Tom Vater

Tom Vater

Irreverent, informed and downright eclectic crime fiction and reportage from Southeast Asia and beyond

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On the Road to RocknRoll – With the Cambodian Space Project


The Cambodian Space Project, a rock band cum music-collective based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, are preparing their multicultural act for export.

The band, founded a year ago by Australian guitar player and musical director Julian Poulson and Khmer chanteuse Srey Thy, have played a couple of hundred shows around Cambodia, recorded an album, toured Hong Kong and France, are subject of a documentary film, and are about to take their special brand of sixties Khmer RocknRoll around the world.

In late December the CSP will be playing a one of date in Bangkok, before embarking on their first month long tour of Australia, including festival dates with Jon Spencer.  Following Australia, the band is planning to planning to tour the US in spring.

Cambodia´s impoverished and often displaced and persecuted villagers see little entertainment. To get ready for the road to international exposure and global fame, the Cambodian Space Project have been playing a constant stream of shows around the country, often taking their own bus into small remote villages, far from the capital, to play to surprised and mostly delighted rural audiences. In the process, the band, with Srey Thy singing in Khmer, attempts to create a meaningful dialogue between artists and audience, musicians and citizens.

Last week, the CSP played a Cosmic Cambodian Village Party in a field near the small coastal town of Kampot. Poulson’s and Thy’s attempt to engage the local population paid off. More than a hundred ex-patriates and some three hundred locals showed up. A stage had been set up in the middle of a field behind the village, organized by NGOs. Poulson and Thy could not have wished for a better introduction – his  ramshackle rocknroll outfit was presented by a former Khmer Rouge child soldier and Cambodia Living Arts founder Arn Chorn-Pond, and well-known Khmer singer, Sei Ma.

On Thursday, the band was back in the Cambodian capital, performing at Bophana to celebrate Human Rights Day, an official holiday (and a somewhat cruel irony entirely lost on most people). For this specially curated event, the band teamed up with legendary chapei dong veng (a guitar-like string instrument) master musician and Khmer Rouge survivor Kong Nay, performing a song written especially for the occasion. A single of this collaboration is in the works.

Take a look at this short video of the recording sessions.

Check here for information on the new vinyl CSP single I’m Unsatisfied.

Click here for the trailer of the forthcoming documentary ROCK CAMBODIA, featuring the Cambodian Space Project.

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