The strange journey of Strangefruit

Peter Olszewski / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
An airline cabin crew, a fashion-lifestyle editor, a restaurateur, a music consultant and a DJ – yes, in one body. Supplied

When in Siem Reap, Strangefruit can often be found sitting outside his co-owned funky Village Café, watching the passing parade and thinking about his many business, music and art ventures.

Strangefruit, or DJ Strangefruit, is the nom-de-deck of Stewart Kidd, an entrepreneur who combines an interesting business head with a flowing artistic sensibility.

He’s done a lot, and obviously there’s more to be done, and he’s not kidding.

But first, about the name, Strangefruit.

“The name came about when I was dj’ing at a [London] gig called Strange Fruit where it was all about being leftified and underground,” Kidd says, “I felt it fitted what I was doing and what I wanted to achieve. Push the limits! In all genres! Fashion! Music! Art! Etc.”

In the late 1990s, he was also flying high as a cabin crew service member with British Airways, and in between airline shifts, he did dj gigs at cool global destinations, and worked on a fashion magazine.

“I joined British Airways in 1990 when we were the best and most innovative airline in the world,” Kidd says. “I left when the last Concorde touched down at Heathrow Airport. It was a big metaphor moment for me.”

Working for the airline helped shape his world view, mainly because he viewed a lot of the world.

“The main advantage for me was I could live anywhere in the world and fly to work,” he says.

“In the winter, I rented a beautiful farm house in the mountains looking down on Marbella Spain. I also spent time in NYC and Paris and Muscat and had the advantage of getting to meet really honest and interesting people.

“I’ve always said travel is the best form of education and should be compulsory in schools.”

He was also editor-at-large for a fashion-lifestyle magazine, a job which took him to Paris fashion shows and gave him great opportunity to interview famous people from fashion to art, and giving him the contacts to know where to go out in any country.

Steward Kidd. John McDermott

Career-wise, Kidd has also been a music consultant for feature film Dark Nature, for the launch of Ralph Lauren Glasgow and for fashion designer Deryck Walker.

But to list all his work probably requires a book, so it’s best to zero in on his Cambodian move.

Kidd originally lobbed in Phnom Penh six years ago to help open a club.

“I was dj’ing in a bar in Chinatown in Singapore and these two guys liked the music and we started chatting,” he says. “One of them, Eddie Newman, said he was opening a club in Phnom Penh called Code and would I be interested in maybe giving some input.

“I had never been to Cambodia and was getting tired of Singapore, so I agreed to check it out.

“I fell in love with the madness and chaos, but the club alas was having many delays and problems and it wasn’t right to stay on the payroll.

“I have to thank the Code club partner and owner of Eighty8 Backpackers for putting me up and giving me a daily allowance – Anthony Garrigan will never forget. He does get blood out a stone though.”

While in Phnom Penh, he created a cult following with his six-hour marathon sets at the Terrace.

But his next move was away from Phnom Penh, to Siem Reap and away from music to haute cuisine.

Noting the success of Armand’s Bistro in Phnom Penh, he forged a deal with Armand himself, and opened a branch in Siem Reap,

“I never really wanted to be a restaurateur,” Kidd belatedly says. “The Armand brand is very successful in Phnom Penh with Armand at the helm, and we thought it would have worked well in Siem Reap.

“The problem was the market had shifted and there were not a lot of customers eating foie gras and heavy meat-based dishes. It was a shame because it was such a beautiful bistro. We lasted two years, but I knew I had to change things fast. Make it a bit less fancy, open the doors with a new name and give it a bit more casual cafe feel.

“We now have a more continental feel, and the cafe has that 1930s jazz cafe feeling. We put on international djs with our Beatboutique nights and bands once a week for our Blue Note Mondays. And our Funky Fridays go down well at the weekend.

“I also wanted to be back in the art scene, so I opened Strangefruit & Jam Gallery, promoting local and international talent.

Now that the café venue is cooking, Kidd wants to raise the profile of the art gallery.

“I am working on two big shows this year. I have to keep it quiet for now but I’m really excited,” he says.

On the music front he says, “This year Beatboutique is doing a two-week tour of Japan. Also we have our new residency at Cambo Beach Club which is an awesome space.”

Plus his business is expanding in the Kingdom and he says, “Now I have a space in Battambang with partners and could become an exciting project soon.”

With Kidd, it’s a case of watch this space.

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