User login

Live painting, live music, live dancing -- and beer, of course

By: Jeffrey Staggs Posted: August-13-2011 in
Local graffiti artists Lisa Mam and Peap Tarr and a promotional painting they did for Tiger Beer. See them paint live Friday.
Jeffrey Staggs

Watching paint dry doesn't rank high on the list of "Best Ways to Spend a Friday Night in Phnom Penh".

But what if the painters are six internationally renowned graffiti artists? Let's up the ante and throw in live music, both international and local, modern and traditional.

Click here for event details

Dancers? Check. There will be traditional dancers, modern dancers, break dancers, and at least one really bad dancer (me) in the audience.

And beer. Lots of Tiger beer. The first pint of Tiger is included in the $2 ticket price for Tiger Translate. The event will take place Friday, August 19 in a warehouse which will be the future home of radio station NRG FM.

According to the company's promotional materials, Tiger Translate is "a global platform, which has the objectives to merge arts, to promote artists, and to give a chance to east and west to collaborate, by creating multi-disciplinary events."

Allow local rapper MC Lisha of KlapYaHandz to ... translate: "It's all about combination."

KlapYaHandz isn't just a rap crew. It's a record label, arts collective and a family, says founder Sok Visal. It's also the creative force behind this edition of Tiger Translate. Asia's biggest beer company started Tiger Translate in 2006. There have been events in 16 countries. Friday's festival will be the third the company has hosted in Phnom Penh. Tiger left the planning of this Friday's event in capable local Handz.

"We're organizing the whole show," says Visal. "It's our concept. Tiger Beer approached us," says the impresario, because they "wanted something full on. The concept is about east meeting west."

The "full on" assault on the senses will include local dancers from the classic (from the Fine Arts University) to the modern (B-Boy crews Tiny Toones and B.D.B.). Music will range from the oldest Khmer musical traditions (folk music master Neth Pé) to the international cutting edge (French hip-hip jazz duo 12Mé & Raph).

Graffiti artists from Cambodia, France, Malaysia and Singapore will paint the walls of the NRG warehouse. The radio station is still under construction, so the owners are allowing Tiger to use the space.

The group of artists was assembled by Peap Tarr. The half-Kiwi, half-Khmer artist called in some members of his international crew, called Army of Snipers. Party-goers will be able watch as artists Lisa Mam (Cambodia), Sheryo (Singapore), Wam (France), Bibi and They (both Malaysia) create fresh works of art.

Peap says he has no idea what he's going to paint until he does it. "I just freestyle it," he says, much like the hip-hop emcees he grew up idolizing. Painting live with music, he says "makes me paint faster. With music you can't plan it."

Both he and KlapYaHandz impresario Visal grew up abroad. "I grew up on hip-hop music," says Visal, who lived in Thailand, France and the US. I spent my teens on hip hop. I became a graffiti artist. I was part of a rap band." Yet he was open to other influences as well. His favorite TV shows when he was growing up included "Happy Days" to "Magnum P.I." to "Dallas". Sorry, Visal, there goes your street cred...

Peap lived in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Thailand and the US. Both men are using the international influences they picked up along the way to energize the local arts scene. Their modus operandi dovetails naturally with the "anything goes" spirit of Tiger Translate.

Visal, for instance, is famous for combining pre-Khmer Rouge pop with hip hop. He named his arts collective KlapYaHandz because "If you like what you see in front of you, you clap your hands." Because of his country's dark recent past, he says, "people here lost that habit". People clapped their hands at political rallies because they had to. "We want them to clap their hands without being asked."

Peap's artistic influences include everything from meeting his idol, iconic Mexican-American graffiti artist Chaz Bojorquez, to the Maori and Polynesian artistic traditions he was exposed to in New Zealand.

"Since I was a kid I was always drawing," Peap says. "I was seeing different places, on the go quite a lot. I spent a lot of time drawing."

As a child he didn't have video games to play or a video player to watch. He always enjoyed listening to music and, through his mother's teaching jobs, he "always had lots of paper and pens." He was first exposed to American hip-hop while living, of all places, on a farm in New Zealand. It was a revelation for him, listening to his cousin's Run-DMC and LL Cool J tapes.

Another life-changing experience occurred in 1994. That's when he visited the iconic monument of his mother's Cambodian culture. Not surprisingly, visiting Angkor Wat forever changed the half-Khmer artist. He had always worked in stark black and white. Look carefully, now, and you'll see Khmer iconography filtered through the bold, geometric patterns of the Pacific islanders and the stylized calligraphy inspired by Chaz.

"It's becoming less complicated now," he says enigmatically.

And more lucrative. He sold his first piece for $700 in 2005. Since then he has been able to make a living off his art. He has painted restaurants in Phnom Penh and motorbikes in Vietnam. He has done commercial work, as well. It is surely no coincidence that one of his clients is ... Tiger Beer!

He moved to Cambodia in April of last year to be near his mother. Now that he's here, he says "I want to create a new form of art. I want to be part of it growing."

MC Lisha echoes his philosophy. She has worked as a pop singer, traditional dancer and radio DJ. These days, when she's not performing, she works as a copy writer for 391 Films, which was also founded by Visal and shares office space with KlapYaHandz.

She started rapping in 2002. She cites influences such as American "street" rappers such as Snoop Dogg and Lil Kim, but says "I love my culture. I want to combine that and make up stories. You want to show them something different."

The NRG FM Radio warehouse is located at #131B, Street 271, Phnom Penh. Photos courtesy of Peap Tarr and Lisa Mam.


Jeffrey Staggs is a Phnom Penh based freelance writer.



Whats on! See our help pages - add your own events

This location does not have any events. Why not add one here!