In the gloriously random fashion of the Phnom Penh music scene, you can wait months for one of your favourite female singers to perform a gig... then suddenly all of them play on the same weekend! Please remind me to submit a strongly-worded letter to the central planning committee – we are supposed to be in the depths of low season yet once again I have a Friday night dilemma – which gig do I attend?
Kristen Rasmussen is a classically-trained vocalist from Washington DC, USA. She studied voice for many years in Asia but later decided to step away from the classical world to focus on a very different style of music – American blues, country and soul. Mekong Messengers are something of a Phnom Penh supergroup, featuring familiar faces from zargz & the TenTipz, The Jumping Jacks and Route 66. The band try to make every show special by playing only once every few weeks. Mekong Messengers make their debut at Sharky Bar this Friday night. In singing terms, lead singer Kristen is a 'belter' – her vocal power, range and expression are quite something to behold.
|Kristen Rasmussen - pic: the artist|
“Playing at Sharky's has a special significance for me since it's where my singing journey in Cambodia began. I sang there for the first time back in 2007 with Curtis King... Although I've been singing on stage for much of my life, it was at Sharky's where I started singing the music that I was 'born to sing'. My love for blues and other American music connected me with other musicians like Jonas Hasting, the guitarist from my former band, Little Duke and the Mekong Blues Messengers.
- Kristen Rasmussen – Mekong Messengers.
|Jenna Holliday - pic : Ken Edgar|
Mekong Messengers will be joined at Sharky's by guest vocalist Jenna Holliday - making a cameo farewell appearance before she returns to the United Kingdom. Jenna is another amazing and soulful singer who does not gig too often. She has formerly sung with Phnom Penh bands Moi Diet! and Holliday in Cambodia.
Meanwhile, just the other side of Wat Phnom, the fabulous Rhiannon Johnson will be making a highly-anticipated return to Doors Phnom Penh. The line-up of her quintet has changed somewhat, with Phil Javelle joining on keys and Toma Willen taking over the drum stool. Funk-soul brothers Stephane Routtier (saxophone) and Andry Rakotoniaina (bass guitar) are returning heroes. Every musician in the band is of a very high calibre and followers of Rhiannon can expect a great show on Friday. Doors is one of the larger live music spaces in Phnom Penh and works best as a venue when it is absolutely packed. Rhiannon is one of the very few local performers to have consistently filled the venue. Her smooth-as-silk vocal style is backed up by a great stage presence.
|Rhiannon Johnson - pic: Ken Edgar|
Incredibly, the choice of wonderful female-fronted bands playing in Phnom Penh on Friday is extended even further with Adobo Conspiracy at Equinox and Sinville Roadshow at Slur Bar. Even the most organised and resolutely sober of gig-goers (such as your own Jack Diamond, Esq.) might have some difficulty in getting around all of these traps before the last encore is called. Still, it would be a shame to miss either the sassy and outrageous Funmi of Adobo or the soulful rock'n'roll power of Sinville's Tiffany X.
Maia Diokno is the lead singer of Vibratone – perhaps the grooviest band in Phnom Penh right now. The roots-reggae sextet have composed more than twenty original songs. The music is driven along nicely by the trade-off between simple, heavy dub bass lines and the inimitably flamboyant drumming of Luis 'The Crazy Brazilian' Arambarri. Like an excited child told to sit still in one place, Luis cannot help but wriggle around between different musical styles – adding lashings of Latin percussive flair to the reggae 'riddims' of the band. Maia sails over the top of the musical mix with her smooth, easy vocals.
|Vibratone - pic : the artist|
“The songs are about injustice, inequality, rights, love, obsession, Phnom Penh, learning from mistakes...what I write depends a lot on my mood, and whether the words flow... I love the music, love writing lyrics for the music, and love my new brothers from many different mothers. I'm looking forward to our next gigs...” - Maia Diokno, Vibratone (read Maia's blog post about the band here).
|The Fumes - pic: the artist|
Over at Slur Bar, Christine Kao performs her second gig as lead singer of The Fumes. The statuesque chanteuse received something of a 'baptism of fire' during a racous debut gig at Sharky Bar last week – she should now be ready for anything! Later on Saturday night, Lisa Anderson Concepcion and Sophie Rose form the female component of Creative Artist Night at Equinox. The two singers have contrasting styles – Lisa the elegant pop songstress, Sophie the striking original songwriter. They will perform individual sets along with spoken-word poet Kosal Khiev and mixed-media artist Papa Dub - a new project combining live music and video by musicien extraordinaire Seb Adnot.
Best of wishes from Leng Pleng to Seb, Professor Kinski and all the members of Dub Addiction as they embark on an international tour taking in both Thailand and La Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean. In preparation for Saturday's Creative Artist Night, have a look at the teaser video below from Papa Dub.
Talented jazz pianist Mathias Aspelin is a busy man this week. Three shows at The Groove on Thursday, Friday and Saturday are followed by a fundraising concert hosted by Doors on Wednesday evening. Mathias will be performing at Doors for Chances4Cambodia – an NGO supporting Cambodian women to access higher education. In keeping with the female-centric theme of this week's wrap, just time to mention that Meta House are having a video screening on Tuesday night entitled Strong Women In Music – featuring 'cutting edge women artists, bands and directors'.
Until next time, stay safe out there and... see you around the traps!