The non-profit music foundation IAmOriginal is putting on their first-ever music festival next weekend as a celebration of up-and-coming Cambodian musical talent and a promotion of the industry. Originally scheduled for this weekend, the Truck Music Festival is set to roll out on February 25 as a two-day event on Koh Pich. Formed last year, the organisation has an ambitious mission: to foster an ecosystem in which musicians can make a living out of original, innovative music.
According to Hang Sokharo, one of the co-founders of IAmOriginal, Khmer musicians tend to create local versions of music they hear from overseas, with lyrics translated into Khmer and the music then reproduced and released commercially.
“We get criticised by the border countries like ‘you stole my song, you copied my song’,” says ADDA Angel, one of the artists working with IAmOriginal. “So we felt like we have to change the situation.”
IAmOriginal also helps artists to handle production and business matters, and they provide legal support to guide them through contract negotiations and avoid mismanagement.
The Truck Music Festival is just one small initiative in IAmOriginal’s plan for the industry.
“We want to build a platform for all original artists to showcase their art, their original music. That’s why we have engaged both established artists and young artists to be featured in the festival,” Sokharo said.
The festival includes a main stage, which is constructed from a truckbed, where established artists such as ADDA Angel, Van Chesda and Smallworld Smallband are scheduled to put on 20 minute-long shows developed in collaboration with different producers specifically for the festival, as well as a smaller “rising star” stage on a smaller truck for performances by young musicians.
Cheky Athiporn, another co-founder of IAmOriginal, laughed when asked about the name. “We want to make them think ‘Why trucks?’ Are they going to drive it around?’”
The unusual set up is not the only thing that makes this festival different from other local concerts; according to Sokharo, the very idea of charging for tickets is revolutionary in itself. “In Cambodia, we have a lot of free concerts [and] it affects the revenue of the artists,” he says. “The status quo is that [concert-goers] never pay for original content.”
Festival-goers can get a two-day pass for $3, with half of the profits from the festival going to the launch of a music sponsorship program. In addition to performances, games and food and drinks, there will also be an arts zone with booths featuring work by local Cambodian designers.
Sokharo hopes the festival will be a model for local concerts in the future. “All [the] artists, all [the] designers are Cambodian. We want to break the status quo. We want to say that the content deserves the price . . . when people come, they can see the difference between other [free] local concerts and our concert.”
The festival will start at 2pm on Koh Pich on Saturday, February 25, and will last through the weekend. Wristband passes for both days begin from $3. Call 098 215 006 or 098 215 001 to purchase tickets. More event information available at @IAmOriginal.Campaign on Facebook.