International Women’s Day is celebrated as a public holiday in relatively few countries – notably the former Soviet bloc, China, Vietnam and parts of Africa – and also in Cambodia.
There are several entertainment choices in Phnom Penh to mark the day this year – dare I say something for everyone? – a wide, wide range of excellent performers on stages from the small to the very large.
At LF Social Club today, acclaimed Phnom Penh musician Jedil Robelo (Havana Kings, Kheltica, Moi Tiet) has brought together an eclectic collection of performers to raise funds for LF’s on-going social concern, the support of a village near Phnom Penh.
“The event is a gathering of women from different walks of life to celebrate women’s achievement and creativity in the areas of poetry and music,” Jedil explains.
The first part of the evening is dedicated to the female voice through spoken word: Jess Anna, the founder of the regular Feminist Voices spoken word event; Fatima Shehata, who describes herself as an Egypto-Kiwi nomad; and Jenny Pisani, originally of Staten Island, USA, who came to Cambodia in 2015 as a volunteer with the Peace Corps and stayed on.
The second half is made up of musical treats.
“The night will feature both original and cover work, and is also an occasion that will showcase an eclectic mix of music genres: pop, reggae, country, classical music,” adds Jedil.
A bassoon and flute duo – Michele Bowen and Jen Bird – will rub shoulders with a new small ensemble, Alab, inspired by the music of Philippine duo Inang Laya. The event will close with a performance by Marianna Hensley in her duo Hills & Bells.
A contrasting event at The Factory space is a big long day, starting from 4 pm, that will include a market, food stalls, live art and a concert featuring many Cambodian female artists including Meas Soksophea, Sok Pisey, Adda, Vartey Ganiva Band and Laura Mam. Behind the day is The Sound Initiative, a social enterprise dedicated to connecting young Cambodian musicians and performing artists with industry mentors. A charity auction of artwork will be held in the early evening to raise funds for the Early Years Behind Bars project which supports pregnant women and nursing mothers and their babies in Cambodian prisons.
Meanwhile, over at Farm to Table, the Sidewalk Cellist will play music inspired by the IWD theme for 2019, Balance for Better, with her friends Alex Shandler and Theo Kraulis. Also Cloud is hosting a special opening party for the Street 93 Art Festival next weekend, including a collective exhibition of ten female artists, DJs, body painting and spoken word.
And that’s not the end of it. On Monday night, a special one off concert entitled ‘She Is In You’ at Chinese House will present compositions and orchestral arrangements by Carrie Herbert, Metta Legita, Carrie Herbert, Jen Bird and Clara Shandler, sung by Rhiannon Johnson and Marianna Hensley with an impressive ensemble of strings, woodwinds and percussion.
“She Is In You is a song about our earth, our relationship and response to what’s happening to her,” Carrie explains.
“We are women from around the world who are passionate about music and its ability to help us communicate and express the things that matter most.”
The added dimension of live painting by French-Cambodian artist Adana Legros will contribute to the exploration of the themes. So there is a wealth of choice for IWD this year. Carrie sums it all up beautifully: “In celebration of International Women’s Day we will explore the theme of the feminine in all of us and what it means to truly bring balance and care to ourselves each other and our planet.”