Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Touching Base with Astronomy Class...

As Astronomy Class gear up for their performance at Manifest QLD, September 23-25, we caught up with Shannon Kennedy (aka Ozi Batla) to check out what the boys have been up to since the release of their 3rd studio album, Mekong Delta Sunrise, and to hint at what we can look forward to at their show!

What have you guys been up to since releasing Mekong Delta Sunrise?

It's been a busy time for the Astronomers; Chasm has been releasing music under his Dr Don Don moniker and more recently, the Floating Pyramids project. Sir Robbo has just been working on a remix for the South Coast up-and-comers Shining Bird. Ozi Batla has been focusing on completing his youth work degree and has been mentoring and teaching young MCs and producers at the Street University in Liverpool, the same place that L-FRESH came out of.

Have you visited Cambodia since the album release? Do you feel the songs still resonate the same way it did 2 years ago?

We went back to Cambodia last year. It's had a real lasting resonance in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap in particular, especially Four Barang in a Tuk-Tuk which you hear in bars almost everywhere you go! Some local crews have been versioning the beats from the record in Khmer for their own tunes. We played a couple of great shows over there and Srey Channthy's (The Cambodian Space Project) profile has never been bigger. We're really proud of the project and took a lot of time to make it culturally and historically accurate - it feels timeless. Songs like Rumdul and Russian Market paint a picture of a time and place; a snapshot that should stand the test of time.

'Mekong Delta Sunset'. Ozi Batla, Sir Robbo, Chasm, Srey Channthy.

What can we expect from your show at Manifest QLD? 

We're really excited to have long-time collaborator and very good mate Vida-Sunshyne along for the ride at Manifest - that usually changes up the set quite a bit. So we go back through our catalog and bring out the collaborations we've done with Vida, not just with Astronomy Class but also on the Chasm solo records and the one Chasm and Vida collaboration record (Move). The one and only Johnny Laddox will be with us laying the bass. Chasm and Sir Robbo are also spinning a DJ set and Ozi Batla is doing a solo set, so plenty of Astronomy Class up in there!

What's next for Astronomy Class?

We've got some ideas bubbling away. We usually take a while to process in-between records, until a new concept or direction comes to us. We're not in it for the money or the music career, we never have been really. So we have to have a good concept and all be in a good place for it to happen. The stars have to align! Mainly we want to have fun with it, so we need to find an ideal time for all of us to fit it into our busy lives.

Tickets on sale now via Manifest QLD's website.


About Mekong Delta Sunrise (2014)

Drawing on Khmer pop music from the 1950s to the mid ‘70s, Astronomy Class and Srey Channthy (The Cambodian Space Project) pay tribute to a lost Cambodian generation; their eclectic soundtrack seen in a new light.

Mekong Delta Sunrise spawned in 2012 when Astronomy Class were invited to Phnom Penh by Cambodian hip hop crew Klap Your Handz to perform a version of a classic Khmer rock song with Cambodian star Preap Sovath. During a six hour taxi ride through the Cambodian countryside, the band fell in love with the intoxicating, soulful sounds of Khmer pop that came drifting from the driver’s cassette player. Khmer pop effortlessly meshed the sounds of traditional Cambodian music with soul, rhythm and blues, cha cha, beat music, mambo, jazz, psychedelic, garage rock and many other genres. From the 1950s to the mid-’70s, Cambodia’s national radio popularised the dynamic 
and inventive music scene in Phnom Penh, at a time when the vibrant capital was known as 'The Pearl of Asia'.

Sir Robbo and Chasm went to task sourcing the exotic sounds of the golden era via cassettes, vinyl and any other medium they could get their hands on. Mekong Delta Sunrise sees them tastefully re-fashion the heady soundtracks of that time with a classic boom-bap aesthetic.

Ozi Batla and Channthy cover vast ground with their stories. They pay tribute to the lives of some of the great singers of the time who disappeared at the hands of the brutal Khmer Rouge (Russian Market). On title track (Mekong Delta Sunrise) they shine a light on the ugly behaviour of western tourists (Four Barang in a Tuk Tuk) and pay their respects to Cambodia’s beloved King Sihanouk (Father).

In Mekong Delta Sunrise, Astronomy Class have crafted an album like no other, whilst documenting the vibrant musical, social and cultural history of Cambodia.

You can grab your copy of Mekong Delta Sunrise and past Astronomy Class albums on our website.

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