On February 28th, Dutch photographer Michael Klinkhamer will be exhibiting his photo series “You Can’t Go Wrong Here” at FCC Phnom Penh. The show will feature a series of photographs he has taken during the Cambodia Photo Tour Klinkhamer is conducting throughout Phnom Penh over the last 6 months. Klinkhamer is a professional photographer with over 25 years of experience. He is permanently based in Phnom Penh, and we met at the FCC Phnom Penh to discuss his experiences and travels, and how he wound up pursuing his photography and workshop teaching passion in Phnom Penh.
I started doing photography while traveling as a young man of 20 years old. I went to America, my first big tour. I bought a camera and pretty soon I was publishing my images in magazines. Eventually I started traveling in Asia. At that time I was already doing professional photography in Amsterdam, mainly studio work and made a good living, but needed to explore the world more. Asia was my second big trip. I went to Sri Lanka and Sumatra and then to Java and Bali around 1983. I started to take pictures with a Nikon FM2 with 2 or 3 lenses, using Kodachrome color film and Tri-X Black and white film of course. I did some really good photographs of people then. I ended up in Australia selling those pictures. Somehow there was a quality to it. Those kinds of pictures are more or less the same as I do now, to be honest. The same interaction of people I meet on the streets. Market people, monks, landscapes and stills.
I went back to Europe after this tour and started working in magazine photography, shooting for high profile glossy publications in Holland, specifically on current affairs, arts and also business publications-annual reports, doing portraits of CEO’s. At some time I was asked by to photograph for the Dutch automotive industry, shooting portraits of designers, executives, the latest cars, Porsche, Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, etc. It was a photographer’s dream, at that time. You’re traveling in luxury on other people’s expenses. It’s like working in fashion. You are under pressure and supposed to get the job done at the highest level.
In 2006 it was time for change. I started writing feature articles and for example on architects. Like, architect Daniel Libeskind in N.Y.C (Freedom Tower) and also on the provocative CCTV building by Rem Koolhaas in Beijing-China. In 2008, the Olympics were about to happen. So, I went there a few months before the Olympic games started to photograph the new architecture and general atmosphere in Beijing this time on assignment for Nikon-Pro their international magazine. A great showcase!
At the same time I am intrigued by the spiritual connotations in a lot of the scenes you find in Asia. Simple natural things, like flowers and leafs, stark images, strong graphics, which are always so beautiful to look at, they give you peace of mind. Some press photographers photograph emotionally strong and emotionally upsetting things. Maybe as a counter to that, I’ll photograph something that’s just really pleasing to look at. When you put a fine art print on your wall it will respond to your feelings for many times and might reflect your feelings. I call them ‘Moodimages.’
My next venture was in Hawaii. As you get older things change in your personal life. It was always a dream for me to work in the Pacific. Asia, Bali, Indonesia . . . there’s a lot of reminiscences to the Pacific. Hawaii is such a strong, natural place to be. I was very lucky working as a volunteer at a retreat center, where people mostly did yoga and meditation and photography workshops and Hula dancing. It opened up my mind, the feelings of another way of living. I’ve found that here, too, actually, in Cambodia. That’s where I started to think about teaching and doing photo workshops.
I came here in December 2010 to do an assignment on a famous Dutch painter living in Phnom Penh, Peter Klashorst. I published a feature article and pictures on him for a magazine. He was working on his exhibition for the S-21 prison museum doing monumental paintings on the victims of the Khmer Rouge. I was supposed to be here just for that interview, for a couple days, but I ended up living here ever since.
I like this place, the people, the atmosphere, to work here as a photographer and writer, you can’t go wrong! And then also eventually in the back of my mind that good idea kept coming up, to do photography workshops and photo tours here. So that’s why I started Cambodia Photo tours and Workshops by klinkphoto six months ago.
Setting up a photo workshop business, even though I don’t like the word “business,” is different. You’re helping and teaching people make the best out of their time and camera. They understand I am a professional photographer, they check my web site, blog and my work. They want to learn from a publishing and accredited photographer. I’m locally connected and know the place. They trust that I can take them to places they cannot find themselves. Two things I provide to them: mostly they don’t know how to operate their Camera and lenses, get the right settings and use the camera at its fullest. And also how to approach people and make a connection and walk away with a great image. I understand this and I explain how to do this and feel comfortable, while shooting. To know the camera, to feel confident, and to just ask to do a picture or just take it when it appears without hesitation.
At Cambodia Photo Tours and workshops we do some camera handling theory and after that we go out shooting and putting it all to the test. It is walking tour, with a tuk-tuks on stand-by. I sometimes point out to the beauty of things. A lot of people are very keen photographers. I give them some new tools they can put that to practice immediately.
Recently I’ve started to do a “slum tour.” There is a demand for this, it gives people something to think about and it is a reality here, so why not. I’m a little hesitant but I’ve done it a few times. It’s very confronting but also heartwarming. The air is filled with the smell of burning plastic, your feet are covered with dust, but the warm and welcoming intensity of the people makes you forget the hard impression. Of course your pictures are telling a different story. And I hope this brings awareness to the people and also to others that see them on Facebook or on their blogs. It is photo journalism on a level of social media. Everybody is a journalist these days after all.
When I was setting up the Cambodia photo tours and workshop, I needed a headquarters and meeting place. I talked to the FCC people and they were very welcoming for it. Some folks come for lunch and follow my half day tour or we end the tout at FCC for happy hour and sit around to tell stories. There is also off course the historical press connection/connotation. There’s the photographic and journalistic history. So meeting at this colonial building, is already a pleasure. The service is good, the hospitality is great. If we have a group we use a separate room, in the restaurant, in the back almost like a classroom. I’m very grateful I can use it. It is a win-win situation. FCC is a landmark. If people ask, “Where are you located?” And I say at FCC, everyone knows where that is. “You can’t go wrong.”
The title of the exhibition is an expression, I use often here in Cambodia during photo sessions. You really can take beautiful pictures here and there are great images everywhere. It’s a photographer’s dream to shoot here. It has to do with the wonderful friendly warm people, and the unique landscape. It works just beautiful. Cambodians are open, they might look serious at first, but when you smile they respond with joy. Khmer people are very open to new all things, new people, in what you have to tell them, what you can give them, and they like to hang out with you. Here, taking pictures are like breathing.
The exhibition pictures I’ve chosen are a special collection. They express the beauty and sincerity of the people here. Mostly the photographs show the beauty of the place, the colorfulness, and the stark black and white. There are surprising moments. There are things that only happen once before my camera.
All the pictures are from the past 6 months and all are from around Phnom Penh. These are images I’ve taken while conducting the photo tour. As I mentioned it’s a special collection of 35 pictures for sale. Prices are from $150 unframed to $200 framed. This show is my expression of gratitude for the opportunity to do my tours with travelers and people from a lot of nationalities visiting Phnom Penh and a big Awkoon to the Khmers in the images. It also proves that you can do pictures like this too. So join me next time and bring your own camera! Thank you!
You can learn more about Michael Klinkhame by visiting www.klinkphoto.com and www.facebook.com/cambodiaphototours. Cambodia Photo Tours by klinkphoto is hosting 1/2 day (from 1:30 pm) and full day tours and workshops (from 9:30am) meeting from the FCC daily.
Saturday the 22nd of March and Sunday the 23rd, golfers from around the globe will be showing up with their clubs to the Angkor Golf Resort in Siem Reap. Why? The 9th FCC Nations Cup!
While this tournament aims to allow golfers some fun, this country-against-country tournament is a battle for both pride of flag and pride of nation. Participants will represent and play for their country in hopes of adding their country into the coveted and regionally-renowned FCC Nations Cup.
The FCC held its first Nations Cup in October, 2008, with 11 participants. The tournament has always been loosely based on the Ryder cup format, where team members represent home nations. The FCC started the FCC Nations Cup to promote Siem Reap as a golf destination, as it has one of the most beautiful golf courses in Southeast Asia.
The second cup in February, 2009, saw teams from Australia, UK and Ireland, Canada, France, Thailand, and Cambodia. Team Canada, led by Jonathan Naylor and Andy Vasily, took the cup despite the rainy conditions and strong competition from the UK/Ireland and Cambodia teams.
By the third cup in May, 2010 the board had grown to 60 players representing 10 countries. Golfers from everywhere around the globe would visit Siem Reap representing countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France, and Belgium. Later, in November, 2010, the Singapore-Myanmar team beat out team Canada in a two-hole playoff, while all participants supported a charity hole-in-one challenge for Indochina Starfish Foundation.
In March, 2011, as the Phnom Post reported, the FCC Nations Cup was taken by the South Korea Blue Team, led by Mun Dueokyeon. The South Korea White Team scored to second place and Belgium and USA tied. The October, 2011 tournament saw Team Malaysia claim the trophy and following in October, 2012 Team Australia emerged as the leader. And last year? Vietnam managed to take the lead at the right moment securing the prize in their name.
Who will it be this year? Who will take the cup? With more than 10 registrants, coming from diverse nations including UK, Russia, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Canada, and India, it’s anyone’s guess.
FCC and the Angkor Golf Resort are calling on registrants (teams of 4 golfers per) from anywhere in the world to come participate. Registration runs until the 22nd of March, so there’s still plenty of time to sign up. Registration for the tournament inclusive of one room is $330net per person and without the room is $275net per person. Sharing a room? Two golfers can each pay $300net.
Registration includes 2 green fees of 18 holes with free beverages on the golf course, a welcome gala dinner at FCC Angkor, and a lunch buffet on the final round. And if that wasn’t enough, the FCC’s bringing back the big prize with its FCC Hole in One Challenge (details forthcoming).
Despite the degree of casual funfair and relaxed competition, the tournament event is honoring history and looking responsibly to the present as a fundraiser for the Kampuchea House Foundation. The money raised during the “Hole in One Challenge” portion of the event goes to a foundation this charity, which started in 2007.
Kampuchea House supports education and opportunities for orphaned children in Sotnikum District, Cambodia. The organization provides many types of support, including housing, security, education, and security. As their organization mission says:
Kampuchea House is in a rural area so none of the children are street children. Previously, these children lived with ageing grandparents or in large extended families and their future was uncertain. They had little or no chance at an education or vocational training and the host family struggled to feed and clothe them.
With a day of practice and a day and half of tournament activities, this weekend is one golfers from all backgrounds will enjoy. The packages for participation include numerous opportunities to enjoy the FCC’s cuisine and maybe a round or two on the green.
Friday, March 21st
Saturday, March 22nd
Sunday, March 23rd
As details emerge for this legendary event, they will be posted here. If you have questions or would like to register, contact Mr. Sean Vanthan either by email or dial +855-96-888-5598.
Another evening of East-Meets-West is upon us! Kok Thlok returns to the FCC Mansion bringing their classic and contemporary Khmer fused with Western rock. The show starts at 8:30PM and tickets are $5. Entry includes one kebab and one drink. Moto and bicycle parking is available on-site. Check out the Facebook event page for more information and updates.
Anthony Evans is the Program Development Manager at Epic Arts, a UK-based organization with active groups of artists in Cambodia and China. As their website says, “Epic Arts is an inclusive arts organisation that brings together people with and without disabilities.”
Anthony is originally from the UK and has been working as part of the Senior Management team at Epic Arts Cambodia for the past year. He has worked in community arts, arts education and theatres throughout the UK, fulfilling various roles including producer, project manager and director.
FCC: What is the history of Epic Arts? How and why did the organization come together?
Anthony: Epic Arts has been working in Cambodia since 2001 when community dance artist Katie McCabe started working with small groups of disabled people in Phnom Penh. In 2003 she moved to Kampot and started working in what is now known as ‘The Epic Arts Cafe’. As the projects participants grew Hannah Stevens (now with Amrita Performing Arts) was appointed as Director and worked with AusAid and the Australian Red Cross to build the Epic Arts Centre in Kampot in 2009.
Since then, the Epic Arts Centre has been delivering education projects to people with both physical and learning disabilities. 2013 saw Epic introduce their new Inclusive Arts Course that encourages deaf, disabled and non-disabled people to work together, creating advocates for the future and promoting the message that EVERY person counts.
FCC: At what point did Epic Arts come to Cambodia and the history of the café?
Anthony: The cafe opened in 2006 as a social enterprise that carried the same message as the arts programs. It is an example of an inclusive working environment and demonstrates that deaf, disabled and non-disabled people can work together and contribute to society equally. In 2013 it was refurbished to include a new upstairs seating area and gallery space. As the arts centre is situated outside of Kampot we wanted the cafe to demonstrate and showcase more of the work that was being produced at the centre, so we created a gallery upstairs. The food and coffee are great, it has a great relaxed vibe but it’s full of energy and art work too!
FCC: Who’s involved in Epic Arts Cambodia? How do you share your ideas, and recruit volunteers/participants/performers?
Anthony: Many of our staff are either graduates from our own education programs or they are parents of students who have been actively involved with Epic Arts over the years. Our students are often recommended to us from other NGOs or Schools. We tend to find that people learn differently and some people do not fit into a strict academic education system like the ‘teacher and blackboard’ style taught in many Cambodian education settings. Some people prefer to be creative, or practical, caring or imaginative and Epic Arts help them use these skills to create opportunities for themselves. We see many people come to Epic with a ‘this person is hard to teach’ reputation but often when they arrive they thrive in the environment Epic provides. We try to visit our partners’ NGOs and disabled people organisations regularly to try to locate students who we feel have ‘Epic DNA’. These can be deaf, disabled or non-disabled people.
FCC: Can you talk a little bit about the history of the Epic Arts performance team in Cambodia and past projects you’ve done?
Anthony: Epic dancers have been performing in Cambodia for quite some time; however, we wanted to take the graduates from the education program in 2012 and needed a way of creating (and justifying) these posts. By increasing the amount of performances, offering workshops and developing an understanding of the power of theatre in education we developed ‘Epic Encounters’ Dance company, the first fully inclusive dance company in South East Asia.
FCC: Epic Arts was featured at OurCityFestival 2014 in Phnom Penh. Was that your first introduction to the Mansion? How did that go?
Anthony: We had a wonderful time performing at Our City Festival, the event was exciting and we were very happy to be a part of it. The Mansion was a stunning venue and our Epic dancers enjoyed performing their work in front of the building for two days. The whole Epic team looked at all the exhibitions and we particularly liked the one that displayed designs for a transport system in Phnom Penh. The Epic dancers are looking forward to performing at this prestigious venue in the city again.
FCC: What can audience members expect from Epic Encounters? Can you offer a preview of what this show’s about? Will there be any differences between the Phnom Penh show and the Siem Reap show?
Anthony: Epic Encounters will be performing three pieces at both the Phnom Pehn and Siem Reap venues. There is a mixture of work, starting with ‘Future Flight’, which is a classic in the Epic Encounters repertoire. This piece uses crutches as a prop and it involves breath-taking balances using the crutches alongside a traditional Khmer love story.
The second piece is a new piece that was created this year, called ‘Sit With Me’. The act of sitting is universal and creates a state of equality. Using a chair as the starting point, this piece explores the act of sitting: how we sit, when we sit, and on what. The piece examines various relationships that occur when people sit together; moments of harmony, when we are comfortable to be in close proximity, and conflict when of another person invades our personal space.
The third and final piece Epic Encounters will perform is its new educational performance piece, ‘MOTO MOTO’. It is estimated that 4 people die every day in Cambodia from moto- related accidents. Speeding, drunk driving, and lack of road awareness account for a number of these accidents, but the most common cause of fatality is the lack of helmets worn by drivers and passengers. This piece was created in response to this problem and aims to educate and encourage the use of helmets and raise awareness of road safety issues. Devised using physical theatre techniques, the story follows the interactions of a group of friends and the consequences of their actions.
FCC: What’s the long-term plan for the organization? Anything on the horizon and to look forward to later this year?
Anthony: In 2013 the management at Epic changed from a directorship to a Senior Management Team (SMT) lead by Onn Sokny who was deputy to the previous Director, Hannah Stevens. It was a move that meant each member of the SMT could focus on develop in different areas. My role on the SMT as Program Development Manager means that I work to expand the work Epic does in each programme area. This has included developing the idea of educational theatre at Epic Arts. This has been extremely effective in teaching people in Cambodia about important issues such as road safety and health awareness through the arts.
Epic Encounters was recently commission to deliver over 40 performances and workshops, with a health awareness theme, around Cambodia by GIZ. The performances crossed the boundaries of language and culture and presented a clear message about health to many rural villagers in Kampong Thom and Kampot provinces. We hope to develop more pieces like ‘MOTO MOTO’ with Epic Encounters and are planning to do some international tours at the end of the year with the team. In addition to the performance team, we continue to develop new artists through our ‘Inclusive Arts Course’ which brings together people with and without disabilities through daily workshops in Dance, Drama, Art and Music.
We are also developing a creative enterprise programme that aims to support young creatives with the teaching of basis business and product development skills with the aim that they will be able to start and successfully run their own creative business in their local communities. All-in-all, Epic Arts has some exciting plans for 2014 and we hope to return to FCC again in the future with new work to share.
This Friday, 14 Feb, Mealea Lay, who goes by Miss Sarawan (a Khmer word meaning “traditional dance”), will be performing with Joe Wrigley during a special Valentine’s Day dinner at FCC Angkor. It will be her second time performing at FCC Angkor since her stunning New Years performance.
On 29 Mar, Miss Sarawan will be joined by her twin sister Mealai, who goes by Krawan (whose name means “fragrant flower” in Khmer), for a concert at the FCC Mansion under the name Krawan Sarawan.
Both of these remarkable singers stopped by FCC for a short conversation to talk about what it’s like to be a singer in Cambodia today, where the inspiration for singing comes from, and what’s on the horizon.
FCC: Talk about your background and history with Cambodia, and your roots with music.
Mealea: I’m from Kampong Cham province. Since I was young, I have enjoyed singing and dancing. Whenever I was working and studying, I always kept myself singing, all the time. I was always singing and dancing even when I kept my mouth shut. Even at the toilet, even when cooking. My mother would tell me to stop singing like that, but my mouth would just go. It’s normal for me. Even when everyone was working, harvesting the rice, I would sing.
Mealai: Though I’m from Kampong Cham, I came to Phnom Penh around 7 years ago. Now I have graduated and I have started to study some languages, like English and Chinese. But working as a singer is my favorite job. I love singing. Normally I’m very busy and don’t have time to sing. When I was in the province, I would have so much more free time.
Mealea: In the province I would listen mostly to Khmer traditional music and music from the 60s. Some of my favorite singers include Ros Sereysothea and Pan Ron. I would hear the music on the radio because when I was living in the countryside everyone listened to the radio. Mostly I spent time singing with the radio. I didn’t have any iPod or CD player.
In 2007, I came to Phnom Penh to continue my studying at Sisowath high school for 2 years. I lived in the temple, and when I did anything, including cleaning clothes for the monks, I would always be singing. When people came by, they asked, “Who’s that singing?” they would look at me and say, “I thought it was a radio but it was you!” When a monk lived closed to me he asked me if I could sing a song for the monks, and they gave me 5,000 riel for one song. All the monks came around and listened to me and they all enjoyed it. It was a slow song, and it was very sweet.
Since I met Joe Wrigley, I have started to think my life is starting to change. I am taking time to learn and to sing. I am studying with Sun Jan Chaia, son of Sinn Sisamouth. My heart is full of music.
FCC: How has your family influenced you?
Mealea: They have encouraged me a lot. They have always told me: “Go and sing, go and sing!” because they know I like singing and dancing. Even though they have encouraged me, I used to be very scared. I have heard things about singers in Cambodia, and how hard it is to find success and I started to think about myself. My father was a musician, but not famous, not on the radio and television. He just played for the village during festivals and parties. My mother was a singer too, but just in the village. The blood of my family is filled with art.
FCC: How do you feel about Cambodian music today?
Mealea: Now it’s very good. Anyone can create new music. Sometimes they create songs from the past, and some people take the songs from the past and create new things. Producer KlapYaHandz mixes Cambodian music with Western, like in the song “Snae ha Knong Pel Reatrey.”
With us, we mix English and Khmer vocals. We change it a little bit and make something new. People in Cambodia like this, because most of the people want to see new things created. Even though we create something new, we keep something in the past. Even though there is the idea that people died a long time ago, their voice is still here.
Some of the older songs we have sung many times, but they are still beautiful, people are still enjoying them and they have good meaning. The songs of the past are not easy to sing, not easy to sing like the old singers, because their voices are very high and so sweet. I try my best, even if I’m not as good as them, but I like to try.
Mealai: I like to sing the music that makes you feel better. Music makes people feel very, very romantic sometimes. If we’re upset, we can sing a song and make ourselves feel better. Especially when I have a problem I normally do not like to share with others, I can reduce the problem in my heart by singing. Singing can make people around us feel better. When I leave for work I go find a friend and go somewhere quiet to sing a song. I want to dedicate my voice to people. Sometime I sing songs to my staff to make them feel better.
FCC: What about your future?
Mealea: I am in the process of creating a band with my sister, mixing western and traditional in the 60s, 70s. I want to protect the old music and keep the good things of the past, but I will try and compose my own songs also. Just now we only started one song. Step by step. I want to compose a song about my life. I want to write about my life.
Mealai: My plan in the future, I really want to be a singer, and I want make the band really famous. When I see some bands, they do well, and I want to do like them. I want to be a singer. I want to sing a song in other countries. I want my band very public. I try all my best.
FCC: Do you have any other thoughts on singing and new singers in Cambodia?
Mealea: When somebody loves music already, it’s very good. If someone didn’t love music or ever love a song, they didn’t want to do, it’s not easy. You have to love music, and love the song, and keep all the songs in your heart. Make your feeling and voice follow the song. Love is very important. When you love something you can do it easily. When you want to be a professional singer, you have to get training, and take care of your voice, and avoid some food when you sing, and make sure you sleep enough. Try to practice the song you would like to sing, practice many times to be better.
Under the name Miss Sarawan, Mealea will be joined by husband Joe Wrigley at FCC Angkor for the Valentine’s Day dinner. The romantic repertoire will feature Mealea singing Cambodian songs and Joe singing Western music. And stay tuned for March, when the sisters will sing under Krawan Sarawan, featuring a full band with guitar, bass, and drums.
FCC invites you to spend some time unwinding and finding your space of relaxation this Friday, Valentine’s Day. We are offering special rates on all our massage services. Make sure you book in advance to reserve a time slot on this romantic holiday.
Whether you’re in Siem Reap or Phnom Penh for Valentine’s Day, FCC is ready to bring you some delightful food, drink, and music to make your evening romantic and unforgettable.
Phnom Penh: Stop by the FCC Phnom Penh restaurant for a romantic dinner featuring a very special set menu, and enjoy some beautifully arranged music by the Chaktomok Violin Trio. Dinner starts at 7:00PM and will continue until 10:00PM. The cost for this enchanting experience is $27.50 per person. Book online or call Mr. Sophorn M at 093-990-123.
Siem Reap: FCC Angkor is hosting one of the most romantic Valentine’s Day dinners in Siem Reap. We will be offering a special set menu with delicious food and an included glass of sparkling wine for $27.99 per person. Joe Wrigley and Ms. Sarawan will be setting the mood with their enchanting music. We offer online booking, or you can call us at 063-760-283.
Joe Wrigley & the Jumping Jacks will be performing at the FCC Mansion this Saturday, 8 Feb, at 830pm. The band will bring energy to the colonial setting with an evening of rockabilly, playing both classics and Wrigley’s own creations. It’s a night not to be missed!
Recently front-man Joe Wrigley stopped into FCC Phnom Penh to share the story of how he got into music, how he got to Phnom Penh, and how he got the Jumping Jacks project going.
FCC: Joe, what’s your story and how did you get to Cambodia?
Joe: My life changed dramatically when I came to Phnom Penh. I’d been away from home for 10 months. I used to work in a card room/poker club/casino in London. I was an amateur musician. I saved money to do traveling. I stayed in Thailand for 6 months. I started playing shows on my own, sort of re-invigorating as a musician. Thailand was a difficult place to be a musician. There’s various red tape and uncertainties about working. There’s not as big a music scene in Thailand (as opposed to Phnom Penh).
In May 2013, and I had one month left and I was like is there somewhere I can try to be a musician. I was searching “Southeast Asia Music Scene” and Ho Chi Minh and Chiang Mai and Bangkok came up a little bit, but mostly it was Phnom Penh. So I came and I managed to get gigs before I arrived, gigs as a solo player, to my amazement.
I met Scott Bywater and RJ Marshall and those guys put me in touch with a lot of musicians. I started off running. Because I had limited time (had to go back home at the end of May) and that momentum has carried me forward ever since. I started out solo and now Jumping Jacks is my primary project and my passion. Jumping Jacks is the one I’ve been looking forward to playing gigs with the most. I was really lucky to get plugged into the music scene very quickly. I don’t know if I could succeed in doing this anywhere else, but for the first time in my life I became a full-time musician making music in Phnom Penh. It was never something I was able to realize before, being a full time musician.
FCC: What’s the deal with Jumping Jacks, anyway? What’s the history? Who are the band members?
Joe: Jumping Jacks has been a live band for a few months gigging around Phnom Penh. There’s a lot of rotation in the members. It’s my concept, my thing, and I use different musicians depending on who’s available. It keeps it fresh. We have three or four different soloists. One gig it might be saxophone. Another, harmonica. Recently we’ve been playing with a lap steel guitar player. One day it will be a lead guitarist. It’s always changing. But the constant element is the collection of 40-50 songs, including a handful of my originals, which keep the 1950s rockabilly vibe going. And on top of that, we do cover tunes in the same style. We’ll do a rockabilly cover of “Come as You Are” for example. The members of the band may change, but the feeling stays the same. The band was always intended to be a real hard-hitting, dance-floor boozy venue band specifically, a live band, and it’s a fun band.
The 6’3” tall Andy Potter will be performing on the 8th for the first time in the Jumping Jacks. He’s a world-class drummer who played with a late instance of the Wailers. He’s been touring around Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia with Niki Buzz. Niki Buzz is an American rock/blues guitarist. To have his drummer is a big deal. On the bass is 6’8” tall Andre Swart, a well-known musician in Phnom Penh who’s been part of late Grass Snake Union, the biggest pulling band in 2013. It’s definitely a monolithic rhythm section, in more ways than one. Brent Clark will be playing the sax, Ken White will be on harmonica, and I will be playing acoustic guitar.
FCC: Since you’ve been so active since you arrived here, can you talk a little bit about the Phnom Penh music scene?
Joe: It’s a very, very interesting time to be in Cambodia and with regards to music scene in Phnom Penh. I’ve learned a lot about it from talking to people who have been here for years and years, a lot about the growth of things regarding expats playing music. Even two years ago it was impossible for somebody like me, somebody not the amazing professional making music already I don’t think that would have been possible. Too many venues have opened in the last 20 months to 2 years. There’s a great demand for acts, solo acts, bands, etc. that wasn’t there for the past 2 years.
Two years ago live music meant that you went to a small bar on 104 and saw a four piece band crammed into one corner plugged into the karaoke amp, using a terrible drum kit and playing for free beer. There are still a lot of guys crammed into corners still doing that, just being bar bands.
Now there’s a lot of special music here, maybe because of this wonderland effect attracts people like me to Phnom Penh. There are all these special musicians doing interesting stuff. There’s Vibratone who are a roots reggae band. Kok Thlok, who is a huge ensemble, playing a bizarre mix of instruments and playing old 60s Khmer stuff. You have top quality jazz players, like Jahzad. Dub Addiction is the most exciting thing, as they aren’t only playing live but making studio recordings. They’re unique to Cambodia, leading the way. They’re all over the place and bizarre, and they put on amazing shows and do really good work in the studio. Then you have Cambodia Space Project who is just fantastic. A lot of solo guys, songwriter guys, are just playing small, quiet gigs, and they have fantastic songs too. It’s an incredibly music scene as far as I’m concerned.
FCC: So what exactly is rockabilly and what can you expect from your show?
Joe: If you don’t know what rockabilly is, it’s basically a form of sped-up country music, which has got a lot to do with rhythm and blues and swing and jazz. Country sometimes gets unfavorable reactions, but the roots of rockabilly are in country music. In the 1950s with the electric guitar coming out and various other factors, country music went to this crazy place where people were playing 12-bar-blues with loud guitars and high tempos. They could get the sound of the big band in the four or five piece band.
From 1953-1962 (the death of Hank Williams to the release of first Beatles record) there was a period where thousands upon thousands of crazy records were made, bands and music came together, all wrapped up under “rockabilly.” For example, Elvis’s early stuff is rockabilly. Country met rock. But rockabilly is often a misused term. You’ve got some rocks and blues bands who say they play rockabilly but they’re not playing. The real rockabilly has almost a swing beat, and it’s definitely dancing music. The whole idea is to capture the energy of the music we’re trying to do. If there’s a crowd of people dancing, that’s a good thing.
The show starts at 830pm this Saturday. Check out the Facebook event for any last-minute updates.
The FCC hotels and restaurants in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap carry on the tradition of being centers of photography by regularly donning their walls with exciting photographs from local and foreign photographers. This month in Siem Reap, the work of Morteza Ariana, a German national of Iranian origin, will be on display at FCC Angkor. FCC recently interviewed Morteza to learn more about his photography.
What is your background? How and when did you discover photography?
I was born in 1964 in Tehran. In 1986 I moved to Germany. There I worked as a photographer for a daily newspaper, in Hanover. I also worked as a photojournalist for UNICEF in Africa and Southeast Asia. In 2001 I moved to Japan, where I started to incorporate “Zen Art” and “Wabi-Sabi” (the aesthetic of solitude and impermanence) into my fine art photography, which led to exhibitions in Osaka, Kobe, Phnom Penh, and Siem Reap. My love for travelling and the people around the world motivated me to start with my own photography in 1994.
Talk a little bit about the photography that is going to be on display at FCC Angkor. Why did you choose these particular photos? Do they have a specific theme?
I have been living and working as a photography tutor in Siem Reap since 2012. My love for Angkor motivates me to share my expertise and experiences with others. With my series “Colours of Decay,” I am following my desire to find ways to express the beauty of transience. I have found the photographic object of this inevitable principle in the ancient Angkor Temples. Hundreds of years of change have given these walls with their ornate reliefs and statues a unique coloration. They turn into enchanting paintings that evoke in us a sense of awe, granting us a moment in which we recognize the refreshing beauty of eternal change.
What do you think about life in Cambodia? Do you try and respond to Cambodian lifestyles and culture using your art (photography)?
I have been living in Cambodia for around 18 months and read about the recent history. I also observed Cambodian society both sharply and critically but at the moment I have this project of photography on the topics I mentioned. Hopefully in near future I can explore Cambodian society further.
Morteza’s photography will be on display at FCC Angkor at least through February. For inquires about his work, you can contact him by email. We look forward to seeing you visit FCC Angkor and discover Morteza’s full series of pictures. As always, works on display at FCC are for sale.
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