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Oum Rotanak Oudom: NGO worker and music lover
Oum Rotanak Oudom: NGO worker and music lover

MY PHNOM PENH: Oum Rotanak Oudom

Oum Rotanak Oudom: NGO worker and music lover. Better known as ‘Oro’, Oum Rotanak Oudom has been a fan of music from Cambodia’s ‘golden era’ for most of his 33 years. The Phnom Penh native is the director of the Cambodian Vintage Music Archive, which catalogues and preserves original Khmer recordings from the 1950s to the 1970s. Audrey Wilson caught up with him one evening after work at his day job at a human rights NGO

SILK ISLAND AND SURROUNDS

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I have a lot of big projects going on at work, so I’ve been busy. To be honest, sometimes in Phnom Penh I get so stressed out with pollution, with noise.

On the weekends — I have a bicycle — I like to go to Silk Island, just cycling around by myself to relax my mind, see nature.

After growing up in Phnom Penh, I like to get out and see green. So I like cycling to Silk Island. And when I get hot, I like to swim in the river. I like swimming a lot — in the city, I’ve got VIP Sports Club, but it’s not the same.

RUSSIAN MARKET MUSIC SHOPS

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In terms of shopping or looking for music for my project, there are a few places that I like to check out inside Russian Market that sell antique stuff. I really like old stuff — everywhere I go. From time to time, I’ve found a few records on sale, when it was not too popular.

But when it became popular, then foreigners came to buy. And then it became expensive. For Cambodians, we don’t have much money.

Right now, one record, you know how much it costs? Around $50. And sometimes they don’t care about quality. If it’s scratched or broken, it’s still the same price.

NUMBER 9 HOTEL

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One of my favourite bars that I like to go to is at the Number 9 Hotel, behind the National Assembly. There’s good French food and also good cocktails.

They have a swimming pool on the roof. And I enjoy having a cocktail, a dip in the pool, drinking or eating. So I hang out with my best friends from my NGO.

We met in the field, we got to know each other and now we hang out together.

Sometimes people come from other places, because I move around a lot from NGO to NGO, but I still keep in contact with all of my friends, and we all hang out there. It’s a great place to gather and meet people.

META HOUSE

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I love art. I like to go to Meta House because I like the idea: free screenings, sometimes free drinks. I like it so much.

I did a Cambodian Vintage Music Archives exhibition there in September to introduce people to original records, and to music they hadn’t heard before.

We had one gallery display, showing original records, and for the opening, we played the records. I was DJ myself. I’m not really a professional DJ, but this year I’ve had a lot of fun deejaying and stuff.

At the closing, I played with Sinn Sisamouth’s grandson. It was great — there was a nice audience. They invited me to play again this month.

SPACE FOUR ZERO

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There are not many record stores here, but there’s one, Space Four Zero, on the corner of Streets 118 and 5, near the riverside.

They have some records for sale, but of course it’s not Cambodian. It’s like Cambodian Space Project’s part business — I like to support my friends.

There, they have some CDs and vinyl, but often re-issued by other companies in the US. I like to go check out the gallery, talk to my friends about this and that, a project to do.

I always like to see artists, to promote music and cultures — there’s all kinds of art in the gallery.

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