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The Art Deli specialises in the spontaneous

Loven Ramos may just be the most eccentric man in Siem Reap, and that’s no mean claim in this town. His quirky credentials were firmly presented with his Aladdin’s cave that is the Poetry Store, and now he has extended them further with the Art Deli, also on Alley West. The bar has been drawing attention for a while now, but a new live act had the town painting red last Saturday with an impromptu gig that surprised even the band.

Four musicians who had just met asked Loven if they could practice in the bar. That was the beginning of an evening that drew a crowd to hear the quartet play a rousing series of popular jazz tunes.

“Will jazz work?” was the nervous question posed by Aya Urata, on keyboards. The answer was a very distinct yes.

The band comprised Aya, plus Philippe Ceulen on drums, Mayuko Moriyama on bass and Patrick Charb on saxophone. The mixture of their jazz and the arty surroundings created a wonderful Rive Gauche atmosphere. No one in the audience could believe the group hadn’t played together before and they kept going until after the staff had packed up and gone home, working the magic they had just created.

Loven exuberantly recalls a tourist who wandered in to catch the act. He said he couldn’t get over the extent to which Cambodia was nothing like he had expected.

“And this is my home! I’m so happy to be here,” Loven said.

The good news is that the band will be playing again – they are already slated for a gig on July 24, to coincide with the Alley West Green Market, to be held over the weekend of July 24-25.

The Art Deli, in one of the most attractive buildings in central Siem Reap, is the creation of Loven, from the Philippines, and his Canadian friend Jam.

It’s small and imperfectly formed, though that is decisively part of the appeal. The walls have been scrubbed and covered with paintings, printings, pictures, posters, postcards and random paraphernalia.

The shop-cum-venue opened in April and has gradually gained a name for itself as an eclectic, exciting hub with community art dinners, live music and that elevated feeling that comes from being surrounded by creativity.

The Art Deli is also an exhibition centre for artists to establish themselves, even if their work is not yet ready for the Hotel de la Paix or the McDermott Gallery. Although there is also work exhibited there by Kong Vollak, a highly respected local artist.

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