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The Siem Reap cafe preserving and promoting Khmer music heritage

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The cafe offers a glimpse of a bygone era with its wooden furniture, servers dressed in vintage fashion and a soothing soundtrack of classic Cambodian hits and drawings of its 1960s musical stars. Heng Chivoan

The Siem Reap cafe preserving and promoting Khmer music heritage

As Cambodia fast earns a reputation as a Kingdom of coffee lovers – with a myriad of coffee shops and vendors mushrooming on street corners nationwide – a cafe is attracting locals and tourists for not only its high quality beverages and food, but also its themed decor transporting patrons back to Cambodia’s 1960s “golden age”.

Opened in 2017, Siem Reap town’s Wheel Garden Cafe offers a glimpse of a bygone era with its evocative thatched roof, traditional wooden furniture, servers dressed in vintage fashion, a soothing soundtrack of classic Cambodian hits and drawings of its 1960s musical stars.

Sinn Sisamouth is one such 1950s and ‘60s musical icons featured, along with the glamorous singers Ros Sereysothea and Pan Ron. All were killed at the height of their fame during the Khmer Rouge era in the mid-1970s.

Though the Wheel Garden Cafe is designed as a homage to Cambodia’s golden age, it does not just serve local style coffee and food, but also Western food and beverages.

Wheel Garden Cafe’s owner Bunthik Pov said that he wants to preserve this musical heritage through introducing it to the younger generation.

“People come to our coffee shop for relaxation. We wanted a cafe which was unique and caught people’s attention, taking them back to the 1960s through both decoration and music,” Pov told The Post.

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“We’ve collected about 3,000 songs from the likes of Sinn Sisamouth, Ros Sereysothea and Pan Ron, among others. I believe it is very important to preserve this tradition.”

Though Pov sees that the younger generation in the Kingdom are more concerned with modern pop music than Cambodian classics, he is optimistic they will come around to the music once they visit the cafe.

“Even my employees who are aged in their mid-20s were bored and did not want to listen to it when they first started working here. But now, wherever they go, they prefer the 1960s songs. They understand and want to preserve the traditional songs,” he said.

Wheel Garden Cafe is located in Kokchak commune’s Trapaing Ses village on Phsar Doeum Kralanh Street in Siem Reap town. It is open daily between 7am and 10pm.

For more information, visit their Facebook page (@WheelGardenCafe) or call 098 709 271.

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