As Christmas break beckons for the hard-working international school teachers of Phnom Penh, the city’s nightspots are beginning to hum with frenzied live music activity – all vying for a chance to catch some of those booze tokens (U.S. dollars) before they fly away for a couple of weeks to The West.
Jazz-Fusion octet Mango Dream played a stunning gig at the French Institute last Tuesday for International Jazz Festival. The mixed French-Khmer ensemble are currently on their way to Temple-town for a follow-up gig at Khema Angkor. Mango Dream take traditional Khmer instruments and traditional Khmer song and artfully arrange them with modern jazz instrumentation, with plenty of musical room left for solos and improvisation. Each player is a master of their craft. The band have played around South-East Asia and as far afield as France, where four of the band members are based.
Any Leng Plengers journeying to Kampot this weekend are in for a treat – as Meraki will be staging their annual live music Garden Party. An eclectic mix of Kampot stalwarts and travelling musos will be on hand from 1pm on Saturday to get the river rocking – including the bizarrely brilliant Latin-influenced sounds of Robert Salgado and top Sihanoukville rockers The Wildflowers.
Back in Phnom Penh, in a break from the normal ‘let’s book everything on Friday’ mentality, a number of venues have stellar acts scheduled for this Saturday night. Hypnotic Fist Technique have never been known to let the crowd down when it comes to exciting, genre-bending and block-rocking live tunes. Check out the band’s set, fresh from an appearance on the Hard Rock stage last weekend, at fantastic Street 308 indie venue LF Social Club. If you like your live music experience to be gritty rather than shiny, and small and intimate as opposed to cavernous and corporate – LF is the place for you. Weekly live feature bands are complemented by a healthy open jam session taking place each Wednesday and solo acoustic sundowner slot gigs each Friday. Hypnotic’s Saturday gig is prefaced by a DJ set from DJ Sna and, as the venue does not normally go ‘loud and late’ due to its residential location, there will be plenty of time for hip-hop lovers to head up to Pontoon to catch an appearance by U.S. hip hop star ‘Buzzin’ Mann.
Havana Kings is the project of extraordinarily talented guitar player Aymen Ghali. Acoustic fretmaster Aymen has expanded his Latin-Gypsy trio (Metta Legita – keys, Jedil Robelo – percussion) to include bass (Andrey Meshcheryakov), congas/Latin percussion (Gunter Hofmans) and the vocal talents of Kayro. Cuban singer/dancer Kayro is a real showman, bringing to life an excellent repertoire of Latin Jazz and Salsa. Check out the Havana Kings this Saturday at Alchemy.
U.K.-based duo Geography of The Moon are back in Cambodia this week, following a winter tour of Indochina one year ago under previous band name Future Sandwich. Geography are Virginia Bones and Andrea Rubbio, playing a psychedelic brand of acoustic folk.
During a high-speed taxi ride from Kampot to Phnom Penh, singer Virginia Bones contacted Leng Pleng to let us know what brought the band back to Cambodia, what they have planned for this visit, and a special cocktail recipe they have in the bag:
“Hello! Our first trip was so good we wanted to come back. We love Cambodia. We’ve just played in Siem Reap, Otres and Kampot. We’ll be in Phnom Penh until the end of the month, then back to Otres, then VietNam, and back to Cambodia in February.
How does our studio sound translate into a live show? It’s a slightly different experience as we’re playing songs from the album rearranged slightly and we have new song with more bluesy influences, we also do a bit of spoken word sometimes.
Cambodian gig cocktail? Geography of the Moon Special: Dark rum, Cambodian whiskey, fresh banana, a touch of coconut milk, a dash of lime and a tiny sprinkle of chilli!”
Cheers Virginia, and we’ll see you and Andrea this Friday night at Bouchon and this Saturday at Bona’s Pub.
The musical singularity that is 12ME (“Dooz-mey”) has been busy producing new tracks and videos. With a workrate that would have put James Brown to shame, Dooz has already produced three studio albums during less than two years living in Phnom Penh. Check out new MV ‘Look Kru 12ME’ below for a preview of his forthcoming set of songs. This track features 12ME’s trademark multilingual rapping and a contribution by trombonist extraordinaire Alex Scarpati (of Jazz fusionists Mango Dream).
Whatever you’re up to over the next few days, stay safe out there and… see you around the traps!