MY PHNOM PENH:Lewis Pragasam: Musician

Globetrotting Malaysian musician Lewis Pragasam has lived on and off in Phnom Penh for three and a half years.
Globetrotting Malaysian musician Lewis Pragasam has lived on and off in Phnom Penh for three and a half years.

MY PHNOM PENH:Lewis Pragasam: Musician

Doors Music & Tapas

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Doors is one of my favourite places. It’s a great venue for live music, a good space. They feature a lot of different kinds of music. It’s a good mishmash of everything: simple, but interesting, and very relaxing.

I’ve played with some incredible people there. I saw a jazz-funk band play there a week ago. Sometimes they do piano duos and stuff. And the space allocates for that … to do different kinds of things.

We had almost a nine-piece band doing pieces from Kind of Blue, Miles Davis’s album that started the whole jazz fusion thing. A big band. And it accommodated everybody on stage very well. Sounded great.

Khmer Saravan

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My friend Phil took me to Khmer Saravan, which has really incredible Khmer food. I couldn’t believe this was Khmer food. It was exquisite, the presentation was great, the taste … not too much of anything, not too sweet. I think it’s well-priced.

It’s not at the low-end … just in the middle. It’s not big. They have six tables or something. It’s amazing.

The service is good, the people are really nice, but the food … They had sausages — like “Where the hell did this come from?” — and the lok lak was great. The fish amok, it’s small, but every spoonful is amazing. 

Tuol Tom Poung cafes

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On the other end of the spectrum, when I hang out late after some gigs or if I’ve been out partying somewhere, I like to go early morning to some of the coffee shops near Russian Market, in the Tuol Tom Poung area, where I stay.

Back in Malaysia, you have those Chinese coffee shops. Here they have these Khmer shops — with everybody eating their noodles in the morning, eating … they call it char kway, those fried strips of rice batter.

Hot, just out of the frying pan, a bit oily. And then you dip it into the noodle soup. There are loads of those. It’s cheap, there’s nice coffee, and you don’t find so many foreigners.

I love the whole vibe of those kinds of places. There are quite a few around town, but since I live on that side of the planet, that’s the easiest. Always after a long night, and then to bed after that. 

Oscar’s

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It’s odd because I am a musician, and there are quite a few nice venues in town, like Sharky’s and Doors. But one of the other places I go — it’s a weird place — is Oscar’s on Street 104. It’s a girly bar, but they’ve got a band there! It’s a tiny place owned by this drummer, he’s a Khmer guy. He’s always got great musicians playing.

And if you want to get a chance to jam, you know where to jam because there are not many places to go where you can have a jam session. It’s a late-night place, but we go there and get a chance to play.

The moment they see you, they let you on stage. And I’ve met a lot of musicians that way, too, who I never knew were in town. I’ve spotted a lot of young Khmer talent there too. I wish there were more places you could go and jam during the week.

Normally when you walk in, there’s a band already there. Maybe I’m saying something that hasn’t been said, but everybody ends up at Oscar’s to jam.

Bouchon 

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Also small — they don’t feature music all the time — with good food, a nice place is Bouchon. They only have live music on Wednesdays now, I think, but they have events from time to time. It’s a nice place.

The owner is great and he was a musician before, and he plays great music – jazz or funk or motown. He’s got an incredible playlist.

I don’t go out too much when I’m not playing. But sometimes you want to go somewhere to hear some great music – some great live music.

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