Phnom Penh music aficionados were given a rare treat on Friday night: an intimate concert by the acclaimed French guitarist Thibault Cauvin.
Nearly 300 people in their evening finest gathered at the exhibition hall of the Sofitel Phokeethra for the 27-year-old’s performance, Cauvin’s first in Cambodia after numerous tours of the region and fresh from recent dates in Indonesia and East Timor.
After 10 years on the road and shows in more than 100 countries, Cauvin’s Phnom Penh recital, organised in conjunction with Institut Français, showcased the storied musician’s worldly influences.
Styled as a tour of the world, his set list borrowed from folk music in cities as far-flung as Buenos Aires, Kyoto and New York.
Cauvin, in town for four days, was pleased to have time to coalesce after a hectic tour.
“Usually, I’m travelling like crazy through different towns, and I only get to stay for a few hours at a time,” he said. “These past couple of days have been like a little vacation for me, and it’s been a cool city to discover.”
Although Cambodia has been a slower pace for Cauvin than recent weeks, he has been busy hosting master classes for some of the country’s most promising young musicians.
Friday’s performance was preceded by 10 of Cauvin’s students presenting a guitar rendition of their recent work together.
Cauvin was born into a musical family, and one of the evening’s highlights was Cauvin’s performance of Homage to Bordeaux, a piece composed by his father and an exposition of the virtues of his home town.
Building with an implausibly fast-paced jaunt that showcased the performer’s penchant for harmonics, the song culminated in an ostentatious display of guitar percussion, beginning with a few gentle slaps to the back of the instrument’s neck and ending with a veritable typhoon of knocks across the fretboard, the occasional muted note being the only bulwark against the song’s descent into cacophony.
It was an incongruously “rock” moment for a world musician, but testament to his reputation as a consummate showman.
Cauvin’s songs were punctuated by several warm asides to the audience, and not even his funereal interpretation of Italian composer Carlo Domeniconi’s Koyunbaba at the end of the evening was enough to puncture the crowd’s jovial mood.
After having seen more of the world at the age of 27 than most see in their lifetime, Cauvin was glad to have notched a tour of Phnom Penh on his belt and hopes to be back within the next 18 months.
“It’s amazing to have the opportunity to share your music with different people. It’s a great pleasure to live my dream, and I’m very excited to meet a new audience at every concert,” he said.
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