Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fete de la Musique dans Phnom Penh: 16 June 2010

The Centre Culturel Francais hosted a great night last night to celebrate Fete de la Musique.  Unfortunately I arrived too late to see the Khmer performers, but I managed to catch most of the set by PP favourites the Mekong Pirates (but more of them later).

The headline band, Java, played a fascinating blend of hip hop, rock, traditional French ... and a taste of most other things you could think of.  The lead singer prowled around the stage looking like a gallic Brian Johnson of AC/DC, crooning, bellowing, spluttering out rap, inciting the crowd to dance, to run to the left and to the right, to sit down ... and even went crowd surfing.  All this backed by drums, bass ... and accordion.  And it rocked.  It reminded me how important energy is in performance, and how audiences respond in kind. 

We were twisted and turned by the light show, by the shifts both stylistic and dynamic, made all the more powerful by the fact that it was drums, bass ... and accordion.  And this point was made with greatest subtlety during the evening:  "Accordion!  Sexy!  Accordion!  Sexy!"  Even the English speakers, who understood little else, got that one.  Speaking of which - I was also reminded how much better music can sound when you don't know what the words are.  The most banal and mediocre lyrics just don't matter when heard in another language. 

Java came back from an encore dressed up - the singer in some kind of papal MC outfit, and the band in long red robes that made them look distinctly like judges of the ECCC.  Just with different hair.  But that was only the beginning.  Both bands decamped to Equinox (newly fitted out with upstairs stage and sound system and noise baffling structures) where the Pirates set sail with what they do best:  tight, cramped, fighting out of the corner under power of a reggaefunkshuffle with spiky horns popping and braying, the sole vocal mic passing from hand to hand to horn to horn.  It was after midnight when Java took to the stage, launching into some progrock type funk that morphed into a rap, that morphed into ... well, you really had to be there.  It was quite a night.  Viva la musique. 

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