Miss Sarawan: ‘Sounds of The Golden Era’
Miss Sarawan Band at Queen’s Birthday Party for British Embassy, Phnom Penh.
Combination of Cambodian and Western songs, singing in Khmer and English language. Upbeat, happy style, popular with both Cambodian and foreigner audience.
Performances of Note:
Watch on YouTube:
For the past few months in Phnom Penh we have missed the familiar metallic chime of the four-string ‘plectrum’ banjo, in trademark ‘Chicago’ tuning (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banjo#Four-string_banjos), accompanied by a steady stream of New York City banter. Richard Pearl has been away working in Hanoi, Vietnam – and how we have missed him!
“It is not easy to describe in words what this man can produce with a banjo, a microphone and a few pre-recorded backing tracks. Richard is a musical entertainer with a unique act honed over many years in Las Vegas showrooms, New York City clubs and luxury cruise liner ballrooms. Check out his website to get a flavour of his style.” – https://www.lengpleng.com/2015/10/weekly-wrap-commencing-thursday-1st.html
When Richard visited Phnom Penh in late 2015, he hooked up with guitarist Joe Wrigley and violinist Steve Sutcliffe to form The Blueberry Moonboys:
The band was named for their first gig, in November 2015, at ‘Blue Moon Night’ ‘Le Moon Terrace Bar‘ on the Phnom Penh riverside – with a respectful nod towards Fats Domino (Blueberry Hill) and Bill Monroe (Blue Moon of Kentucky). The packed audience on the rooftop of the Amanjaya Hotel were dazzled by The Blueberry Moonboys‘ combination of lighting-fast banjo runs, groovy rhythm guitar and silky-smooth electric violin. The Boys immediately established themselves as a very dynamic trio with a fast-moving set-list and varied repertoire: all-time classic tunes from the great Broadway and show tradition of New York City, swing-jazz workouts, rock’n’roll and country-music classics.
Richard ‘Banjoman’ Pearl uses his vast performance experience to keep things lively and entertaining at every show. While each song is meticulously worked out and rehearsed by the band, Richard will sometimes surprise everyone by ‘going with the flow’ and trying something new. He always seems to know what the audience will respond to. At a private wedding show at the Knai Bang Chatt resort in Kep, Richard took control of the stage and called out a quick succession of songs just as the guests were starting to ‘warm up’ the dancefloor. By the time Richard was finished, they were head over heels!
Upon Richard’s return from Hanoi to Phnom Penh in May 2016, The Blueberry Moonboys decided that they needed to expand the group and create an even better sound – by adding a superb drummer and percussionist. Enter Antti Siitonen from Finland. With Richard, Joe and Steve all able to turn their hand to bass guitar, the Moonboys are now even hotter than ever. As the guests at the wedding found out, the band are creating good-time music that makes people dance, smile and enjoy themselves.
Catch the Blueberry Moonboys show to find out what the fuss is all about. The band will be rocking the rooftop at ‘Blue Moon Night‘ at Le Moon Terrace Bar on Thursday the 12th May from 7pm.
Catch the superb solo act of Richard Pearl at the ‘Miss Sarawan & Friends’ evening of live music at Duplex in Phnom Penh on Saturday the 14th May from 8pm.
On Thursday the 28th April, Miss Sarawan brought her full band out for a very special occasion. The British Embassy were holding their annual ‘QBP’ event in the plush surroundings of the grand ballroom of the Intercontinental Hotel in Phnom Penh. Running from 630pm until 830pm, the event was in honour of the ninetieth birthday of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The Pimms and Gin and Tonics were flowing as Ambassador Bill Longhurst and a host of dignitaries from around the globe toasted to another year of co-operation between the British and Cambodian governments.
Meanwhile, Miss Sarawan Band warmed up with a set of elegant songs such as ‘Own Skol Jet Bong’ (El Condor Pasa, in Cambodian Language) and lead guitarist Jeff Sleeman’s instrumental arrangement of ‘Price Tag’.
Later on, the party really started when the band rocked out with classic Cambodian rock’n’roll songs.
The audience of 600 guests were wowed when Jeff and Joe broke into their own Cambodian-language rendition of ‘Jeas Cyclo’ by Yual Aularong.
As this was a British do, it was only fitting to play some classic British songs. Miss Sarawan Band regaled the esteemed audience with classy versions of ‘Norwegian Wood’ and ‘Hard Day’s Night’ by the Beatles.
Later on, the band impessed the crowd with a ‘mash-up’ of Gary Numan’s ‘Cars’ with The Kinks’ ‘You Really Got Me’. By this time, the dancers were tearing up the floor!
A few songs later, Miss Sarawan Band brought the house down with their Cambodian-English version of Jambalaya. The show was done and the only thing left to do was to enjoy some Fish’n’Chips, Cornish Pasties and Millionaire Shortbread.
They say that the only way to get really good at playing music is to play with people at a higher experience or skill level than yourself. I completely agree, which is why I love playing with the Mekong Messengers. Let me tell you a little bit about the players in this band:
ALL PICTURES BY STEVE PORTE
Lead Vocals: Kristen Rasmussen
Have you heard her sing? Let me save a few hundred words trying to explain Kristen’s vocal range, power and phrasing and just come and hear her sing at our next gig! She is from the U.S. but has spent most of her life in Asia. She had her first taste of fame as a child on a Singporean talent show. She is a classically trained professional singer but chose to pursue a different career as a ‘day-job’. The band Mekong Messengers is her labour of love and her passion in Phnom Penh. She loves ‘Americana’ music. She can reduce grown men to tears with her tender renditions of soul ballads and she can make an entire room full of people spontaneously get up and dance when she hits a big rock’n’roll number.
Lead Guitar: Pavel ‘zargz’ Ramirez
Pavel is a completely dedicated musician. Every waking hour of his life is spent walking down the road of musical excellence. He has a huge depth of knowledge of the guitar fretboard and spends his days figuring out melodies, hooks and riffs. He spends his nights in the bars and restaurants of Phnom Penh entertaining all-comers with his latest tricks. Pavel loves the classic rock, pop and Latin music of the 1960’s and 1970’s. His guitar style is very smooth, easy-on-the-ear, melodic and sympathetic. Unlike many ‘expert’ guitar players, he is not stingy with his knowledge – every time I play with Pavel, I learn something.
Bass Guitar: ‘Ten’ AKA ‘Millenium’
Ten comes from a very musical family. His older brothers are in the premier Cambodian rock band ‘Cartoon Emo’. This may go some way to explaining why Ten is very modest about his prodigous bass guitar-playing ability. I challenge you to listen to him during a Mekong Messengers gig and identify even one note played out-of-time. His nimble fingers can play high-speed rock and and funk licks that most bass players couldn’t manage with a high-density pick and a dose of salts. Not that he needs to play all that ‘fancy’ stuff in the Mekong Messengers, where his role his mostly to lock in with rhythm guitar and drums and keep the groove going.
Drums: ‘Tip’ Kim
Another full-time pro on the Cambodian music scene, ‘Tip’ is a drummer in demand – travelling up and down the country playing the big outdoor shows and studio productions that you see every day on Cambodian television. I’m not quite sure how he manages to fit in monthly Mekong Messengers shows alongside all his TV work and other gigs but he does it with consumate ease! A very versatile drummer, he has every song scored out and prepared on paper before the show. It is easy for him to turn from funky breakbeats to Latin rhythms to Khmer romvong at the drop of a hi-hat… and, most importantly for the rockabilly songs of the Mekong Messengers, he can play a mean ‘train’ beat!
My job is to chunk out some chords somewhere in-between Ten (bass) and Pavel (lead guitar), add a little backing vocals to Kristen’s (lead vocals) choruses and move around a little bit to Tip’s beats (I wouldn’t call it dancing). It’s not a difficult job because the other players are so good at what they do. In fact, they actually make me look good. Sometimes, they will throw me a solo or let me sing a song just for a bit of fun. I love playing with The Mekong Messengers!
ALL PHOTOS BY STEVE PORTE, captured at Sharky Bar on the 18th of March 2016.
The Mekong Messengers play Sharky Bar each month and appear at other venues around Phnom Penh.
The Mekong Messengers will play ‘Blue Moon Night‘ at Le Moon Terrace Bar this Friday the 8th April, at 7pm.
We are excited to announce that Joe Wrigley & the Jumping Jacks are back this Friday on Bassac Lane for the first time in 2016.
They’re geared up to smash out some classic and we can’t wait. Bring your dancing shoes, this ones going to be a screamer!
Entrance is FREE
Coming for Dinner: Meat & Drink will be serving their delicious burgers, wraps & salads accross the lane & our new Bassac Lane Nibbles Menu will also be available everywhere.
Coming for Drinks: Seibur, Cicada, The Library, Harry’s, Hangar 44 & Meat & Drink have something for everyone!
Coming for Dancing: Bring it on!
Alley Cat is proud to bring back Phnom Pehn’s hardest working musician, JOE WRIGLEY!
“Joe Wrigley is a singer-songwriter from the UK, & is the driving force behind two of Phnom Penh’s most popular bands: the Cambodian-Western crossover of Miss Sarawan and the power-rockabilly of Joe Wrigley & The Jumping Jacks. With a highly entertaining solo acoustic show, Joe explores many of his own compositions – along with alternative-classic songs from the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. Every song is delivered with a unique style which lies somewhere between Buddy Holly and Syd Barrett! The set is a lot of fun and a chance to hear great songs you will not hear played live anywhere else.”
FREE cup of chili for everyone here when the music starts and $1 tequila shots all night!
‘Celebrate American Independence Day at Doors Music & Tapas with a high-energy performance from Joe Wrigley & The Jumping Jacks. The band pay raucous tribute to the best of ‘Americana’ music : Country, Rockabilly-Swing and Rock’n’Roll.
Joe Wrigley has taken his guitar all around the world looking for musicians to share his love of Rockabilly music. The band Joe Wrigley & The Jumping Jacks is the result of one man’s obsession with a certain period of Rock’n’Roll history in between the energetic Country music of Hank Williams and the British Beat Groups of the early 1960’s. Joe continues to search for the magical 1950’s sound of Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and Buddy Holly that never fails to fill the dance floor and bring a smile to the audience.
Listen on soundcloud:
watch on youtube:
Joe Wrigley and the Jumping Jacks Live at Equinox, Phnom Penh
Event Date: Friday 4th July 2014
Event Time: 9.30pm – 11.30pm
Entry Fee: Free
Joe & The Jumping Jacks are always looking to carve a new niche in the Cambodian music scene. When the cool dudes who run Hangar 44, Meat & Drink, The Library (and several other hip bars along Bassac Lanes ) were searching for a live band to brighten up their weekends, they talked to Joe!
There is nothing standard about this set-up. The ‘stage’ is an empty shop unit which is the same size as a small garage and, bedecked with rusted corrugated iron, looks like one. The stage lighting is by handheld industrial lamps. The audience is a heady brew of expats and visitors mingling with the local families and children. Everybody dances.
The Jumping Jacks team bring all their own equipment – drums, amplifiers, PA system, etc etc etc. For the duration of the gig, Bassac Lanes is transformed into a ‘Garage Rock’ party!
Somehow, this formula really works well and each Jumping Jacks gig is a massive street party. See you at Bassac Lanes on Saturday the 26th of March at 8pm for the next show!