One week they’re at Bouchon Wine Bar in Phnom Penh. The next it’s the Sailing Club in Kep. Then it’s Siem Reap’s Sofitel , followed closely by the FCC, Red Apron, and Raffles Hotel.
They’re crooning, rocking, boogieing and samba-ing. From Sinatra’s velvet sounds to Satchmo’s bluesy growl, their toe-tapping rhythms are well known around the country and their date-book reads like a “Where To Go” guide of Cambodia’s hotspots.
But that book is about to close. Ritchy and Phil, the dynamic French duo who’ve brought their own unique sounds to jazz and blues lovers for the past couple of years, are now putting down roots in a permanent home of their own.
The bad news is you won’t be able to see them any more in hotels and bars around the country. The good news is you’ll find them on Street 360 in Phnom Penh for the foreseeable future.
This September, when torrential rains are in full stream and muggy sidewalks sizzle, there’ll be a new shelter from the storm: The Village. Designed as a place where you can sit back, sip a cocktail and listen to the soothing sounds of live music, Ritchy and Phil are about to launch their own place and plan on stamping it with their own signature rhythm and blues tempo.
“We want to have a place where everyone feels at home and that’s why we called it The Village,” said Phil. “The idea is to welcome our guests into an atmosphere that is convivial and warm, where the ambiance will come from people being together.”
Since the proprietors are musicians, the focus will, of course, be on entertainment. A performance stage will be upfront and viewed from every seat in the house and the two-level location will feature a full restaurant and bar, terrace seating and tableside magic, courtesy of French magician, Otto (who the pair met in Sihanoukville two years ago).
Located on the site of the former Le Cedre restaurant (corner of Norodom and 360), The Village is retaining the chef and will be offering a menu populated by a variety of cuisines: from Asian/European fusion to French brasserie meals, Chinese dumplings and mezzes.
And, while the sounds will be provided by Ritchy and Phil, the duo also plans to feature an eclectic mix of music from visiting artists, eager musicians and assorted styles.
“We’d like to bring sounds to Phnom Penh that people don’t always hear,” said Phil. “Whether it’s a visiting opera singer, a Khmer entertainer or a rock and roll musician. We’re open to anything.
“In most music scenes, there’s usually a lot of similar sounds and, for us, we find that wherever we go, we tend to have the same three requests: “Hotel California”, “Wonderful Tonight” and “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You”. It’s time to explore some different styles of music”.
Hailing from Paris, Ritchy and Phil have been playing together for seven years, after doing a gig together in 2005 near the Arc de Triomphe. Right from the overture, something clicked between them and they decided to bring together their individual styles and start harmonising as a duo.
“It’s a great partnership as we have a common sense of entertainment and same love of music,” said Ritchy. “It’s also rather unique as we’re both used to being leaders but there’s never any competition between us and the inspiration flows from one to the other”.
And each one brings his own inimitable style and background to the partnership. Phil started learning music at the age of four and is proficient in clarinet, sax, accordion, ethnic flute, percussions, keyboard and vocals. He’s toured with APPELS (the biggest all-star French tour of all times), performed with the Gipsy Kings and co-created the first Broadway style music school in Paris.
Ritchy complements the duo on drums, guitar, and vocals. He’s sung with a 20-piece Sinatra tribute orchestra in Paris, and has worked as a big band conductor. Together with Phil, he worked as artistic director at Studio 182, Phnom Penh’s now defunct jazz lounge – and the two of them sing in five languages and have a repertoire of 5,000 songs.
They also recently recorded their first album, Wish You Love, which includes 11 vocal covers and one instrumental written by Ritchy.
Their foray into Cambodia’s music scene began in 2004 when Ritchy came on a two-week visit and became hooked.
“Everywhere I went in the countryside, people were smiling,” he said. “In Paris, there aren’t too many smiles so I fell in love with Cambodia and knew I had to come back.
“In our three years here, we’ve spent a lot of time performing and travelling around the country. It’s time now to settle down in one place and bring people to us.”