Day 11 of 100 days: writing on flying through Space and Time with Kak Channthy and The Cambodian Space Project

This morning I’m writing my daily tribute to Channthy post early… I’ve been awake since 5am with just 3hrs sleep last night… it’s hot here in Kampot and I spent the night sleeping in the little room right above KAMA cafe here in Kampot… there’s a lot of things on my mind and much to do over the coming weeks – months – years – continue to create new and wonderful work based on the foundations Thy and I laid down and with the people we’ve brought together over these last 8 years of life aboard The Cambodian Space Project.

Today, I’m just a few hours away from jumping into a Taxi booked to depart Kampot at 10am and setting a course for Phnom Penh then Hong Kong on Monday, Paris on May 6 and a mission to get to the Cannes Film Festival where Mark Roy and I will (hopefully) attend the screening of our short film – something I already see as a homage to Channthy – at the Olympia Cinema at 8.30pm, on May 14th. If it wasn’t such an emotionally raw and deeply personal time, I’d say this schedule’s gotta be something like “Get Him to the Greek”…. it’s crazy! but also strange how life goes on and through terrible times great opportunities sometimes present themselves. This is very much the situation I find myself in. But first to Phnom Penh today and to ‘begin again’ with the core CSP members with whom I convened yesterday, here at the same place I’m sitting this morning, to meet and discuss what’s next and why we should go on – what’s comes next? can we start again but call this next chapter in our lives without Channthy – The Mothership? and continue on with Channthy’s spirit to guide us?

Introducing Sak Samnang

During Khmer New Year Holiday, I was surprised by a facebook message from Bong Sak…he’s only recently let go of his old analog Nokia and – at the insistence of friends – taken up a smart phone with his own Facebook account set up as Sak Von. Jason Shaw (guitar) and I pissed ourselves when we saw Von Sak’s first message …adding to a FB group chat this person … who we assumed must be Bong Sak… adding a gif animation of a cat – sat atop the edge of a toilet bowl – taking a leap towards a bathroom shelf above toilet but missing – a cat fail! So, when a few bleeps came up on my phone and I saw incoming FB messages from Von Sak is was curious…what’s he come up with this time?? I was on the train back home to Kampot…. and I received these intriguing vids of a young woman, wrestling a rambunctious baby girl while singing her heart out… and so it turns out this is indeed Bong Sak sending me his thoughts on our next step… his daughter Samnang’s audition tape of sorts. And what a great voice! very different to Thy’s voice but the right voice to join us at the right time… but perhaps The CSP Mothership will become a vehicle for many singers, many voice, perhaps even global voices… voices that represent all that Channthy represented and stood for in her own remarkable life.

So you see, I’ve got this show tonight and it is an event that was originally booked as a Cambodian Space Project gig – a gala charity ball for the Airavata Foundation for elephant protection – great! we love elephants and I have fond – no – absolutely hilarious memories of telling Channthy….almost on the way to the show…that we were racing across town to play a ‘flash mob’ gig for an elephants 50th birthday party!  In a couple of hours time I’ll be doing a similar dash but this time it’s in a taxi across Cambodia and it’s to another ‘elephant party’ but is of course, it’s without Channthy. At the French Embassy tonight, I’m getting some of the CSP band back together and the keep our booking – another thing that feels strangely like it was meant to happen and takes me back to the start of CSP’s journey – banging on the window of the Embassy Visa Department hoping to get to clearance for take-off – at a time when getting to France was very much on my mind.

Explaining The Mothership concept in Khmer

Yesterday morning, Channthy’s brother Lenny rode his moto down to Kampong Spue province to meet CSP drummer Bong Sak and his daughter Samnang – who is also singer in Bong’s large family of musicians… the rode onto Kampot and met me…still in my PJ’s at KAMA … it was 8ish and we all sat down around table and lounge upstairs at KAMA in my painting studio space. My partner Kek Soon – who never got to meet least of all get on with Channthy – they didn’t see eye to eye – sat in with us to translate and explain. I told Lenny that he was now the one to really make sure we continued on, it’s what Channthy would have wanted – after all she recently insisted he was IN THE BAND “If he no go, I no go…Now my brother CSP Bong, he can play percussion”. Thy had also just recently bought passports for all her immediate family and had planned to show Lenny the world through helping him to become a musician – percussion – and fly with the CSP.

Thy had recently bought Lenny a brand spanking new set of congas… actually Lenny’s been with us a while… He and his brother Long are always part of the CSP entourage and handle setting up our backline at every show in Cambodia. Soon translated while the little team of ours listened… “It’s your family legacy… and you’re getting good and music…. you must continue and Julien will keep working with you to make it a success in Channthy’s name”. I was also speaking for the benefit of Bong Sak and his daughter Samnang “Bong … you and I are almost the same age… but we have grown up with very different life experience… I want to make sure all the good work we have done together is not lost…not finished… but you and I are the oldest and we won’t always be here either… these two… your daughter, Lenny…. they’re the ones that will continue on after us… let’s keep going… it’s a great idea that we give this opportunity to someone in the family, to your daughter and to other singers and musicians who’ll no doubt join us The Mothership!” Bong agreed and I could see that he was as comfortable and happy about the whole concept as I was… it was a relief to know and to understand that out of our tragedy hope still does spring eternal. We wrapped up the conversation and headed off to rehearsal #1.

Later, after a run through of songs, many that we’ve covered as our ‘Cambodian wedding band set’ we called it a day , I’d posted to facebook a photo of the group of us halfway through the rehearsal… an email came in from another old friend in Australia, Clive Liebmann – a great singer/songwriter for whom I’d produced his debut album as “Cashcow”… Clive’s message was …

” I’m really going to try and make it, I’m well overdue to visit Cambodia and see in person some of what you’ve been doing there and of course it would mean a lot to be able to be there for Channthy’s 100 Days ceremony. 

The photo of the current Mothership lineup rehearsing in front of the Patti Smith painting is what prompted this email 🙂 “

Well spotted! Clive… and as many of you are already aware, I’ve taken up painting, rather late in life but as something that I love and an interest that has also grown out of The Cambodian Space Project. It’s also been great to find an enthusiastic response from buyers and CSP supporters who’d purchased many of my works. I’ve been able to use funds from sales to feed back into some of the band’s expenses and right now, I’m doing exactly this… selling off a few more of my paintings including Patti – she’s been hanging on the walls at my little studio room in Kampot – waiting to go to a good home! The mission this time is getting to Cannes Film Festival at very short notice! I’ve posted two works for sale and have sold the first Poev Vannary but Patti Smith’s up for grabs.

One way or another, I’m embarking on a new journey and I’m writing here – daily posts about my journey with Channthy – as a way of healing though a time of grief and sorry but also to celebrate Channthy’s legacy and to share with you, stories of our life together and all the wonderful things that I hope with continue to come from this. Some of this will begin tonight.. music with The CSP Mothership… and more will come once I make the mad dash to Cannes, get to the premiere of our little film Flicker&Fade… continue to backtrack and process my own life and journey and look for a way to share with the world Kak Channthy’s miraculous story and somehow, put this into music, art and perhaps even the film that I envisage as a tribute.

I’m also writing and sharing with you – our journey – to remind you that we seek financial support for Channthy’s 13 year old son Makara – please visit KAK CHANNTHY MEMORIAL FUND for more information on how you can help.