The November 3 event seems to be behind us now, and with a bit of shuffling Phnom Penh appears to be back to the next new normal. Some venues have cleared their calendar, some have shifted down to acoustic events, some have returned to the weekly mix, and some continue as usual.
Tonight at Lantern Rooftop Bar, it’s a tango night with live music from Los Primos and tango dancers galore, Gary is at Little Susie, The Sundance Kings are back at Sundance Inn and Saloon, and The Extraordinary Chambers blast it out late at Oscar’s on the Corner.
Friday as ever offers a range of choice, from a piano and vocal recital with Gabi and Ai at Meta House, to Whiskey Got Groove at Alchemy, Khmer Magic Music Bus at Bouchon, and Antonio Trio at Sharky. Farm to Table return to the Friday night acoustic parade with a Phnom Penh showcase featuring Lewis McTie and Kirsty & Dave, while Ieva & Robin are at Oscar’s on the Corner, with K’n’E to follow. Ace Zapa is at Little Susie, and around the corner Good Times X is holding a night of music and art that will include live music by electronic duo LXR Project, while Green Pepper host Jazz and the City volume 21: jazz fusion.
On Saturday evening there’s more classical music, Soft Music for Hard Times, featuring a cello and bassoon duo – see our weekly feature below – while Botanico offers Marianna & Joe. DNA is at Cloud, Amore Trio at Sharky, and TheBlueSouls return to Oscar’s on the Corner, with K’n’E to follow.
Bob Passion is on the road this weekend in Kampot, playing back to back gigs at Banyan Tree (Friday) and Samurai Saloon (Saturday) with backing band Sok Sabai.
Reaching into next week, Leng Pleng recommends Scott Bywater at Little Susie followed by Cambodia Country Band at Oscar’s on the Corner on Monday, and Blues Routes at Bouchon on Wednesday.
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The Phnom Penh Weekly Feature
Phnom Penh can be a tough town for a classically trained musician; gigs are few and far between. On Saturday Michele Bowen (bassoon) and Clara Shandler (cello) will be offering a duo performance at Green Pepper. Leng Pleng travelled to the wilds of Tuol Tom Pong to chat with Michele and Clara ahead of their somewhat unique concert.
“It is going to be very lovely sweet-sounding music, with our rather unique instrumentation,” says Clara. “Bassoon and cello is not a normal duo, because you usually have one high and one low, and this is two lows – it’s like two tenors. “There’s none of the shrill high frilly notes,” adds Michele, “It’s really earthy. But it’s really great date night music, romantic, beautiful. Easy on the digestion.”
Passing Chords: a few things you might not know about…
Ieva Zdram. After many years of performance and touring in Lithuania, including with an eight-voice girl group and a reggae band, Ieva made her Phnom Penh debut with a couple of gigs at the now long closed Tusk Bar a few years ago. After a long break she has returned to stages in a duo with Robin Narciso – they played LF Social Club earlier this month, and will be at Oscar’s on the Corner on Friday night.
A pet musical hate:
Dido. The colour of her voice is not pleasant to my ears.
A private musical indulgence:
U2. I remember when I was learning English as a second language in school, in the textbook there was a dialogue about going to a U2 concert. I was listening to them in university much more, and discovered their early music, they were doing different songs in the past. Also pop bands like Sugababes, very nice vocals.
The year you first came to Cambodia:
The beginning of November 2015, almost exactly five years ago. I came on an internship with a real estate company for six months, then extended for another six months, then for another year, and five years later I’m still here. I find the lifestyle here really fun and interesting.
An early music memory:
My father worked in computers, so we were one of the first households in the neighbourhood to have a computer at home. The playlist on the computer only had Johann Christian Bach, Debussy and Chopin, and so I was listening to that for hours when I was seven or eight years old. I think it really trained my ear, I got used to giving more attention to nuances of melody and harmony.
The last thing you had to eat:
Fried chicken from Orussey Market. I like street food, I mix it up with western food.
What you do on a night off:
I like to drive my motorcycle around Phnom Penh, listening to some good tunes. After five years living here I still discover new places to explore. In Lithuania I used to walk with earphones; with the lack of sidewalks I now do the same thing but with a motorbike.
A country you want to visit:
I would like to re-visit the USA, and go to every state. It’s probably influenced by the movies that I’ve seen; I want to do a roadtrip, to see it all with my eyes, all the views and the environments. Also Iceland, it’s very different, very interesting. A lot of very good music comes from Iceland.
A book or movie you keep going back to:
Life is Beautiful, the Roberto Benigni film. I’ve seen it about 15 times, I still find the plot very involving. The beginning and the ending is very positive, and it’s a good philosophy, how even in the darkest moments you should try to see the sunshine.
What languages can you speak?
Lithuanian, English, Russian. I’m learning basic French and Khmer.
Your primary instrument, and when you started playing it:
Singing. When I was 13 years old I joined singing activities at school. Also ukulele I started in Cambodia and really enjoyed. Now I’m starting basics on piano.
Something people might be surprised to know about you:
I have a little habit to pray every night before sleeping; even though I don’t believe in God anymore it’s become such a ceremony for me. For more than 20 years – now it’s just words but it somehow calms me down.
You have a time machine and a magic ticket to one gig or festival in the past. What do you choose?
The minimalist composer Michael Nyman was going to have a solo piano concert in Lithuania in 2012 and for some reason I missed it. I think to be there would be a very, very powerful experience.
A question from last week’s participant, Vanntin Hoeurn: what’s your opinion of pastis for breakfast?
Even if it’s not for breakfast I find it weird that people drink pastis. I once experienced a shot of it, although you’re supposed to sip it, and I wouldn’t like to repeat that. People who have pastis for breakfast must be very strong, all respect.
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Leng Pleng also recommends the Facebook page Phnom Penh Open Mic as a resource for finding fellow players.
Steve Porte Photo of the Week
Exit: Vanntin Hoeurn. Safe travels, brother. Blood Bricks’ final show, Oscar’s on the Corner, 14 November 2020.
Let us know about any musical activities we haven’t captured: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay safe out there, and see you around the traps.