With May and June just around the corner, a lot of expat musicians are booking plane tickets to return home. I can see the attraction of spending a summer in the moderate and accommodating climate of northern Europe ...but surely I would miss the fantastic Cambodian music scene - even though the weather may be somewhat oppressively hot and sticky. Hardcore guys like Television Ted and myself will stick it out and keep reporting to you from our headquarters here in the back streets of Phnom Penh. The trouble is, we are now entering the period of the year known as 'band break-up season'. A few of your favourite acts might begin to disappear from the weekly gig guide as various musicians start eyeing their Cambodian visa expiry date and concomitantly searching the internet for flight deals. We already lost great funk band Marsyas when ace guitarist Greg Marino returned to Canada. I also heard that French-Congolese, smooth and sultry songstress MWAUKA may soon be leaving for Europe.
The Fumes are playing their last few gigs before lead singer and guitarist Karin Schelzig moves to The Philippines. The finale will take place at Equinox on the 30th May but before then the band will bid farewell to Slur Bar this Friday and Sharky Bar on Saturday night. Indie Explosion is a three-band bill at Sharky's - featuring support from fellow indies Dregs and Adobo Conspiracy.
The Fumes told Leng Pleng 'We're extra psyched because Gem (lead guitar) is back from an extended hiatus and is ready to rock out. Expect a set list that spans 5 decades... but as fun as the weekend promises to be, it will also be bitter-sweet because we're rapidly approaching the end of an era... Karin (lead vocals, guitar) is leaving Cambodia in a couple of weeks, after 5 years fronting the Fumes.'
Fortunately there are still some great musicians getting their passports stamped at Cambodian immigration. Guitarist Aymen Ghali has been active in Phnom Penh recently, having crossed the border from Thailand carrying just a rucksack and a very unusual 'Manouche' acoustic guitar. This Thursday evening the Tunisian-American player jams with ska-jazz fusion ensemble Jahzad at Cabaret Restaurant. Note that this is an earlier show, starting at 7.30pm. Aymen will also be joining 1950's throwbacks Joe Wrigley & The Jumping Jacks on their 'Missing Passport' Tour of Cambodia and Vietnam. The Jacks visit Slur Bar on Thursday, The Bodhi Villa in Kampot on Friday before returning to Oscar 51 in Phnom Penh on Saturday.
While musicians of various nations come and go, a small group of hardcore Cambodian metal bands continue to make strong and uncompromising music in Phnom Penh. On Saturday night at Slur Bar, Yab Moung Records present Sliten6ix and No Forever. The live performances of these artists are always loud, exciting and bursting with energy. Sliten6ix recently released an EP entitled 'Nevermore', which is available at bandcamp. As the band themselves will tell you - 'SLITEN6IX formed in June 2011 and are the first Cambodian Hardcore band and the first group of dudes to have recorded and released hardcore music in Cambodia! The boys have a DIY attitude and don't talk shit.'
A lot of Cambodian bands will be making the journey to California in August for the Cambodian Music Festival. This is when fifteen artists will take the stage at The Ford Theatre in Hollywood. Last weekend, during a late-night jam session at Memphis Pub in Phnom Penh, Jack bumped into one of the stars of the show - Khmer-American singer-songwriter Laura Mam. Laura was very excited about the festival which will be a relatively high-profile celebration of Cambodian music. It will take place on the 3rd August. Check out Laura's video below entitled Soben Sneh. You can hear more Laura Mam tracks on her soundcloud page.
Until next time, stay safe out there and... see you around the traps!