Uli Strengert, pictured, from Germany, is a reggae musician, producer and house DJ for new reggae bar Dusk Till Dawn, opposite Pontoon. The bar’s owner is Kenyan Erik Amdalla, 39. Also the owner of a hair salon, he is an expert in dreadlocks (it takes 10 hours) and says the bar’s playlist will feature everything from reggae to Swahili, Congolese and Mali music.
Why do you think now is the right time to open a reggae bar in Phnom Penh?
Erik: There is a bit of monotony in entertainment here. Things are repetitive, and people get tired of it. Five years ago, when I moved to Cambodia, there wasn’t even a coffee shop, just Fresco on riverside. Today they are everywhere.
When you start something new, you create something that isn’t there before. But there is already a bit of a reggae scene. Dub Addiction, the Khmer DJ, DJ CCA, MC Curly . . . there is talent here.
Uli: Reggae is also successful in Thailand.
Bob Marley has become distinctly beige. What is new about your reggae bar and the music you play?
E: That’s the problem. Reggae is quite unexplored. People just know Bob Marley and think that’s all reggae is.
U: You won’t hear Buffalo Soldier when I am DJing.
Will you also play African music?
E: African music is diverse. It has so many different influences from different ethnic groups and languages. Congolese music has Lingalla, Swahili, and French language. South African music has a very fast rhythm, lot of English and Zulu influence and drums in it. My favourite is Senegalese and music from Mali. You can’t beat that. The rhythm keeps me awake all night.
U: I want to give people a nice relaxing groove.
E: We plan to play music videos on a projector.
Will Cambodians like reggae?
U: Khmer people mostly like Khmer music, but because of its beat, rhythm, and speed, reggae fits here much better than rock.
Why is that?
When you compare Caribbean and also African music to Cambodian music, there are many similarities. Reggae, African and traditional Khmer music are much slower and have these drawn-out vocals. In Cambodia, you just need a keyboard, a singer and a few loudspeakers, and you can have a party. It is the same with reggae. Jamaican and Cambodian cultures are both tropical. That actually says it all already. I think Cambodians just have much more natural access to reggae than to rock.
Opposite Pontoon, a stone’s throw away from notorious Street 51, how does a more relaxed club like From Dusk Till Dawn fit here?
E: Phnom Penh can get a little dusty and noisy sometimes. It’s nice to come up here and escape the dirt and motos. It is a great place to chill out before you go partying or before you go home.
U: It is a place to take it easy.
E: Yeah, but we will have parties as well. When you play raggamuffin you need a dance floor. People want to dance. We want to have a reggae party every Saturday.
Any other ‘special’ treats to keep the Rasta fans puffin’?
E: I don’t think so but we will have lots of rum and coke and fruit punch. Not every reggae fan is a dope smoker. That’s a choice of lifestyle. We will just offer what we have: booze, music, a great view – and I was also thinking of fish ‘n’ chips.
So what kind of people do you want to attract? Cambodians, Westerners, Africans?
E: Reggae works worldwide. There is also Latin American reggae.
From Dusk Till Dawn, on Street 172, is open every night from 5pm to 6am.