In a town often decried for its lack of live music, Sergey Minstrel and The Shangri-la Band make for an unexpected find.
The band, which plays the FCC Phnom Penh on March 5, consists of Sergey Oreshko, a.k.a Sergey Minstrel, on guitar and vocals, Bun Sombath on keyboards and vocals, and Kim Tip on drums and vocals. The band plays Western music standards and Khmer and Russian hits.
In the Phnom Penh-based trio's current music program, titled "Three Sides of a Coin," Shangri-la play three different sets, moving from soft jazz to classic instrumental (Johann Bach to Joe Satriani, Oreshko says) to rock 'n' roll, singing in English, Russian and Khmer.
"The Shangri-la Band has its own unique style as we came from different cultures and backgrounds, and we like to play different styles as well," Oreshko writes on the band's Web site. "When it's time to play soft we play jazz, blues, pop and when it's time to play louder or harder, we play hard rock-n-roll."
Raised in The U.S.S.R, Oreshko came to Cambodia in late 2006. He worked the local scene as a solo act playing everything from rock to reggae until he met Bun Sombath and Kim Tip. The Shangri-la Band officially came together in May 2007.
Culturally, Oreshko and his band mates arrived from very different backgrounds, but all three were passionate musicians with a lifetime of experience. And Oreshko recalls that despite their diverse musical histories, the three worked together easily from the very beginning.
Oreshko saw something familiar in his band mates and their musical stylings, even if their country was foreign.
Though born in Rostov, Oreshko grew up in eastern Russia near the Chinese border, and his upbringing was far different than the youth of the country's urbanized west.
"I lived near a wild forest. I spent a lot of time there walking alone, listening to birds and meditating," he recalls. "I really enjoyed it. It's a different culture from the west part of Russia. It's way more Asian. That's why I like living in Asia I guess."
While Oreshko, who's known to his friends as "David," had many fond memories of growing in the Asian part of Russia, there was at least one bad memory. When he was 13, his father was in a serious traffic accident. His father was close to death before he completely recovered.
"He was between life and death and I felt pretty sad about it, but somehow I knew everything was gonna be alright ... it taught me a very important thing - that you should believe everything is possible," he says.
Oreshko initially became interested in music when he was 16. And when he entered university he noticed some other students playing guitars.
"So I tried it and it really turned me on ... I got my own guitar and started playing," he recalls.
Oreshko is a full-time musician and he teaches guitar sometimes to help pay the bills.
The Shangri-la Band plays the FCC Phnom Penh on Mar. 5. The show begins at 7 p.m.