After becoming a hit with audiences in Siem Reap, the Siem Reapers are making their Phnom Penh debut at the FCC on Apr. 6.
The band that plays jazz rock with pop and funk influences “unofficially” got its start in October 2012 when band members got together and started playing gigs at various venues in Siem Reap, says band member Alexandre Scarpati. But it wasn’t until last December that the band took on a name.
Prior to the formation of the Siem Reapers, the members had played various types of music around Siem Reap, including ska and even old Khmer music before they gradually came together to perform in their current incarnation.
“In the beginning, the band was a quartet who grew up and now has also a trombone player. And we often invited some different singers from the Siem Reap music scene to join us,” he explains.
The Siem Reapers’ current lineup consists of Scarpati on Trombone, Константин Кожемякин (Kostya) on lead vocals, Patrick Charbonney on saxophone, Evgeny Shcherbakov on drums, and Nikki Vladimirovich on guitar. The band members come from Russia, France and the Netherlands, Scarpati says, adding that the band members bring a wide range of musical influences to the band including classical, rock, jazz, and pop.
Scarpati’s influences include Bach, Benedetto Marcello, Mozart, Gustav Mahler, Jay Jay Johnson, Coltrane, Avishay Cohen, Thelonious Monk, Django Reinhardt, Sepultura, Incubus, Michael Jackson, and James Brown among others.
While many ex-pat singers and musicians in Cambodia hold regular day jobs that are not related to their lives as performers, the Siem Reapers are all professional musicians. While the Apr. 6 gig at the FCC marks the first time the band is playing in Phnom Penh, he notes that the members of the band have played with other musicians in Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Kampot and Battambang.
Both Westerners and Cambodians have been quite receptive to the Siem Reapers’ performances, Scarpati says. The audiences who come out to see the band varies from gig to gig. “It depends where the band plays. Some places attract only tourists while some places attract only expatriates or Khmer people,” he explains.
Like many ex-pats living in Cambodia, the native of France originally came to the Kingdom on vacation.
“I came to Cambodia for a holiday, and this country seduced me. The smile and the nice heart of the Khmer people made me feel well,” Scarpati says. “So I decided to stop all my projects in France and to do here what I was already doing in France: teaching and playing music. And I don´t regret my decision for one second.”