The Kampot music scene: Singing from the rooftops, playing in the bars

Kampot’s music scene is kicking off again, and we’ve got a guide to the very best of what Kampot has to offer, including regular live music nights, a new venue review, and insider tips for those who want to get involved in Cambodia’s live and loud music mecca.

You name the day, Kampot will give you some place to play…

Kampot music scene

Madame Jojo and the Pirate performing again in Kampot after five years.

Any night in this wonderful town there’s the likelihood that you’ll hear the twang of a guitar, a tinkle on a keyboard, or a melody that’ll lift your heart. As the high season begins and Kampot comes to life in all of its glory, both locals and tourists alike will be treated to non-stop shows, jam sessions, and nightlife.

Looking for your musical fix? Just cast your eyes over this new and comprehensive Kampot music guide:

Live music in Kampot


Tight Arse Tuesday at Mad Monkey means cheap drinks and fantastic live music sessions led by magnificent local songwriters Jon and Ant. 8 to 10 p.m.

Karma Traders’ live music night is an open-mic and jam session hosted by Howard, the twelve-string hero, and features a changing line-up. 6 p.m. until late.


Ant and Jon kick off the well-established Magic Sponge open mic with an hour set of their very best until they relinquish the floor to musicians keen for the spotlight. 8 to 11 p.m.


Tiki Guesthouse host regular performances from rock’n’roll bands to garage; right now they’re making noise with their weekly Pirate Parties, 8 p.m. till late.


Banyan Tree is lucky enough to crank the volume up every Friday with a selection of top bands including the renowned Kampot Playboys. Be there every week from 9 p.m.

As the mood strikes

Keep your ears pricked for sweet live sounds emanating on any given night at Bokor Mountain Lodge, Moi Tiet, and KAMA. These venues host a range of talent and always deliver a top quality evening of entertainment. Keep up to date with the latest musical offerings by checking their web pages or simply dropping by.

Live music Kampot

Courtney ensures the musicians are ready to hit the stage.

Get involved: Tips from the top

Wandering onto this vast plane of creativity may seem daunting, yet, with the right know-how and understanding, any musician worth their strings can find a gig and with a little luck, even start getting paid.

Play at an open-mic or jam session and you can be sure that as you exit the stage you’ll be greeted with both applause and beer. It’s common practice for the venues to keep their musicians lubricated with a decent supply of free drinks — a welcome bonus for any artist who is happy to have a chance and location to play. However, for those who wish to see their names in lights — or at least on a flyer and perhaps a decent paycheck — you’ll need to make a name for yourself here in Kampot.

Howard, the current resident musician at Karma Traders, and his friend and fellow musician, Luke, explained that the best way to proceed in this business is to become part of the Kampot music scene itself and meet the people in it. As Luke put it, “It’s who you know — playing at the right places at the right time, knowing where those places are and finding out what’s going on.”

music Kampot

Howard and Andy’s musical synergy is apparent.

As a musician here, you need to be open to approach venues yourself and ask around. Integration in the scene is key. Having a solid knowledge of what type of nights are available to you while simultaneously getting your face seen and your music heard at particular events will build your reputation. Howard explains “If you’re planning to stay awhile, keep a good reputation. Don’t be lazy about turning up. Don’t stop the gig because there’s no one there, be loyal and you’ll get more work.”

So once you’ve secured a slot opening an open mic session, or you’re the opening act to a local band, you should do your utmost to be professional, upbeat, and reliable. With Kampot bursting with great places to play, it’s easy to find your feet, find other musicians for advice, and start making waves here. “It only takes a couple of weeks if you’re good to make a name for yourself here,” Howard told me.

Kampot live music

Howard never fails to impress!

New venue: Karma Traders

Five years ago in this lazy riverside town, Kampot was giving birth to music. Now known as Banyan Tree, Bodhi Villa was the only place to be; this was a different era of the Kampot than the one you might be familiar with today. This was a time in which there was little more than a quiet dusty street and the ripples in the river were as wild as it got. That was until Bodhi Villa unlocked Kampot’s musical heart, constructed a stage down by the water, and created a haven for which musicians and music lovers could come together to share something magical. It’s five years on and with a new venue, a unique energetic crowd and fantastic musicians have emerged.

Kitted-up with amplifiers and mics, Karma Traders are now hosting a new regular live music night every Tuesday that shouldn’t be missed. They have just begun to establish themselves within Kampot as a venue and guesthouse. Whether it’s a cosmically tasty cocktail prepared by Joe or outstanding tacos introduced at the kitchen’s soft opening, it’s clear that Karma Traders is destined for greatness. The live music element at Karma Traders brings tourists, expats, and locals together. “Nothing works better than that,” says Nick, one of the three owners, as we watch in wonder as an unplanned and unintended jam session surfaces to life at that very moment. This is just a normal evening here, but as it happens, the creativity that this venue exudes inspires instrumentalists on any given day to rock up and play. This is the very essence of Karma Traders.

Nick, Courtney, and Jolly, who earnt their stripes on the island of Koh Rong, have taken their passion and all they’ve learned on the island to make something great and delivered it to our very own Kampot. What that means for music lovers is that a palace has been made by people who care about music, care about quality, and most importantly, care about the people who enter their establishment. Their beautiful rooftop bar is where the regular weekly magic is happening. It’s here you can sing to the sky, shred a solo under a full moon, and be a part of a community who are as lovable as they are passionate about the party that they’re at.

Kampot music

Kampot’s live music scene is thriving.

Musicians are free to play their own sets, meaning they can showcase their talent and test out new material. The atmosphere is relaxed, easy-going, and that has a lot to do with Howard, their resident musician. Negotiating your slot on the evening’s line-up is a casual affair between musicians meeting in a creative and cultural cauldron. Within the mad freeness of the jam session, eyes closed and nothing but the ebb and flow of the music, there’s a sense you could be sitting around a campfire on the beach. “The jam sessions are my favourite part of it,” says Courtney. “They really show how talented everyone is.”

Incredible artists from Koh Rong stepped up to deliver sets one night last month, and all of it had the crowd cheering. Nick, Courtney, and Jolly’s ability to draw in unique island acts has enriched Kampot’s music scene. Perhaps the fact that the musicians are their good friends contributes to the overall atmosphere of warmth at their Tuesday evenings. That they’ve managed to transport the relaxed creativity and island life charm from Koh Rong to a Kampot rooftop bar is impressive, but their ambition doesn’t stop there.

Leaning over the railings and looking out onto the phenomenal view of mountainous jungle and paddy fields, Nick points out a space of land and says, “I’d like to put a stage there,” hopefully hinting at the possibility of a festival-esque event sometime in the future. Nick maintains that Karma Traders is “still fresh out the box right now” but to look you’d never have guessed, and it won’t be long till everyone’s humming along to their tune.

Whichever night you choose to go out you’ll have no problem finding some great live music. Just take your pick!

Banyan Tree
Open daily, 7:00 a.m. til late
Tuek Chhu Road, Kampot
T: 078 665 094, 078 665 094

Mad Monkey Hostel
Open daily, 7:00 a.m. til late
Riverside Road, Kampot
T: 033 666 8853

Karma Traders
Open daily, 9:00 a.m. til late
Red Road, Kampot
T: 016 556 504

The Magic Sponge
Open daily, 9:00 a.m. til late
Street 730 (Guesthouse Street), Kampot
T: 017 946 428

Tiki Guesthouse
Open daily, 9:00 a.m. til late
Kampong Bay Bridge, Kampot
T: 096 858 2524

Bokor Mountain Lodge

Open daily, 7:00 a.m. til late
Riverside, on the corner of Street 726 (‘eat street’), Kampot
T: 017712062

Moi Tiet
Open daily, 8:00 a.m. til late
Old Market Street, Kampot
T: 071 431 4987

KAMA (Kampot Arts and Music Association)
Open for specific events, cafe open daily
No. 58 St 726 (near 2000 roundabout), Kampot

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