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Scene Report

Thinking outside of the B-BOX រង្គសាល

An interview with the owners & photos of the hottest underground Hip Hop club in Cambodia

LiFTED | Marcus Aurelius [Photos by EF:JU:] | 27 Feb 2024

Quentin Conesa and Alex Barth are equal partners in Phnom Penh’s newest and hottest underground Hip Hop club, B-BOX រង្គសាល. They have the same vision and passion to bring underground MCs out of the shadows and give artists who have never been to Cambodia a shot to rock the house. Together they are a complementary team that has years of experience in Cambodia curating line-ups, running Mural Festivals, and organizing a Hip-Hop label, B-Side Asia.

LiFTED caught up with Quentin and Alex for a quick interview and a gallery of their opening night featuring Indonesia’s Tuan Tigabalas, Yacko, and Indra Dom Dom.

Why did you decide to open a club focusing on underground Hip Hop?

It was a very natural choice for us to focus on showcasing the underground. The Hip Hop scene and more generally the music scene in Cambodia is formatted by the will of the big beer companies and the agencies working for them. Since they are the only companies sponsoring music [mostly not with an art vision but a marketing target], they are focusing more on trends and social media reach than trying to promote quality music that takes risks with the artists putting everything they have on the line.

During our time as Hip Hop event organizers, we saw first-hand some of our inventive and quality-focused artist line-ups being changed up by the marketing teams to be replaced by "safe bet" artists that have already performed many times on every occasion but have the communication platform [aka social media reach] that reassures the sponsor for its agenda.

It's been very frustrating for months, so we realized that with the opening of B-BOX រង្គសាល, we are taking a move forward to continue the direction we chose. We aim to create a space for the outcasts, the underground, for cultural exchange and bringing back the focus to the music itself, enhancing the experience and building a community that values this.

What can people expect when they go to B-BOX រង្គសាល?

People who decide to come visit us can expect two things - real music made by passionate artists and DJs, and to discover international artists never showcased in Cambodia. The whole idea is to have a warm and friendly ambiance resulting from the love of sharing our passions and connecting people.

Why did you choose Tuan Tigabales, Yacko, and Indra Dom Dom to be the guests on opening night?

I'm a big fan and reader of LiFTED Asia and use it as a bible/phonebook to listen, discover, and find Asian and Southeast Asian artists. I’ve been very interested recently in Indonesian, Vietnamese, and Filipino Hip Hop artists and their crews. When I started listening to Tuan Tigabelas, it reminded me of my teenage hood in Paris listening to KRS-One, Guru, or C.L Smooth. At the time I didn’t understand a word of English, but yet their rhymes and the beat choices touched me and shaped my musical tastes for the rest of my life. Tuan did the same. The beats of Indra Dom Dom are insane, too.

The conversation between us started around November, thanks to the article in Lifted Asia, and when we saw that Tuan was performing alongside Yacko and Indra Dom Dom at Wonderfruit, we flew there to experience their performance first-hand. It was honestly one of the best live Hip Hop performances we have seen in years. The choice was easy because we wanted them for the opening party of my club and they had the nicest attitude. We knew it was the right call. This way, we were able to fulfill several of our missions - connect with artists who have never been to Cambodia, offer something interesting to the public, respect our values and style of music we thrive for, and give one of the best performances that our public may have ever seen.

B-BOX រង្គសាល is also an opportunity for us to create more lasting bonds, since we also manage a bunch of very talented and focused artists, opening alleys to collaborate and push the limits of cultural exchange.