Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Biggest ever

The PPCFC first-team at the Smart-PPCFC press conference
Phnom Penh Crown have signed what is believed to be the biggest sponsorship deal in domestic Cambodia League history as they join forces with telecoms giant Smart Axiata in a 3-year deal for an undisclosed sum. Smart will be the name on their jerseys from next season as well as joining Crown for community and CSR initiatives. Here's the 1st-Team joining in the press conference at RSN.

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Old exhibits

Nick Ray (left) and you know who (click to enlarge)
The Jar Lady, aka Nancy Beavan, exhibits her discoveries at the National Museum in Phnom Penh for the next three months in an exhibition titled “Living in the Shadow of Angkor”. I've visited a few of these ancient jar sites within the Cardamom Mountains and they are pretty inaccessible and highly unusual. Nancy has spent ten years researching the ancient burial rituals with jars and wooden coffins in locations dotted around the Cardamom region. Here's a photo of Nick Ray and myself at the official opening, taken by Sotheavy Nou.

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Secret Phnom Penh

A new book by Steven Boswell called King Norodom’s Head: Phnom Penh Sights Beyond the Guidebooks, is published this month by NIAS, with 200 photos/maps and 320 pages. It isn't your usual guidebook - instead focusing on off-beat stories about the capital. The reader will learn among other things like the whereabouts of the gold of King Ang Duong and of Madame Chum’s infamous opium den, the story behind the mysterious Frenchman buried on Wat Phnom’s hill, and the secret reason behind Jackie Kennedy’s 1967 trip to Cambodia.

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Wat Po Veal

I've always had a soft spot for Battambang. For many reasons. One is its museums. Including the long-forgotten one at Wat Po Veal. 
The PPPost now opens the doors of this cobwebbed-storage facility for ancient relics @ http://www.phnompenhpost.com/post-week…/inside-secret-museum
And you can read about my visit there in 2006 @http://andybrouwer.co.uk/battmus.html


Saturday, September 26, 2015

All It Takes

Here it is....the music video of Savy's latest single, All It Takes.
A beautiful song.

Breaking News!
Khmer-American pop singer Savy's latest single and music video - 'All It Takes' - can be seen on CTN, MyTV and Sabay every day, ahead of its release in the USA and everywhere else including iTunes, on 25 September. This is a real exclusive for Cambodia with the song set to be released as a ringback tone very soon. Savy will also be in the studio soon to record a version in Khmer. Her previous singles, About A Boy and Zero G will be released in a few weeks too. So keep your eyes and ears open for Savy's 'All It Takes'...


Friday, September 25, 2015

Mount Everest

Hats off to my favourite Indian curry restaurant, Mount Everest on street 294. I've been a regular customer for the past eight years, enjoying their outstanding curries and friendly service, and when i walked in with my arm in plaster a couple of days ago, they refused to take any cash for my regular takeaway and sent me on my way. They repeated the same thing tonight and said they just wanted to help. At this rate i could be eating curry every day for the next five weeks smile emoticon Seriously, they get the award for friendliest curry restaurant of the week/month/year in my book. Mount Everest - best curries in Phnom Penh.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Oscar nomination

The Last Reel is Cambodia's Oscar Nomination for 2016. 
The Last Reel has been officially chosen by the Cambodia Oscar Selection Committee (COSC) to represent Cambodia for the 'Best Foreign Language Film' Award of the 88th Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles in 2016. “I am so grateful to the Cambodia Oscar Selection Committee for choosing The Last Reel to represent Cambodia for the Foreign Language Film Award at the 2016 Oscars,” said The Last Reel Director Sotho Kulikar. “This film was made by Cambodians with a Cambodian audience in mind, but the themes are universal and it has been embraced around the world, as well as here at home,” she continued. “I am extremely proud to represent Cambodia, the Cambodian people and the Cambodian film industry at the 88th Oscars,” she added, “I love my country and an award for The Last Reel is an award for Cambodia.”
Now that The Last Reel has been submitted to The Academy for consideration in the Foreign Language Film Award category of the Oscars, everyone must wait to see if it will be chosen as a final nominee for an Oscar. First, all the films in this category are reviewed and nine films are shortlisted. Of these, the final 5 official nominees are chosen, which will be voted on by Academy members for the Oscar-winning film.
The Last Reel is out now in all leading Cambodian cinemas, including Major Cineplex by Cellcard at Aeon Mall; Legend Cinemas at TK Avenue, City Mall and Stung Meanchey; and Platinum Cineplex Sorya and Platinum Cineplex in Siem Reap.


Friday, September 18, 2015

Bad news

okay, the bad news first. A dog decided to freeze in the middle of the road, sending me over the handlebars of my moto. Resulting in a double fracture of my left elbow. Dr Vuthy, definitely recommended, put it in plaster for up to six weeks at 7am today. He's head of pediatric surgery so i'm in good hands. Unfortunately its the same elbow i seriously fractured 42 years ago, which is why you can see a pin on the x-ray. Yes it's still there all these years later, in those days they left them in! This time the fractures are small by comparison, but will need time to heal, hence the plaster cast. Massive appreciation to Rumnea for her care and attention. Now, the good news - there isn't any!


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Finding myself in Finding Zero

Big thanks to author Amir Aczel for including my small part in his search to uncover the origins of numbers, in his recently released book, Finding Zero (publishers: palgrave macmillan: 242 pages). He even added a photo. Amir has written a riveting account of his search for the origin of numerals but it's the search for the earliest recorded zero that brought him to Cambodia and our meeting, which he records in detail. As for the earliest zero - it was on a stone inscription from an Angkorian temple that Amir finally tracked down to the Angkor Conservation office in Siem Reap. You might say he's the Indiana Jones of mathematics. You can get a copy of Finding Zero at Monument Books, of course.

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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Locating Trapeang Sva

Inside the stupa at Trapeang Sva
One of the scenes in The Last Reel, currently being shown in cinemas in Cambodia, was set at a genocide memorial in the ricefields of Takeo. Yesterday, I visited one such memorial in the Tonle Bati area, which was in my mind when I submitted examples of memorials to the film's director a couple of years ago, as part of the movie's historical research. This one at Sala Trapeang Sva has changed since my last visit in 2008. Then, it was located in remote scrub-land but is now close to newly-built homes and a drug rehab center. The writing on the memorial stupa indicated it was built in 1999, there was no lock on the door and the shrine was full to brimming with human bones and a few skulls. DC-Cam records indicate that more than 95 mass grave pits were discovered at the site and around 10,000 victims were killed during the Khmer Rouge regime in the immediate vicinity. The wall paintings in the open-sided sala next to the stupa were created in 2004 and 2011, showing scenes reminiscent in style to those painted by Vann Nath that hang in the Tuol Sleng Museum in Phnom Penh. Most of the memorials around the country, similar to this one, lie largely forgotten and neglected.


Day trip

Rumnea at Tonle Bati
Rumnea enjoyed her first-ever visits to Phnom Chisor and Tonle Bati and places in between yesterday, despite the danger posed by my first trip outside the city in charge of the moto. However, she was disappointed with the attitude of the 'temple guardians' at Prasat Tonle Bati (Ta Prohm) who were more interested in getting money ('loy') from visitors than tending to the temple and then speaking rudely when no loy was forthcoming. They reminded me of the three witches/hags from Macbeth, grumbling over their boiling cauldron, who later began arguing amongst themselves over the size of their cut from the day's proceedings. Here's Rumnea next to the temple's excellent carving of the Churning of the Sea of Milk. Beware the hags at Tonle Bati.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Coffee time

A lovely start to the day, a coffee with my god-daughter Vansy (in purple), her younger sister Matey, youngest brother and cousin Nin.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Number 1

Guess what recently topped Lonely Planet's list of the 500 best experiences on the planet. Correct. Angkor. Or as Nick Ray exclaims in this video. "Put them altogether, there's no debate. It's No 1." See what he has to say on the LP YouTube @ https://youtu.be/dCxkcDuW7AY

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Coming Home - The Last Reel

The Last Reel (www.thelastreel.info), an award-winning Cambodian movie produced by Hanuman Films, will be in cinemas in Cambodia from Friday 4 September 2015, including Major Cineplex, Platinum Cineplexes and Legend Cinemas. 
The Last Reel is one of the first feature films to be directed by a Cambodian woman, Sotho Kulikar, and was shot entirely on location in Cambodia with a cast of leading local talent, including screen legend Dy Saveth, rising star Ma Rynet and Ros Mony.
"A lost film buried beneath the Killing Fields reveals different versions of the truth. In an abandoned cinema, rebellious teenager Sophoun discovers an old film starring her mother, offering her the chance to dictate her own destiny at last, but at the cost of uncovering some dark secrets from the past about her parents lives during the Khmer Rouge regime."
The Last Reel has already won multiple international awards, including the 'Spirit of Asia' Award for Director Sotho Kulikar at the Tokyo International Film Festival in Japan in October 2014; the ‘Best Supporting Actor’ Award for Sok Sothun at the Asean International Film Festival & Awards in Malaysia in April 2015; and the ‘Black Dragon’ Award at the Far East Film Festival in Italy in May 2015.
The Hollywood Reporter
“With The Last Reel, Cambodian cinema’s resurgence as a filmmaking force continues apace... Sotho Kulikar conjures remarkable performances from her lead actresses in an attempt to reflect historical schisms through the tropes of rebellious-daughter family drama.”
Watch the official trailer for The Last Reel: https://youtu.be/Gii_klcdikY

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Saturday, August 15, 2015


In the SOS clinic
Not how I would wish to spend 12 hours, hooked up to monitors, ultrasound at Calmette, x-rays and tests at SOS international clinic. Chronic stabbing pains just under my heart at 9pm yesterday and really appreciate Rumnea's fast reaction to help me, doubled-up, to SOS. Turned out to be a stomach problem rather than heart or lungs, but quite a scare after many years of pretty good health. We can't take anything for granted. Must say the bedside manner of Dr Zerby at SOS was excellent.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Temple in the clouds

Catching up with John Burgess
The re-arranged talk about his new book, Temple in the Clouds, saw author John Burgess recount Preah Vihear's full history, ancient and modern (in brief) at Meta House on Tuesday. It was good to catch up with John and to hear more of his passion for his topics.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Footy selfies

I keep getting dragged into selfies on the pitch after Phnom Penh Crown games. Our fans are really making a difference this year with their vocal support and we remain in 2nd place in the league table, unbeaten after 12 matches.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Facebook - friend or foe?

Facebook - friend or foe? It seems there's an open season, via facebook, by anyone with a grudge, and I seem to have developed a few football enemies recently. Individuals like Sopheaktra Phea and Sam Vandeth have been having a poke at me (the latter even exaggerated his poke by going on television and calling me out) and I am torn between defending my reputation or ignoring their puerile and baseless rants. To-date I've bitten my tongue and done the latter, but it's tiresome in the extreme to have these people poisoning my breathing space. One of their claims is that I look down on Khmer people, which is ridiculous in the extreme, as anyone who knows me, will agree. They have no idea that in the 1990s/2000s, my website on my travels around Cambodia was one of the first by a western traveller to bring the beauty and majesty of Cambodia and her lovely people to a western audience, and that I am the editor of a book, To Cambodia With Love, in which I express my sincere affection for the country and its inhabitants through its 240 pages. My intro for the books says it all:
'This is not a definitive guide to Cambodia. Far from it. It is about inspiration, discovery, sharing, and above all else, a love and a respect for a country that has changed my life forever, as I hope it will change yours.'
People like Sopheaktra Phea and Sam Vandeth have no idea what this country means to me. And they will never understand because they have their own agendas.

Footnote: There were more lies spouted on TV again today, on a second football program. The attacks are very personal and completely without foundation or merit. However I refuse to be drawn into a tit-for-tat public showdown.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Meet Jacqueline Bhagavan

Jacqueline Bhagavan - Mrs California-America
Jacqueline Bhagavan has just been crowned Mrs California-America and talks here of her roots in Cambodia and what the beauty pageant title represents. You can find out more about her at www.complexionkitchen.com. She's been involved in numerous charities and advocates for cancer research and empowering women. As hostess of Complexion Kitchen on YouTube, she supports a healthy lifestyle and eating habits.

Q. Where were you born? A. I was born in Pailin, Cambodia.
Q. What are your earliest memories from childhood? A. My early memories have been of struggles, poverty, having to escape my birth country, and finally finding peace in America. Luckily, my parents have made it very palpable for us, giving us unconditional love that made the pain and struggles we experienced as children pale in comparison.
Q. How old were you came to America? A. I was 6 years old. We settled in Houston, Texas.
Q. What were your struggles as a child seeking refuge in America? A. My family and I came to America, like all Khmer refugees, settling in the new homeland, and facing many obstacles with the new language and culture. My father had to find odd jobs to support a family of nine. He and my mother had seven children to take care of and they both worked hard to insure we got the right education to step out from the poverty. 
Q. What are the greatest obstacles you have overcome in your life and how have they shaped you? A. As a child, I had a few set backs with my physical growth and emotional drama.  I was malnourished and had observed such trauma in my life. During our escape, my parents hired two personal guides to help us reach the Thai border. There, I witnessed one of the guides not only rob us and spare our lives, but he took the life of his partner, shot him in broad day light. Although, these blockages and life's suffering did not deter me from having courage and finding my purpose. The malnourishment I experienced as a child prevented me from having hair growth until I was six years old. I also had to play catch up in my ability to process the aptitude needed for school. All of these delayed mental and physical developments did not prevent from becoming successful. I was always a fighter, a go-getter even as a child. Once we got to America and settled, eventually I caught up with other students, and was given an IQ test.  Overnight, I was admitted to the gifted program called G.A.T.E. (Gifted And Talented Education), and my intellectual capacity was unstoppable. Even today, I never make an excuse for why I can't be successful. I stayed focused, endured, I was persistent and  determined to be a success!
Q. Who are your role models? A. My mother and father are my role models. They instilled in me and my siblings the golden values of education, compassion, love, charity and service to others.
Q. What inspired you to pursue the Mrs. California America crown? A. It has always been a dream of mine to be Mrs. California-America as a way to help the American family because this country has generously given so much to me and my family. Family is my top priority. As Mrs. California-America I want to share with married women the importance of taking care of yourself and your family even on a budget with limited time. I have personal experience in what takes to pull a family out of poverty and how important community help can be. I personally believe that anyone given the right education, skills and opportunity deserves an opportunity to succeed. It's important for me to share with others my message of inner beauty, strength, compassion and to never give up on your dreams.
Q. What thoughts did you have in that crowning moment? A. It was a proud moment for me to be crowned Mrs. California-America.  I did not realized I was a winner until I felt the crown on my head.
Q. What values are you most passionate about promoting as Mrs California America? A. The values of family and being together is what I'm promoting.  Also I want to share with married women the importance of taking care of themselves and their family on a budget and with limited time.  Additionally, as a YouTube host of the web show "Complexion Kitchen", I want share with busy moms and women my tips and recipes for cooking healthy meals for their families and helping them be their best, inside and out.
Q. What is your definition of beauty? A. I think true beauty is not only of the physical aspect, but it is much deeper in the soul, your spirit.
Q. How do you view your new responsibility of being a role model? A. I think being a role model is a huge responsibility, one cannot take that role lightly. I think the best role models are your life line circle- your family.
Q. Of what accomplishments are you most proud? A. I am a family woman, and family is my priority above all else. My husband and I work hard to create the foundation of love for our children; this accomplishment is one I am very proud of. In addition to being a mother, creating a show that helps the modern mother.
Q. What Cambodian values have helped you achieve the American dream? A. My parents always stress on having a great education, and that knowledge is not fleeting. Your possessions can be removed and taken away, but not your knowledge. Another value is being honest and having integrity. If you are honest with your intentions, you create a reality that is real and pure. Be true, be real and honest with what you can and cannot do, and coupling that with hard work and humility.

Q. What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow their dreams as you have? A. Be you, be real, be honest, take risks, have courage (be fearless) and never undermine your integrity. Work hard and have a vision as to why you really want to compete or go for what you are seeking.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Caught in the act

Two more pics, one on the touchlines and one in the office.


Friday, July 17, 2015

Taking aim

I seem to be doing a lot of this recently with the Cambodian football season squashed into a few months, we have matches every weekend and in the middle of the week. I'm in the red jersey on the far right. Sorry but the picture was sent to me and I don't have the name of the photographer.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Short hop

With my colleagues Heang and Dany at the meeting
Popped over to Malaysia for a football meeting on the Asia Champions Trophy Under-18s. Spent a night in Melaka/Malacca and then a night at the airport hotel after missing our Air Asia flight by five minutes. Five blinking minutes. Had a quick whiz around Melaka at night to see a few of the Unesco World Heritage sites but must admit, I wasn't too overwhelmed, though I have been weaned on Angkor, so everything else can't really compare. Looked after well by Frenz our hosts and now looking forward to the competition that begins in August with a visit of our Academy to Japan to play Kashima Antlers.
Melaka's Christ Church at night

The clocktower in front of Christ Church

Confirmation of Melaka's heritage status

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Burgess & Preah Vihear - Cancelled

John Burgess at Meta House Wed 29 July
Author John Burgess will discuss his new book about Preah Vihear - Temple in the Clouds - on Wed 29 July at Meta House.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Time Out picks The Last Reel

Legendary actress Dy Saveth plays the mother in The Last Reel
Time Out New York Picks The Last Reel as one of its Top 10 Films, no less!
The New York Asian Film Festival (‪#‎NYAFF‬) gets underway in NYC and Time Out New York has picked The Last Reel as one of their Top 10 films at the festival: http://www.timeout.com/newyork/movies/the-10-best-movies-at-the-2015-new-york-asian-film-festival
Showtime for The Last Reel is 8.15pm on Sunday 5 July at the Film Society of the Lincoln Center, NY.
If you have been living under a rock in recent months, I will recap. The Last Reel is a story of love, life and a broken society trying to heal by first-time Cambodian female director Kulikar Sotho. It is on the film festival circuit all over the globe at the moment - winning prizes in Tokyoand Italy and will be out in Cambodian cinemas from 4 September. Visit the film's website @ http://www.thelastreel.info. 

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Monday, June 29, 2015

New season to begin soon

I try to avoid too much talk on football on this blog, but due to changing my job to being the full-time media man for Phnom Penh Crown, my time has been spent on little else this past month. Especially as the Cambodian football season will begin in earnest this Thursday with our first game at our new RSN Stadium in Toul Kork (pictured above). I urge any Phnom Penh-based readers to come along and watch under the lights at 6pm. It promises to be SPECTACULAR.
Here are the fixtures for PPCFC this season.
Round 1:
Thu 2 July vs Boeung Ket @ RSN Stadium 6pm *LIVE
Sun 5 July vs Nagaworld @ RSN 6pm
Thu 9 July vs Cambodian Tiger @ RSN 6pm *LIVE
Sun 12 Jul vs Asia Europe @ RSN 6pm
Wed 15 Jul vs Army @ RSN 6pm *LIVE
Sat 18 Jul vs CMAC @ RSN 6pm *LIVE
Thu 23 Jul vs Kirivong @ Tonle Bati 3.30pm
Sat 25 Jul vs Western @ Western Stadium 3.30pm
Wed 29 Jul vs BBU @ RSN 6pm
Sat 1 Aug vs National Police @ Army Stadium 3.30pm *LIVE
Wed 5 Aug vs Svay Rieng @ Svay Rieng 6pm LIVE.
Round 2:
Sat 8 Aug vs Svay Rieng @ RSN 6pm
Wed 12 Aug vs Nagaworld @ Olympic 3.30pm
Sat 15 Aug vs Cambodian Tiger @ Western 3.30pm
Sat 12 Sep vs Asia Europe @ RSN 6pm
Wed 16 Sep vs Army @ Army 3.30pm
Sat 19 Sep vs CMAC @ Olympic 3.30pm *LIVE
Thu 24 Sep vs Kirivong @ RSN 6pm
Sat 26 Sep vs Western @ RSN 6pm
Wed 30 Sep vs BBU @ Olympic 6pm
Sat 17 Oct vs National Police @ RSN 6pm
Thu 22 Oct vs Boeung Ket @ Army 3.30pm.
Play-off dates: 28 & 31 Oct, 21 & 22 Nov and Final on 6 Dec.

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ghost Money by Andrew Nette

Cambodia, 1996, the long-running Khmer Rouge insurgency is fragmenting, competing factions of the unstable government scrambling to gain the upper hand. Missing in the chaos is businessmen Charles Avery. Hired to find him is Vietnamese Australian ex-cop Max Quinlan. But Avery has made dangerous enemies and Quinlan is not the only one looking. Teaming up a Cambodian journalist, Quinlan's search takes him from the freewheeling capital Phnom Penh to the battle scarred western borderlands. As the political temperature soars, he is slowly drawn into a mystery that plunges him into the heart of Cambodia's bloody past. Ghost Money is a crime novel, but it's also about Cambodia in the mid-nineties, a broken country, what happens to those trapped between two periods of history, the choices they make, what they do to survive.  Christopher G Moore, the author of Zero Hour in Phnom Penh says of the book: ‘Ghost Money captures elements of the noir darkness of that unstable, chaotic time of transition during the mid-nineties in Cambodia. Ghost Money is written by Andrew Nette. It was first published in the USA in 2012 and is now re-published by the Hong Kong-based Crime Wave Press.

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Saturday, June 6, 2015

RSN opens its doors

Rumnea as cheerleader
Great opening day on Friday at RSN Stadium. Everything went swimmingly well, despite a 10-minute power cut at half time during PPCFC's 0-0 draw with Frenz United. Chonburi beat Muangthong 5-1 and both games had much to offer the fans.
2nd day of the RSN Youth Cup on Saturday. 2nd goalless draw for the PPCFC Academy, this time against free-scoring Chonburi from Thailand. A very good result for the home side to hold the same team that won 8-3 in Cambodia last year. Now the destination of the cup rests on the final day. PPCFC (on 2pts) meet Muangthong at 6pm, while the two teams on 4pts each meet in what could be the decider at 4pm, Frenz v Chonburi. Worth coming along and seeing these excellent young footballers strutting their stuff at the new RSN Stadium in Toul Kork.
Rumnea has been running around making herself very busy, cheerleading the young fans in the grandstand, helping out with the half-time penalty competition, clocking in the visiting media and still shouting louder than anyone else.

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Friday, June 5, 2015

Krom on

Book this into your diary:
KROM will be live at Meta House on 20 June @ 7PM
A special rare live performance of Phnom Penh band KROM presenting new works from their forthcoming third album Mekong Delta Blues.
Not only will KROM be playing live but they recently released their latest single, CAMBODIA. You can catch the magical Sophea Chamroeun on main vocals, with Christopher Minko backing @ https://metalpostcard.bandcamp.com/album/krom-cambodia. I'm sure you will love it.


Busy bee

Click to enlarge
I've been a bit swamped with changing my job after eight years, waving goodbye to Hanuman Travel and Films, and the first week at Phnom Penh Crown and to cap it all we have a tournament at our new stadium, so its been a bit hectic. Here's the tournament flyer, RSN Youth Cup, with teams from Thailand and Malaysia coming to join PPCFC for a 3-day U-18 tournament this coming weekend. Join us if you can or watch the games live on BTV.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

More Mor

Martin Mor was one of the very best I've seen gracing the comedy stage in Cambodia, as he lifted the lid off tonight's show at Showbox. He could've/should've gone on for much longer as his expletive-laden routine was top class. I watched some of his videos before the gig and he was even better in the flesh so to speak. Loved the way he handled the audience, with his quick wit defeating the beer-influenced front row, whilst engaging others with a deft touch. And not one mention of drugs in his whole set - what a refreshing change. Loved it. More Mor.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Midlands Roots Explosion

A new album, The Midlands Roots Explosion Volume One by Reggae Archive Records, to be released next month in various formats, will be welcomed by all British reggae followers I'm sure. It includes Steel Pulse's first single for the very first time on an album. Here are their sleeve notes in full:
Birmingham may be England's second city but when it comes to reggae music, there are plenty of reasons for it to claim first place. Perhaps no band has done more for British reggae than Steel Pulse whilst Musical Youth, not only found chart success but took reggae to the nation's children in a way no other band could, not forgetting UB40 who also experienced huge international success. These bands didn't exist in isolation, Birmingham and the other towns and cities that make up the Midlands were a powerhouse of British reggae. Finally, it's time to shine the spotlight on some of the lesser known acts that spent years performing and recording without achieving those levels of success.
“The Midlands Roots Explosion Volume One” from Reggae Archive Records, is the first in a series of compilations that hope to showcase some of the unreleased, forgotten and barely known musical gems from what was such a vibrant scene. It's only appropriate that the first volume leads off with the band that put both Handsworth and Birmingham on the musical map, Steel Pulse. We've included the band's first release from 1976, the very scarce “Kibudu – Mansatta - Abuku,” a track that strongly hinted at the heights they would soon reach. As a bonus, we've also included the instrumental version from the original B side; both tracks are making their debut on LP and CD. For those familiar with Musical Youth's later chart hits, “Political” may come as a surprise, with grown up lead vocals by former member of Jamaican hit makers The Techniques, Frederick Waite Snr., and a hard roots edge to the lyrics. This was the band's first release issued on a small Birmingham label and another track worthy of far wider exposure. Steel Pulse and Musical Youth found fame beyond reggae and reached the national charts. Wolverhampton's Capital Letters may have only topped the reggae charts but they were a hugely successful live act in Europe introducing tens of thousands to live reggae. For this release we've been digging in the tape vaults and discovered “I Will Never”. Previously unreleased, this recording has a harder roots edge than their Greensleeves releases and is all the better for it as they slow the tempo down with a celebration of their faith in Jah.

Contemporaries of Steel Pulse and one of Birmingham's leading bands Eclipse, surely deserved more success. Here we've included “Blood Fi Dem” released as a single in 1981 more; great songs from Eclipse can be found on our previous CD release “Corrupted Society”. The formation of Black Symbol was inspired by fellow Handsworth residents Steel Pulse; here we feature “In The Name of Jah” featuring the band at their spiritual best. We also have a track from Black Symbol spin-off group Oneness, with “Rome,” previously only available on a very hard to find 12”. Black Symbol provided the opportunity for many other Handsworth artists to record their music and this compilation features several: Man From The Hills “Redemption Day”, Sceptre “Ancestors Calling”, Benjamin Zephaniah “Unite Handsworth”, Zephaniah “Free Man” and the fantastic and previously unreleased “Instruments” from Mystic Foundation. Why “Instruments” had laid forgotten on the master tape for thirty years, is unknown but it more than earns it's place on this album as a stand out track. More tracks from Black Symbol and the Handsworth bands can be found on our previous releases; “Black Symbol”, Sceptre's “Essence Of Redemption Ina Dif'rent Styley” and the two volumes of “Black Symbol Present Handsworth Explosion”. Handsworth's last but by no means least contribution is from Carnastoan with “Mr. Workhard,” the B side of the band's classic 12” single.

Birmingham's contribution is rounded up by Iganda, a band whose long career sadly only produced one 7” single released in 1979; fortunately it was a classic and here we have the A side “Slow Down” The Midlands are further represented by Leicester's Groundation and the nearly 8 minute long monster of a track that is “Fa-Ward”. We've previously reissued this on 12” and hopefully, there are more recordings to come from the Groundation tape vaults.

“The Midlands Roots Explosion Volume One” is just a snapshot of the abundance of musical talent in the region during the 1970s and 1980s. It barely scratches the surface but even so, it's one of the strongest reggae compilations available and shows that the English Midlands were second to none when it came to roots reggae. With sleeve notes from Jim Weir who was a musician involved in the Birmingham reggae scene, the album will be released on 29th June available on high quality double vinyl in a deluxe gatefold sleeve, on CD and as a digital download.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Seeking wisdom

A story of survival by Pisey Leng, The Wisdom Seeker, was launched yesterday. It's a tale of survival in Cambodia and of how to overcome adversity. Read an article in the New Zealand press, where Pisey now lives @ http://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/news/68624713/memoirs-of-a-cambodian-survivor.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Fulfilling a dream

Big news...for me anyway. After nearly 8 years, man and boy, at Hanuman Travel & Films, I will bid farewell at the end of this month. When I arrived to live full-time in Cambodia in 2007, it was Hanuman who took me under their wing and gave me a new focus, after I had spent 31 years in the Banking industry in England. It has been a very fulfilling 8 years working in the tourism and film industries but now it's time to move on and from the start of next month, I will be working full-time for Phnom Penh Crown FC at our new headquarters at RSN Stadium in Tuol Kork. Having worked part-time and spare time for professional clubs in England and Cambodia for nearly 40 years - loving every minute of it, even the bad times - I always secretly wanted to work full-time in football, so my dream will soon come true. Even at my age, you can still fulfill your dreams. A lesson for all. To mark this occasion, here's a picture of me just after I had started as the programme editor/ public address announcer/ radio presenter/ newspaper journalist for my hometown team in the mid-70s. Doesn't time fly when you are having fun...

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Hanuman comes home

Hanuman comes home to Cambodia
The Cleveland Museum of Art returned a Hanuman sculpture to Cambodia this week. The Ohio museum acquired the one-metre high statue in 1982. But it now believes that it was “in all likelihood” looted from the 10th century capital of the Khmer kingdom, Koh Ker. Other statues from the same Prasat Chen temple in the ancient city have already been returned to Cambodia by the Metropolitan Museum, the Simon Norton Foundation in Pasadena as well as Sotheby’s and Christie’s, following stories published in The New York Times and The Art Newspaper reporting that they probably came from the looted site. These reports, first published in 2013, were based on a study by the French archeologist Eric Bourdonneau, working for the Ecole Française d’Extrême Orient (EFEO), who recreated the epic scenes depicted in the temple. Welcome home Hanuman.