Truth be told, there are not many things I miss about England (N.B., friends and family in the U.K., I'm talking about things here, not people). I miss honey-coloured real ale that comes from a wooden cask and is served in a pint-glass (my mouth is watering even as I write these words. A cold can of Cambodian beer is good but...). I miss a rigidly-enforced and observed system of road traffic regulations (basic stuff like... red means stop, green means go, one side of the road is for travelling this way, the other side of the road is for travelling the opposite way). I also miss the annual Proms classical music festival held at the Royal Albert Hall in London. During the Proms, some of the best musicians in the world come to the U.K. to take part in a long series of concerts. The festival is subsidised to ensure that everyone has access to these concerts at a very small cost. This results in packed houses, fantastic atmospheres and queues stretching around the block.
I particularly remember one Proms concert a few years ago when I had queued for hours with my companion to get tickets to a piano recital. Queuing for the Proms is a tradition in itself and no hardship unless the British summer weather is inclement (which it usually is). On this day I remember the weather was warm and fine and the people in the queue were being politely social towards each other or finding other ways to while away the time. I listened on my smartphone to the pieces by Bartók and Janáček that we were going to hear at the concert. I also found that a few glasses of sparkling wine made the long wait much more bearable. A long time later, inside the packed Royal Albert Hall, the atmosphere was electric as the crowd waited for the pianist to begin. One could literally 'hear a pin drop' in there. As the maestro struck up the first few chords of the piece, he paused and looked quizically around the room. The rest of the hall followed his gaze. Where was that music coming from? Someone was playing the same piece as the pianist had begun to play, through some kind of portable device. How bizarre and how rude! It is interesting how loud a smartphone can be in a concert hall. I withered and died on the spot as people standing next to me moved away to open up a space-of-shame. Thousands of pairs of eyes delivered dirty looks as I fumbled through my pockets to find my phone. The moral of the story: please ensure all mobile phones are switched off during the performance.
Anton Isselhardt has been organising the annual International Music Festival Phnom Penh for the past eleven years. The classical music festival is sponsored by several organisations and provides the chance to hear outstanding Cambodian musicians and international guest performers at a low cost. The program runs from today until Monday the 17th November. It comprises of five events and takes place at Intercontinental Phnom Penh, Meta House and St. Josephs Chapel. A great chance to hear some high-calibre classical performances in Phnom Penh. The theme of this year's festival is 'European and Asian Mythology in Music'. For more information on the concert program and ticketing, visit the festival website.
The Cambodian music scene is looking good this weekend with a few more special gigs taking place and, even, talk of something called 'high season'. Cambojam and the X-Rays comprise a double-header at X-Bar in Siem Reap on Friday night. Cambojam are a motley crew of international musicians based in the land of Angkor, collectively blessed with the ability to turn any gig into a full-on party (see above video). The long and eclectic list of instruments on stage includes trombone, melodica and various percussion as well as all the standard rock'n'roll tools.
Down on the coast, Otres Market will mark the beginning of their 2014/15 season with a re-opening party featuring seven or more live music acts. I don't recognise most of the names on the list but I do expect a great party. Otres Market (near 'Otres 2' beach in Sihaoukville) is a unique place in Cambodia, staging a kind of mini-music festival each Saturday during the winter and spring months. As well as a live music stage and a bar, the lakeside site comprises of many weird-and-wonderful market stalls selling all kinds of wares from Cambodia and beyond (hand-crafted jewellery and textiles, barbecue chicken... home-made absinthe!?). Also look out for some great concerts coming up at the Otres Market site ('The Barn') on Wednesdays in December. From the back pages of Leng Pleng, find out what happened when Jack Diamond visited Otres with The Cambodian Space Project earlier this year.
My tip for those in Phnom Penh this weekend? Go check out Kheltica at La Crêperie on Saturday night. The large ensemble of musicians always put on a fun show and should get extra points for playing authentic Breton Celtic music in an authentically-styled Breton Crêperie. I believe they are calling it Brittany Night.
Kheltica – pic: www.kenedgar.com
Wherever you end up over the next few days, enjoy yourself and... see you around the traps!