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East meets West at historic Angkor temple music festival

081209_17.jpg
081209_17.jpg

Cambodia's first rock concert at the famed ruins brought the crowd to its feet, with international and local artists coming together to fight human trafficking

AFP

British rock band Placebo perform at the MTV EXIT concert at Angkor Wat on Sunday night.

Siem Reap - Had there been a roof, Placebo would have raised it as they headlined the first rock concert in history at Angkor Wat.

Fans of all ages, mostly Cambodian, watched the London-based alternative rockers top a bill Sunday backed by musicians from Cambodia and across the world in aid of a campaign against human trafficking.

"I cannot believe that in a supposedly civilised world this kind of heinous form of modern slavery still exists, and I truly believe that we can all do something to stop this," said Placebo frontman Brian Molko. "It all starts with caring and compassion."

Organiser MTV EXIT - an anti-trafficking campaign group that operates under the aegis of the music channel MTV - transformed the ancient Khmer ruins into an open-air rock venue with 15 tonnes of lighting and sound equipment flown in from as far away as Singapore.

Three of Angkor's five 12th-century towers were lit against the night sky as graphics showcasing MTV EXIT's campaign were projected against a towering fountain of water.

Cambodian hip-hop favourite Pou Khlaing got the audience to its feet with a set of crowd-pleasers, while Meas Soksophea, Sokun Nisa and Chorn Sovanreach continued with a string of local hits, playing to an electrified audience.

US band The Click Five were also applauded wildly for a rousing performance.

"When you have some kind of influence, the best thing you can do is use it for a cause like this," said the band's keyboard player Ben Romans.

But it was Placebo who stole the show with specially reworked orchestrations of their greatest hits, including "Meds" and "Teenage Angst".

"I'm very happy it's mostly local people in the audience tonight," Molko said shortly before taking to the stage in his trademark androgynous make-up and long black hair.

Placebo had met women from a shelter for victims of trafficking before Sunday's concert, an experience that Molko described as "devastating".

The Click Five are due to visit a similar centre before they play in Phnom Penh next week.

International tour

The program offered a mix of rock and pop tunes, with one of the biggest cheers going to Australian singer Kate Miller-Heidke for her operatic cover of Britney Spears' hit "Toxic".

"It's so special, the first time MTV bands play here - and I love rock music," said Dalai Cheat, 25, from Siem Reap.

Another concert goer said the audience's reaction was "amazing".

"Cambodians loved it," said the listener.

Twenty-year-old Zo Dara said, "My favourite singer is Duncan Sheik because he sings from his heart," referring to the multi-Tony award-winning songwriter who was also appearing here. "It's so good to have this in Cambodia."

Smoke swirled around the stage as the show started with traditional Khmer Apsara dancing after a speech by Tourism Minister Thong Khon.

"We believe that the concert taking place in this historical tourist location will ... send a strong message to the world that Cambodia is not a child sex tourism destination," the minister told the audience.

The concert was part of a series of free music shows in Cambodia organised by MTV EXIT with funding from the US Agency for International Development to raise awareness in young people about human trafficking in the region.

"I think it was successful," said MTV EXIT campaign director Simon Goff.

"We had planned for about 1,000 people ... and I think we got about 2,000 just from people on the sides," he added.

"By bringing in international artists, we can get the word out to all of the foreigners here, and we're also going to be able to put this on television and spread the word around the world about our campaign."

The tour, which began in Sihanoukville, will wrap up its Cambodian leg next week with a show at Phnom Penh's Olympic Stadium.

The last international recording artist to perform at Angkor Wat, a Unesco World Heritage Site, was tenor Jose Carreras, who sang for a charity gala dinner there in 2002.

{gallery}news/national/081209/angmusicfes{/gallery}

From left: Fans react wildly to the music, Australian singer Kate Miller-Heidke, The Click Five and Duncan Sheik. AFP, Melanie Brew

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