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The Leng Pleng Gig Guide comes out on a Thursday or Friday of every week

Weekly Wrap - Commencing Thursday 19th February 2015

Oscar – pic: Jim Heston
As many Leng Pleng readers will already be aware, Oscar Rock Cafe (to use but one of the venue's several different monikers) has recently changed ownership and ceased to be a live music venue. Best wishes and best of luck to Oscar, one of the true characters of the Phnom Penh music scene, as he continues to operate (and perform music at) the original Oscar Bar on Street 104. It would be tempting to point to the closure of his Street 51 venue, and the recent winding-up of The Groove and Memphis Pub, and jump to an easy conclusion: the appetite for live music in Phnom Penh is declining. Yet, on the other side of the Tonle Sap, a brand new music venue has opened it's doors. The venue is called Sunset Boulevard and forms part of the newly-developed strip of buildings leading to the huge Sokha Hotel complex at the end of the peninsular. Early investigations would suggest that there is not currently a huge amount of live music happening on the 'other' riverside, with activity focussed almost exclusively on affordable seafood barbecues but... watch this space (as always).

Didier Wampas
Away from the capital, the Cambodian music scene continues to grow. There are several new venues including Lightbox and KAMA in Kampot and Seb Adnot's Le Pain de Jade in Kep. The latter venue is the location for this year's Kep Music Market festival and will feature six bands playing over three consecutive nights. Kheltica and Manu Pezard Quartet open proceedings on Thursday and Papa Dub will support visiting trio The Love Below on Friday. As their OutKast-inspired name suggests, the Saigon-based group purvey a sexy blend of live r'n'b, hip-hop and funk. All three members of the band contribute vocals and special guest soloists are involved whenever possible. The Music Market concludes on Saturday night with headlining act Didier Wampas. The politically-minded French punk is a strong showman who is never short on high-energy and high-volume performances. Wampas is suitably supported by his Sihanoukville-based compatriot Bob Passion. Check out the video below for a preview of the acts appearing at Kep Music Market.

The Love Below will return to Phnom Penh for a jazz-inspired set at Doors on Saturday night, before concluding their Cambodian tour at Cabaret on Tuesday. Didier Wampas and Bob Passion will also be playing gigs at Bhor Garage in Sihanoukville on Friday and Madison Corner in Battambang on Tuesday. Kheltica also play Bodhi Villa in Kampot on Friday.

The music scene in Phnom Penh continues to produce some very pleasant surprises. Bring Your Skillz is a weekly open-mic night held at Slur Bar. The tone of the night has changed ever since gypsy-jazz enthusiast Aymen Ghali took the reigns as host. If somebody would have told me that I could go and see a free-form, genre-bending concoction of live jazz, reggae and Khmer-rock on a quiet night in Phnom Penh with some of the best musicians in the city queuing up to join in, then I would probably not have believed them. However, this great jam session has definitely taken off over the last few weeks. The open-mic proceedings reached an awesome high-point last Monday night when a number of professional musicians from Australia sat in to perform pitch-perfect Paul Simon covers. It was quite something to hear a full band (complete with three-piece horn section) give a storming rendition of 'You Can Call Me Al' – even though they had never played together before. You can hear Aymen Ghali and visiting (Canada-based) accordion maestro Ian Griffiths perform a stirring blend of gypsy-jazz, Eastern-European waltzes and Spanish folk tunes each Friday at Stockholm restaurant.
There is some serendipity in the scheduling of three great gigs in Phnom Penh on this Friday. If you are well-organised enough (unlike myself who is usually way-too-easily distracted by alcohol-fuelled conversations at the bar and/or offers of fried food) then you will be able to easily catch all three. Following the early show by Ghali and Griffiths at Stockholm, Cambodian 'Golden Era' songstress Miss Sarawan plays a gig with her band at Sharky Bar. Later, the KlapYaHandz collective takes over Slur Bar for a night of alternative Khmer music. Check out the KlapYaHandz Youtube channel for loads of great videos, including AGO's version of 'Sday Snea Aphorp' (originally sung by Sinn Sisamouth):

Whatever you're up to over the next few days, stay safe out there and... see you around the traps!


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