Bon Om Touk is knocking on the door once again, leaving bewildered barangs slightly unsure of what to do with themselves. Is the festival happening? Won’t everywhere be closed? What should I do? Water festival is the annual three-day holiday when hundreds of thousands of Cambodians pour into the city from the provinces – the exact opposite of what happens during Khmer New Year, Pchum Ben or Chinese New Year (which isn’t even an official holiday). The focus of all of this is primarily on the boat racing competition, presided over by The King and the highest echelons of government, involving hundreds of long rowboats converging on the Tonle Sap river to battle it out, one-on-one, over three days. The fanfare and wider excitement and celebration generated by this racing boat tournament is quite something to witness. Far from making a run for it to the province, Leng Pleng recommends that you secure your valuables and dive right into the riverside crowds – or at least take in the festivities from a well-placed friend’s balcony, or a convenient bar stool, somewhere on Sisowath Quay.
Sharky Bar will be hosting some suitably Khmer pre-Water Festival music tonight (Thursday) with Aram Khmer. Srey Tout is a singer gaining rapidly in confidence and ability – with a strong repertoire of ‘Golden Era’ Khmer songs arranged for the unusual formation of acoustic guitar, congas, tro (‘khmer violin’) and roneat (‘khmer xylophone’). The refurbished Sharky Bar may be unrecognisable from the ‘All-American’, ‘spit-and-sawdust’ feel of the famous ‘Big Mike’ days – but it is still very much a live music venue worth checking out.
Latin beats always seem to fly well in the venues of Phnom Penh. The groove of well-rendered Salsa, Cumbia or Bachata music is irresistible to most ears and equally suited to wild dancefloor incursions or chilled-out dining and imbibing. Not to mention the fact that Latin rhythms such as Cha-cha-cha and Bolero are an integral part of Khmer rock’n’roll. Nevertheless, we are still a few musicians short of being able to support the kind of killer Latin bands which grace other South-East Asian destinations on a regular basis. Longtime readers of Leng Pleng will recall fondly the ‘Los Panas Fever’ which gripped Phnom Penh last winter when a stunning South-American trio took the city by storm – leaving every dancefloor behind them drenched in sweat, littered with broken glass and filled with frothing Barangs calling out for a fifth encore.
Talented Cuban performer Kayro may not yet have a full Latin band behind him but that will by no means stop him from entertaining the Bassac Lane crowd this Friday. Like so many artists hailing from Havana, Kayro is a very highly accomplished singer, dancer and musician. This Friday he will be performing with the DJ/flute/percussion duo Doble Impacto comprising Siem Reap-based Gunter Hofmans and Mikhail ‘Micha’ Rebrov. Merengue Típico, Salsa Dura and Hot Latin Jazz are all on the setlist. On nights like these… groove is King.
Jared Bibler will be expanding the Oscar’s On The Corner schedule this Saturday with an early (9pm!) solo acoustic slot before the full Oscar’s band kicks in. Jared is a singer-songwriter – recently arrived on the Phnom Penh scene – in the Americana/folk vein, with his music “reflective of his Middle American roots having grown up in small town Ohio, USA.” Check out Jared’s bandcamp page to hear his album Midwest, Anywhere. You can also catch Jared, along with acoustic sets by Clay George and The Sock Essentials, at the pre-Water Festival holiday live session at Garage Bar this Tuesday.
Euan Gray has bolstered his credentials as the ‘King of Smooth’ in Phnom Penh with this latest YouTube track: showcasing his tenor sax skills on his instrumental take of Sophia Kao’s song ‘Hell’. Euan has a superb YouTube channel with many videos documenting his forays into music of Cambodian origin.
Whatever you’re up to over the next few days, stay safe out there and… see you around the traps!
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