As the era of the solo vocal artist dawned a decade or so ago, rock bands and other music groups quickly fell out of favor among Cambodian pop fans. But it seems the ensemble format is making something of a comeback. Part of the credit for this must go to the organizers of the upcoming Bopea Music Festival, whose stage will be littered with all sorts of instruments come February.
But according to Chhay Sopheak, leader of the group P-Sand, if a fan culture centered around bands is to be revived and sustained, the fans will first need to get to grips with what a band actually is.
A young vocalist working with two session musicians does not a band make, Mr. Sopheak insisted. At least three member musicians, typically playing drums, bass guitar and lead guitar, are required for to achieve “band” status, he explained.
P-Sand, which formed five years ago, has five members. All are multi-instrumentalists.
“Many duos erroneously refer to themselves as ‘bands.’ But bands they are not, because they lack full instrumentation; they would more accurately be referred to as ‘one-man bands,’ or something similar,” Mr. Sopheak said.
P-Sand has a guitarist, drummer, keyboardist and the founder of the group Mr.P-Sand takes a role as songwriter and singer. They collaborate to produce original music and lyrics.
“When a band doesn’t have enough members to play the essential musical instruments, the quality of the music suffers.
The performance is missing something; there is a lack of connection with the audience,” he added.
Bands generally perform alone on stage without help from supporting artists.
Kosal Panhareach, 20, and his band 21st Flasher topped the auditions ranking for Bopea Music Festival and will take the stage at the event later next month.
21st Flasher is a four-piece band, with each member skilled in at least one instrument.
“There are four of us in the band: a drummer, a guitarist, a bassist, and me. I and one of the others handle singing duties and all guitar solos,” he said.
Drums and bass are the two indispensible instruments for a band, Mr. Panhareach said. He plans to recruit more members to 21st Flasher once it starts to attract a fan base.
Bands still face many challenges just surviving in the music industry, though they are not a new phenomenon here. Most local music fans these days prefer solo vocal artists over instrumental groups.
While Mr. Sopheak admits that competing with solo vocalists is a challenge for a new band, he insists it can be done. “I understand that it will be challenging, but it doesn’t faze me. I love going to see bands in concert, and I will always make music as part of a team,” he said.
Most of P-Sand’s songs are motivational, with lyrics that aim to inspire the listener to strive for a better life.
Him Sopheakvirakboth, guitarist and vocalist in Gammie, said his band’s five members base their sound on the same three main instruments. Putting a band together from scratch is really hard, he complained.
“We’ve been working together as a band for over a year. Communication was hard at first. We didn’t have time to play together as much as we should have, and internal conflicts arose,” he said. But ultimately the members’ shared passion for music always pushes them to keep Gammie going.
The band enjoyed brief popularity about 10 years ago, but its timing was poor; it seemed that almost as soon as they got their break in the music industry, support for bands began to wane.
Other groups that became popular the last time bands were in vogue included EV, formed by the late EaVaddhana, and The Coconut Band. Mr. Vaddhana passed away in mid-January.