Back in 2009, gigs in Phnom Penh were few and far between. Barangs played in barang places, Cambodians in Cambodian places, and rarely was there any mixing. Something changed late in that year when Ken White – founder of classifieds website BongThom.com and a damn good harmonica player – started collecting email addresses from the musicians he encountered, and established a mailing list called LengPleng (‘play music’ in Khmer) creating a way of communicating what gigs were going on, sharing advice, and generally connecting.
Around the same time, I got it into my head to stage a tribute for the 40th anniversary of the Abbey Road album by The Beatles. I figured that between myself and my friend Swedish Dan (we had a duo called D’Sco: The Geckos of Love) we could pull it off – but it would be more fun if we got more people involved. We found a few others, pushed through some rehearsals during Pchum Ben, and put on a Beatles night at The Cavern, then one of the few non-hostess bars on St 104. The project was not just a success in terms of having too many people attend – to the extent that patrons were crossing the road to get a drink because they couldn’t reach the bar – but also in re-establishing connections between musos who had lost touch.
The Magical Mystery Tourists at The Cavern, September 26, 2009
Photo: Steve Goodman
Ten years later, LengPleng is celebrating a decade of operation – under the stewardship of Ken, Joe Wrigley and now myself – it has grown from a mailing list into a relied-upon gig guide and source of news, committed to providing insight and here and there a glimpse behind the curtain of the musical community of Phnom Penh and wider Cambodia, championing creative and imaginative acts of all types, and making sure everyone is having a good time too. Leng Pleng arrived in time to capture the rise of the Cambodian Space Project, the appearance of legendary bands such as Durian, Grass Snake Union, Sangvar Day, Miss Sarawan, Vibratone and Dub Addiction, and a general flowering of the scene into the varied and ecletic offerings available today.
This weekend LengPleng presents two musical events to mark the occasion. On Saturday night, as a nod to the Abbey Road tribute of 2009, The Leng Pleng All-Stars (featuring Clay George, Marianna Hensley, Stan Pelaco, Ariane Parkes and others) will perform songs of 1969 – from the sublime to the ridiculous. On Sunday afternoon, in collaboration with Above and Beyond Events and Meta House, we launch the Original Sessions Series 2, with an intimate concert by (ahem) myself with Pavel Ramirez on guitar, Jedil Robelo on percussion, and Michelle Neukirchen on cello.
Special commemorative tee-shirts will be on sale for $25 – think of it as a contribution to help us keep the lights on at LengPleng Towers.
Thanks for your support and, as ever, see you around the traps.
p.s. we even got a message from The Cavern in Liverpool wishing us well.