – two nights of the C&W honky tonk heroes Cambodia Country Band. These guys are not just for the country folk – it’s a ripping six-piece combo, one of the tightest bands in town, who recently celebrated their first anniversary. It’s late, but they’re great. Ride on, lads.
Whatever you’re up to over the next few days, stay safe out there and… see you around the traps!
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