Dozens of people spilled onto Pub Street outside the Banana Lounge last Friday to listen to, of all things, a brass band playing original compositions.
The performance was by the French brass band Octopus on the first night of the group’s two-day visit to Siem Reap.
The eight-person troupe left Cambodia the following Monday after completing a five-week volunteer stint with the Phnom Penh-based NGO Sok Sabay.
Octopus trombonist Clément Mombereau told 7Days that the group plans to visit Nepal, Madagascar and Brazil during the next six months as part of the Fanfare Sans Frontières project which provides free music classes to NGOs working with children.
“We did not want to play music around the world just for fun ...we’re also here to support the actions of the local NGOs,” he said.
The band was formed in 2009, and Mombereau said it was inspired by the success of a similar group, Globe Note, who toured and worked alongside 10 NGOs in 10 countries.
“We looked at what Globe Note accomplished and we said it sounds so amazing, we have to do something like this,” he enthused.
Sousaphone player Mathieu Choinet explained that music workshops organised by Octopus run for four-week periods and rotate children through classes that teach singing, dancing, percussion and other skills including instrument manufacturing.
The last week of the program culminates in a public concert filmed by the band and posted online.
Mombereau said the $60,000 cost of Octopus’s six-month tour is funded by grants from the French government and private donations, as well as a $3000 donation from each of the musicians involved.
Saxophonist Janek Liger said the band will use money raised from performances at two Siem Reap restaurants – Banana Lounge and Abacus – as start-up capital for other bands involved in Fanfare Sans Frontières.