Happy New Year to readers of Leng Pleng – wherever you may be during this festive season. Today we bring you a special guest wrap written by Marianna Hensley.
Once upon a not-so-very-long time ago, another new face arrived in Phnom Penh. Work brought her and held her tight in its grip—long days, long computer-filled nights. And the city rocked and rolled right along without her. For what difference does one too-busy person make to this vibrant, pulsing place?
But that is the wrong question to ask. Instead, consider what difference this vibrant, pulsing place might make to one too-busy person.
This is my story.
A year-and-a-half into my sojourn in Phnom Penh, it was music—in the form of an invitation from Joe Wrigley to an open mic—that lured me out of my work-filled life and into this wondrous city with its generous community of musicians and artists, of music and art lovers. If the very mention of “open mic” makes you cringe, know that you are not alone. Such was my reaction—until I did finally give up and go along to the (now no more) Thursday night open mic at Paddy Rice.
Life has never been quite the same since. Because through quirky and hit-or-miss open mics, choirs and ukulele (ukulele?!) circles, from unexpected invitations to sing, and the myriad and memorable characters that fill this city, music was again infused into my life. And with that infusion came a renewed desire to step toward something different and living. For what is music if not an expression of life, with all its attendant joys and pains? And Phnom Penh is as full of music as it is full of life.
So as we turn our faces toward the new calendar year, if you are one of the city’s too-busy denizens, I encourage you to pause and then to come along for what is happening all of the time in Phnom Penh—music! Jazz, rock-and-roll, soul, country, punk, Latin, ska, classical, Americana, and so much more. Whether you are interested in performing or singing along or just listening, there is something for you here.
Open mics are a good place to start exploring music in Phnom Penh. Check out Leng Pleng’s list of regular gigs for a run-down of the wide variety of open mics and jam sessions that happen at different places most every night of the week. If you just love to sing or sing-along, then consider Phnom Penh Sunday Sing. This is a community choir that meets every Sunday to sing for the fun of it, and they’re now branching out to do regular pub sings as well. If you’re music-curious, but shy to sing, consider the Phnom Penh Ukulele Circle that meets every Tuesday. Trust me, no prior experience or special musical talent is needed for this one—and you will be making music before the night is over!
If you’re more inclined to listening (or dancing), 2019 has a lot on the horizon for you. Rumor has it that an Afro-beat band is coming together. More tribute nights—think of 2018’s Amy Winehouse and John Lennon tributes—are on the way. Go-to Phnom Penh-based bands like the 99 Boyz, the Cambodia Country Band, Moi Tiet, and the Southeast Asia Soul Revue will be on stages near you soon. The Kampot Playboys are heading back to Phnom Penh in January. The Darwin-based Jigsaw Collective is coming back to town in March. And tell the little ones in your life to get ready to make merry, because in 2019 a new band is coming together that will be performing just for the kids. Stay tuned to Leng Pleng for more information about all of this and much more music to come in the new year.
Take it from someone who foolishly hid away for my first year-and-a-half here before venturing into the Phnom Penh music scene. There is magic and joy and music to be found in this place. Go out—find it!
Thanks Marianna! That wrap probably had former Phnom Penh-ers remembering their fondest Cambodian gig memories… and clicking to check the price of flights into Pochentong. Something about this place…
From Television Ted and myself and all at Leng Pleng Towers, the very best wishes for 2019. I could not sign off this week without a special shout out to photographer extraordinaire Steve Porte, without whom the weekly wrap simply would not have cut the mustard during 2018. I often think that a gig in Phnom Penh is not really a gig unless I see the espresso-loving New Yorker Porte bouncing around with camera and flash bulb in hand.
For the last time this year… please stay safe out there and… we’ll see you around the traps!