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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thousands gather to cap off hip-hop festival

Thousands gather to cap off hip-hop festival

Inclement weather was not enough to dampen the energy and enthusiasm of performers at the finale of the inaugural Phnom Penh Hip-Hop Festival.

Photo by:
TRACEY SHELTON

A dancer from Tiny Toones performs Sunday on stage at Wat Botum Park during a concert capping off the first Phnom Penh Hip-Hop Festival, a two-week event that included hip-hop films, performances and dance workshops. Organisers say the festival could become an annual event.

Early rains were not enough to deter the crowds from turning out in the thousands for the Phnom Penh Hip-Hop Festival's grand finale at Wat Botum park on Sunday. Rappers, hip-hop artists, DJs and breakdancers performed on a damp stage to a mixed crowd of foreigners and locals as graffiti artist Clevz One demonstrated his skill with a spray can painting a graffiti backdrop behind the performers.

The event was the culmination of a two-week-long training and promotional festival organised by Meta House and the French Cultural Centre.

As dance, music and fashion associated with hip-hop grows in popularity throughout the Kingdom, organisers said the festival was planned to bring these elements together for the first time in Cambodia through a cooperative and promotional event.

International collaboration

On stage at Wat Phnom, young musicians from Cambodian Living Arts, DJs, drummers and hip-hop vocalists joined together to create a blend of traditional Khmer music, jazz and hip-hop while Klap Ya Handz Collective entertained with its hip-hop mix.

DJ Sdey, DJ Illest and MC Curly revved up the crowds before the Tiny Toones crew took to the stage for a break-dancing session displaying their new skills learned during a workshop with internationally renowned dancers and choreographers Niels Robitzky, better known as Storm, and Raphael Hillebrand.

The Toones way

KK, who founded the Tiny Toones breakdance group in 2004 with a goal of giving kids a safe place to hang out away from the drug scene, said he did see an improvement in the kids throughout the workshop. He was particularly proud of how they performed on Sunday despite the added difficulty of dancing on a wet stage.

"They learned how to feel the vibe and improved their freestyle," he said. "The workshop gave them more confidence."  

Twenty-one-year-old Tiny Toones member T-Boy, who began learning to break-dance with the group four years ago, was one of eight chosen from the workshop to perform Sunday.

"In the workshop, they showed us how to create a new style," he said. "Before my dance style was simple, but the technical advice on how to improve has helped me create a more interesting style with complicated moves."

Mixed-media hip-hop

The festival also included performances by both local and international artists and a range of films exploring the history of hip-hop and its impact worldwide.

  A LOT OF INTEREST WAS GENERATED DURING THE TWO WEEKS, ESPECIALLY AMONG THE YOUTH.

Nico Mesterharm, director of Meta House and co-organiser of the event, said hip-hop began to emerge in Cambodia around 2002 and gained support as Khmer-American returnees moved back to Cambodia, bringing their music, dance and style with them.
Since then, Cambodian hip-hop music has advanced from being an imitation of the American hip-hop scene and developing into a unique Cambodian trend, Mesterharm told the Post in an interview earlier this month.

Festival with a future

Kor Borin, head of the department of culture at the French Cultural Centre, said the idea behind the festival was to expand Cambodian understanding of hip-hop culture.

"All of the events were very successful," Borin said, adding that around 2,000 were in attendance for Sunday's performance. "A lot of interest was generated during the two weeks, especially among the youth."

Borin said plans to repeat the festival annually will depend on funding but he seemed confident of a second festival next year.

Photo by:

TRACEY SHELTON

Grafitti artist Clevz One entertains the crowd with spray-paint art

executed throughout the more than 3-hour hip-hop concert Sunday at Wat Botum Park. 

Photo by:
TRACEY SHELTON

MC Curly raps for a crowd estimated at more than 2,000 at Wat Botum park on Sunday during the finale of the Phnom Penh Hip-Hop Festival. 

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