Thursday, April 15, 2010

Free dengue for all

Everyone enjoys a freebie music concert and the news that the hip band of the moment, Dengue Fever will be performing an open-air gig on Thursday 13 May will come as music to the ears of many. The band will be in Asia as part of a world tour and the US Embassy in Phnom Penh have booked their services to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cambodia. The gig will take place in front of Wat Botum. The band will be in town for a few days and are scheduled to perform another gig, for the benefit of Cambodian Living Arts on 11 May, whilst a screening of the film about the band, Sleepwalking Through The Mekong, will be shown at the new Meta House on the 10th. Dengue Fever, with lead vocals from Cambodian-born Chhom Nimol, will bring their own brand of 60s and 70s psychedelic Khmer pop-rock back home, having previously played in Phnom Penh in 2005. The band originate from Los Angeles and have become a major tour de force on the American music scene, releasing three critically-acclaimed albums to-date. Visit the band at MySpace.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Life's a doddle

On the cards for tonight is a quiet night in with a good book, actually I have a pile of good books that I still haven't read, quite a number of which have been sent to me by publishers requesting a review of their latest publication, so I'd better get my finger out. That also includes the Dengue Fever DVD Sleepwalking Through the Mekong, which I've watched a couple of times now and still haven't penned a review - although everyone and their dog seems to have already reviewed it. So I have a list of tasks already lined up for tonight. Tomorrow it's work and football in that order. Phnom Penh Crown take on Spark FC and bottom club Phuchung Neak face the Defense Ministry at Olympic Stadium from 2pm onwards. My weekly diet of football is adequately feeding my football fever at the moment although we are coming up to the mid-season break and and I'm not sure I'll be able to cope with the withdrawal symptoms. I won't be able to make the games on Sunday as I have an early start, 6.30am to be precise, to get to Kien Svay for the day-long engagement party for my friend Sokheng. And then on Monday night it's the 1st showing in Cambodia of a film that I can't tell you its name - as we're keeping it under wraps until the 7pm start at Meta House gets underway. Somewhere in between I've got to fit in eating and sleeping and the other daily routines of life though having a cleaner like Chrep, who comes round three mornings every week to do my washing, ironing and cleaning, does make my domestic life a doddle. Before I forget, an update on my medical condition - so far so good, pills and cream working well, my skin is looking healthy again and we seem to be on the right track. But I'm not counting my blessings just yet.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Time for change

In case you didn't know, I'm a guy, a fella, a bloke. However, in my own small way I'm a great believer in women's rights and especially in Cambodia, where generally speaking, women get a bum wrap. It's a male-dominated society even though women seem to do all the hard work. Okay I'm generalizing but you get the picture. Women are the backbone of Cambodia, much the same as elsewhere around the globe of course, but in Cambodia they do all the graft but get little or no reward. In February a group called World Pulse came for a tour over here and have just published their April eMagazine with Cambodia as their main focus for the month. Read it here. World Pulse give women around the world a platform to network and a voice. They are a community of strong women determined to make a positive change, and that includes in Cambodia. And they have my support, for what it's worth.

Another coalition that is looking to make a difference are the acclaimed rock band Dengue Fever - who must have the best PR office of any band I know as they are never out of the press - and the NGO Wildlife Alliance, who are teaming up to preserve Cambodia's unique natural heritage. Whilst Dengue Fever have almost single-handedly resuscitated interest in the 60s and 70s style psychedelic pop, Wildlife Alliance are doing their bit to preserve threatened animals and forests in Asia. The partnership kicks off tonight when a booth by the NGO will be set up at the band's gig in Falls Church. Future co-operation will include benefit concerts, charity remixes, online commercials, and cross marketing on social networking sites and websites. A blatant marketing ploy by both parties - who said that?

Finally, whilst I'm online and still moaning about and their failure to sort out the uploading photos problem... today is the 34th anniversary of the surrender of Phnom Penh to Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge forces, who promptly turned the capital into a virtual ghost-city by sending the inhabitants into the countryside. A terrible chapter in Cambodia's history. On a more upbeat note, over the last three days, during Khmer New Year, the city once again fell silent when approximately 70% of the population returned to their loved ones in the provinces and the streets around my home were virtually empty, save for the odd scavenging dog and myself, looking for somewhere or something to eat. It made a pleasant change from the usual frenetic, madcap streets that I see around me every other day of the year.

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Rock and roll update

It was fortunate timing that I caught up with film director John Pirozzi last night at Meta House and briefly chatted to him about his forthcoming film, Don't Think I've Forgotten. He's in Cambodia right now to finish shooting for the film, he's got the necessary financial backing to complete the project and will return to the States soon to edit and complete post-production. With a fair wind, he hopes to get the film out by May or at the latest June. Don't Think I've Forgotten is the story of Cambodian rock and roll of the '60s and '70s that captured the hearts of this nation but came to an abrupt end when the Khmer Rouge took over and killed the majority of its stars. Pirozzi's film will celebrate Cambodia's own musical heyday, which has once again risen in popularity, particularly with the emergence of the band Dengue Fever, who Pirozzi himself has helped to promote with his film, Sleepwalking Through The Mekong.
It will be a full-length feature (90 mins) and he is really keen to get it shown over here in Cambodia as early as possible. It just so happens that he's a Cambodia nut, like a lot of us, and tries to spend a couple of months here each year. I asked him to spill the beans about the film knowing full well that he wouldn't, but at least he threw me a few scraps of information such as the film will include a few recreated scenes, as well as interviews with survivors and their relatives. In researching a subject like music in most countries it would be straightforward in picking through the archives, talking to old stars, finding rare recordings and so on. However, in Cambodia, there's none of that. Effectively, all the film footage was destroyed, all the stars that shone so brightly like Ros Sereysothea and Sin Sisamouth were singled out and killed. So its been a tough job and that's why its taken a while to complete the project, together with the usual problems that independent filmmakers have with funding issues along the way. However, Dengue Fever's success across the globe has given new impetus to the music and a real buzz of nostalgia for the unique melodies and hypnotic rhythms of Cambodia's rock and roll generation which will soon be on the silver screen for all of us to enjoy. Link: Film website.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009


My night in the forest of Koh Ker, warmed by the log fire
Apologies for the lack of posts, but I've had a hectic schedule these last few days. Following my quad-bike adventure, it was off into the forest surrounding the temples at Koh Ker, a couple of hours north of Siem Reap, to experience for myself, the safari tents that Hanuman provide for their guests who wish to enjoy a unique adventure at the remote temple sites around Cambodia. And I would say this of course, but really, they are damn good. Then it was back on the bus to Phnom Penh and straight off to see the documentary Sleepwalking Through The Mekong at Meta House last night. The film's director John Pirozzi was present to introduce his film, shot when the band Dengue Fever came to Cambodia a couple of years ago to bring their own brand of 60s and 70s psychedelic Khmer pop-rock back home. Fronted by a Cambodian-born singer Chhom Nimol, the rest of the band originate from Los Angeles and have become a major tour de force on the American music scene, releasing three critically-acclaimed albums to-date. The film follows their fortunes as they encounter Cambodia for the first-time during a 9-day visit and from the footage we saw, they had a ball. The scene where they join the children from the Bassac slum, who are part of the Cambodian Living Arts program, was just classic soppy entertainment. And the accompanying musical soundtrack was bread and butter to my two Khmer friends that joined me at the screening. Nice film, great band. Tonight, at the French Cultural Centre, I've been invited to a preview screening of Anne Bass' Dancing Across Borders documentary with cocktails beforehand. Should I wear a suit? Have I got a suit? No is the answer, so I'll go smart casual.
Film director John Pirozzi introduces his documentary on the band Dengue Fever
Chhom Nimol, the Cambodian-born lead singer with Dengue Fever
Chhom Nimol and the band are introduced to the Cambodian public on the CTN tv channel
Kong Nai was one of the masters that the band performed with during their visit to Cambodia

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Sunday, January 4, 2009


Dengue Fever - Sleepwalking Through The Mekong
As befits a new year, January is looking like it's going to be a busy month, for me personally at work as well as in my leisure time. I should be heading to Siem Reap next weekend and further afield later in the month. I've promised myself to get my arse back onto the football field. And there's a smattering of documentaries and events that I'd love to attend too. Won't be able to fit all of them in but I'll give it a good go.
More on the events. Meta House kicked it off with an exhibition by Srey Bandol last night, and tonight, there's another Meta exclusive, with acclaimed photographer Tim Page holding court on the upper floor with his photos, some chat, a documentary and more besides. It starts at 6pm and I recommend you get along. During the rest of the month, Meta House is chockablock full of goodies worth seeing. The pick of the bunch for me is on Tuesday 20th when director John Pirrozi will present his rockumentary Sleepwalking Through The Mekong as it follows Los Angeles band Dengue Fever on a journey to Cambodia to perform 60s and 70s Cambodian rock n' roll in the country where it was created and very nearly destroyed. The homecoming of singer Chhom Nimol adds an extra touch to proceedings. Well worth noting your diary for this event. Also to watch out for is the excellent New Year Baby documentary from Socheata Poeuv on Sunday 11th, showing first in Khmer and then in English. An evening with Cambodian Living Arts on Friday 30th is also in my diary. As well as live music, The Flute Player telling the compelling story of Arn Chorn-Pond will be shown. Other events that will be covered during January include the Khmer Rouge legacy, UXO, garment factory workers, human rights, BBC World Trust, the environment in Cambodia and much more. It really is an action-packed month for Meta House.
One event that I'm ultra keen to attend is the talk by Bruno Bruguier on Thursday 29th at 6.30pm called The Archaeological Sites of Southern Cambodia which will be held at the cinema of the French Cultural Center on Street 218. I met Bruno a few weeks ago and his presentation will be to introduce a new book he is publishing about the ancient archaeological sites in the southern half of the country. There is a downside, the book is only in French, but the talk will also be in Khmer and English. Bruno is an enthusiast for his subject and I know his talk will be well worth attending.
Link: Sleepwalking.

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