Laura Mam and Krom performing in town

Distinctive looks and distinctive sounds from Krom. PHOTO SUPPLIED
Distinctive looks and distinctive sounds from Krom. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Laura Mam and Krom performing in town

In the run-up to Christmas there’s a musical treat in store for Reapers – two concerts in one weekend. Khmer-American singer Laura Mam performs at the Shinta Mani Made in Cambodia market on Saturday, and Phnom Penh band Krom at Victoria Angkor Resort and Spa on Sunday.

California-based singer/songwriter Mam is in Siem Reap as part of her Cambodia tour, having already played two gigs in Phnom Penh. She performs at 6.30pm tomorrow. This is her second time in Temple Town, and she says she is “beyond excited” about returning.

“The first time I came to Siem Reap was with my band, The Like Me’s,” she says. “We were able to play at Bayon temple as well as a small show at FCC Angkor, but I’ve never been able to do a big show targeted at Khmers living and working in Siem Reap, as well as the expats. This year is the debut of my solo career, so technically this is my first time touring Siem Reap as a solo artist.”

The songstress, who sings in both English and Khmer, was born and raised in San Jose by refugee parents. She says they brought her up as a “normal American kid,” but also instilled in her the sense of being Cambodian and having Khmer in her blood.

Laura Mam in reflective mode in San Jose, California. JAYMER​ DELAPENA
Laura Mam in reflective mode in San Jose, California. JAYMER​ DELAPENA

Over the years Mam has collaborated with various NGOs including Cambodia Living Arts and Friends International. She was formally lead singer for all-girl rock band The Like Me’s, with whom she toured the US, Canada and Cambodia after becoming a YouTube hit. Now that she has gone solo, she says she has returned to her acoustic roots and will be performing songs from her new EP, Meet Me in the Rain, tomorrow.

“The new EP gives a sense of a new style on my part as a solo artist, which is more acoustic and summer evening as opposed to my more rocker self when I was with the band,” she says. “I will be debuting all five of the new songs on the EP because they are written in the form of a love story.

“Also, I’ll sing a few original English songs I’ve written that were inspired by Cambodia and near the end play a few old songs like Sva Rom Monkiss and Pka Proheam Rik Popreay that most people know me for.”

On Sunday Krom brings a distinctive mix of blues and traditional Khmer sounds to the Victoria Angkor Resort and Spa, playing for the first time in Siem Reap.

Singer, songwriter and guitarist Christopher Minko, formerly of cult Australian band Bachelors From Prague, says the band has always wanted to play here. They were introduced to the Victoria by Gaye Miller, producer of forthcoming Cambodian-Australian documentary Camp 32, for which Krom did the soundtrack.

“Our friend and colleague Gaye Miller kindly introduced us to Hanno Stamm, the Victoria hotel GM, and the concert was agreed to immediately,” he says. “The Victoria perfectly suits the dark elegance of Krom’s music – a wonderful location indeed for our debut Siem Reap performance and to showcase the remarkable vocal talents of the Chamroeun sisters, Sophea and Sopheak.”

The two one-hour sets will take place from 6pm by the pool, with the band debuting some new tracks.

“We will be presenting 19 songs including the debut performance of Where the Shadow Falls,” says Minko, “Along with the first live performance of The Haunted especially for Gaye, whom we understand will be in the audience.”

Tickets cost $15 and include one free drink and canapés.

Krom was formed in 2010 in Phnom Penh by Minko and lead singer/co-songwriter Sophea Chamroeun, with her sister Sopheak later joining on vocals, and Jimmy B on slide guitar, saxophone and accordion.

The band has garnered international praise with fans including BBC DJ Mark Coles, who nominated their debut album Songs from the Noir as a top 20 album of 2012, and The Killing Fields director Roland Joffé, who described their music as, “Gut-twisting songs connected to something profound, night-time whispers, raw and real.”

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