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.

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Thriller in Cambodia

Lawrence Osborne, a British novel writer living in Bangkok, has published his third novel, Hunters in the Dark, which is set in Cambodia and maintains a common theme from his previous novels, featuring westerners running up against, or adrift in, cultures that remain opaque to them. Random House are the publishers and it sounds like they, and Osborne, are onto a winner with this thriller. The online Telegraph in the UK gave it a very positive thumbs up review @ http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/may/06/hunters-in-dark-lawrence-osborne-review-written.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

River delivers

Can't wait to read two new books picked up from Monument today. Purchased for $17.50 was John Burgess' Temple In The Clouds: Faith & Conflict at Preah Vihear, published by River Books. And added to that, River Books very kindly gave me a complimentary copy of another brand new release, all about one of my favourite temples in Cambodia, namely Banteay Chhmar: Garrison-Temple of the Khmer Empire, written by Peter Sharrock. On the shelves at $33. Glossy, filled with photos (288 in colour) and will be in my grubby little paws when I get home later.

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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Another gong for The Last Reel

Kulikar Sotho and her Black Dragon
Big news from Italy and the Udine Far East Film Festival where Cambodia's first-ever screening at this prestigious festival, regarded as Europe's premiere festival for Asian films, saw The Last Reel and Director Kulikar Sotho walk away with the Black Dragon Award, an audience award that is voted for by Black Dragon VIP pass holders, the festival's crème de la crème. Kulikar is now off to the Bentonville in Arkansas, USA for another festival. The Last Reel has recently been screened in Finland, London and Los Angeles and has more festival appearances up its sleeve. Cambodian audiences can expect to catch it in August.

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