WOMAD and World Music
It’s just on 10 years since The Cambodian Space Project first played at WOMADelaide and looking back to that time is a reminder of how much has happened and what an extraordinary and unlikely journey we’ve been on. Being at WOMADelaide in 2013 was great and I really do feel that it’s one of the top festivals in the world, but I’d also had the good fortune to be there earlier, with another extraordinary Cambodian Artist – Master Kong Nay. It was an amazing experience to be on the road with the blind master of the Cambodian Chapei Dong Veng – a music and instrument that pre-dates the buddha’s enlightenment. We stayed in the Adelaide Hilton with just a small team of us from Cambodia, while on the same floor the rooms were full with Romanian gypsy band Taraf de Haïdouks (Gypsy Kings) – what a combo! Following on from the shows in Australia we continued to Taranaki, NZ where there’s also another brilliant WOMAD Festival.
The show for master Kong Nay in New Zealand and the WOMAD festival situated in the gardens under the volcano in Taranaki was just spectacular. The master was joined on stage by Kiwi music legend Neil Finn who made a surprise appearance and of course, an interesting fusion. For me and Channthy the friendship with master Kong Nay and his family has remained strong to this day and over the years we’ve also met up and created some cool, cross-genre/culture jams and releases, not least WOMEN a great track on a cd called 3 Songs for Human Rights produced by The Bophana Centre in Phnom Penh.
Channthy returned to WOMADelaide in 2015 with her Sydney-based hip-hop group Astronomy Class and again to home of the WOMAD festivals in the UK at another very memorable occasion – headlining the BBC Charlie Gillett Stage and having the set recorded and broadcast live.
In many ways the idea or definition of ‘what is World Music?’ has changed over the years, especially since the time when Peter Gabriel launched the first coined the term and launched WOMAD Festival in 1980. This change is well represented the 2024 line-up WOMADelaide has assembled – an absolutely brilliant line-up from legends such as Gilberto Gil through to new comers and excellent Australian acts such as our faves The Black Jesus Experience and others like Ibbio Sound Machine…produced ‘world grooves’ a world away from the idea of ethno-folk in the 70’s and 80’s… but there’s also plenty of good reason to reminisce and hark back to that time too.
We’re just thrilled to be able to carry on the torch of Kak Channthy and all the great Cambodian artists, and to bring into the mix our own new CSP updated set, sounds and style for 2024. This of course, is made exciting by our recent recruiting of Adelaide-based Khmer Aussie songstress Thyda Chea, and our recent shows at OZ Asia Festival and touring Cambodia earlier this year.
It’s a then and now feeling as new and dates of venues come together here at CSP HQ, in the studio/office at Fish Island Community Arts Centre. We’ve always operated as a family in CSP land and this time the opportunity to go on a new international tour means that we’ll be looking for chance to bring some great new talent aboard the CSP and create the chance for our new members to gain life-changing experience and join us on stage.
While it’s not yet confirmed, we’ll be looking a bringing several guest singers and musicians traveling from Cambodia to perform at WOMADelaide then tour with the CSP with dates in Victoria, ACT, and NSW now coming online. We’re not ready to announce the full tour but can tell you that it will include some awesome venues and festivals along the way. We’re chuffed to make return to the Theatre Royal in Castlemaine and also to play for the very first time Airey’s Inlet Festival. I’m sure this will be an absolute blast! and a great location for some cool snaps of our entourage enjoying site-seeing at one of Australia’s most iconic locations at the 12 Apostles on Great Ocean Road.
Packing in some creative prep at Fish Island Records
Jumping forward to right now… we’ve been hunkering down in the ‘yellow sub’ here at Fish Island Community Arts Centre and working on all kinds of stuff… basically, the mission’s been to open our doors to local music makers and those from our fishing and farming neighbourhood who’d like the chance to try out their stuff. With Dave Anderson here on his 2nd visit, we’re essentially recording Cambodia – from tik tok influencers to wedding singers to new and up and coming writers and creatives – while also prepping up plans for live shows with The Cambodian Space Project.
It’s been a super fun and busy time and you can see in these short video clips the range of local talent coming aboard.
For the CSP the challenge is massaging a lot of old and new material together and creating new touring shows. As many of you will know, we’ve really only just had the chance to return to live shows and touring and this came about through happenstance and the good fortune to re-think what our stage show might look like while collaboration with brilliant creature design/puppeteers A Blanck Canvas on our “Rat Catcher of Angkor Wat” immersive theatre show.
It’s all work-in-progress of course, but even the new starting point with the Rat Catcher has had a wonderful ripple effect – most recently in supporting our young visual artists here at FICAC to dream up, imagine and create their own funky costume designs, using found objects and trash. Taking our Salt Fields Trash Fashion kids on tour with the CSP earlier this year was a blast! but this aspect of the project is ever expanding and shape shifting into very funky new frontiers.
With our Australian Tour now set to happen across March – April, you can expect to see The Cambodian Space Project in different guises and playing sets of music that spans our catalogue, ranging from Cambodian dance hits of the 60s Golden Era through to present day.
We’re looking forward to performing music from our forthcoming Golden Phoenix LP and again working with guest musicians, including Jack Howard’s brass section, and dancers joining the show in Australia. Our WOMADelaide shows will be a great example of all the above and will bring together Cambodian dancers from the SA community on stage with our touring party.
Preparing for Blast Off!
Right now we’re in the studio working with talent young singer Ahwin. Ahwin’s a star on the rise – that’s for sure! From the moment she walked into the studio here at Fish Island we knew we wanted to work with her and record her excellent vocals on some of the Cambodian classics CSP had tracked earlier in the year, as well as try her out on new, original material plus some well known covers that aren’t Cambodian songs. Check out Ahwin tracking here:
Fish Island World Music Festival
Fish Island or Traeuy Kaoh as it’s really known, is a great place for a little festival. Already, this little island situated in the middle of Kampot’s mighty Praek Tuek Chhu river which snakes down from high in the Elephant mountains and wraps itself around Traeuy Kaoh as it spills out into the Gulf of Thailand. It’s a beautiful setting and a diverse community of Cham, Khmer and international expats. But really, this new festival idea is a small and humble beginning and, while it’s happening over the Xmas NY holiday season, it’s also purposeful in that it will start an ongoing and sustainable festival of music, arts, cuisine and culture right here at Fish Island Community Arts Centre.
It’s a great way for us to show and exhibition many new works by our local artists and crafts people and especially new music that is being produced and recorded right here at the Yellow Sub Studio, new music cooked fresh! right out of the studio door and onto the stage here at FICAC. In fact, we launched FICAC in December on 2029 with just a stage and a training kitchen/restaurant built on a reclaimed rice paddy. This memorable occasion, launched our community arts focus with a concert called Cambodian Women of Song – what a wonderful way to start a journey that is already yielding great creative results and turning this place into a very funky, vibrant little arts village.
Fish Island World Music Festival kicks off Dec 29 and runs through until Jan 01. More details on program and ticketing coming up Dec 4th. Meanwhile, check out rising star Ahwin who steps aboard The Cambodian Space Project with this rocksteady classic by The Paragons and made famous by Blondie and returned to Fish Island where we’re keeping out of the rain and staying above the high tides.
Show some love! support CSP and buy the new T-shirt now instock
Awesome shirts – from Fish Island Records to The Cambodian Space Project and a few other faves from Link Wray to Lux Interior to Elvis! Order here from our online shop, choose your size and shirt options, and have delivered straight to your door – anywhere in the world. Click on the link below:
Meet the Lady Boss! Sina Assia
Here’s a very cool clip and new track from ASSIA SINA also known as UN Samphors. Samphors has been producing some great stuff over the years as part of the Yab Moung crew and in this clip she’s even joined by her very talent son Daro.
We’ve recently had the pleasure of having both Samphor and Daro along with his musical twin Tola here at Fish Island Community Arts Centre. We’ve got a collaboration taking shape with each of Samphors, Daro and Tola laying down vocal parts on The Cambodian Space Project’s forthcoming Golden Phoenix LP. More cool stuff to come!
Wrapping it up!
Well, it’s Dec 1 and I doubt there’ll be another chance to share our news and new stories until sometime in January so wishing you all a great Xmas and New Year and if you’re in Cambodia, or anywhere near, come and help us celebrate all the good stuff – a world of new and old music, delicious food thanks to the multi-talents of FICAC founder Kek Soon, and the FICAC artists visual art works, costumes designs and a whole lot more at our first little music and arts fest – or should I say feast!
On that note, I’m going to leave you with a great little commentary from record producer Dave Anderson. Dave’s been an invaluable part of our journey and on his second residency here, is producing “Cambodian Crossroads”, the first offical release coming out of Fish Island Records and the Yellow Sub Studio. But hey! even the best sound engineers gotta stop for lunch sometime, so check out Dave, reporting in from the incredible, famous, Kep crab market where, in my mind, he’s the Anthony Bourdain of garage rock’n’roll, waxing lyrical on new sounds (and fish) cooked fresh! right here in Cambodia, here on Fish Island, right outta the Yellow Sub wok!