Hope Music Center on song with its care for customers and local scene

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The staff are all accomplished musicians who share a passion for music. JOE CURTIN

Hope Music Center – Phnom Penh’s leading “one-stop shop for music” – has rapidly become a hub for Cambodia’s up-and-coming talent and the wider scene, despite having only just celebrated its first anniversary in July.

Hope Music Center boasts services to support every stage of a musician’s craft – from the sale of instruments, music lessons, equipment supply and maintenance, to practice space, recording studio and professional mixing.

“While the core of the business is selling instruments, we aim to empower young people to create their own music as much as we can, and by supplying this support, help further build the scene. Previously, there wasn’t much opportunity for young talent to shine, and we wanted to address this.

“Having seen so many music shops and schools starting to grow, I decided to open this music shop and bring in top quality products to increase the quality of music in Cambodia.

“We also have music classes to provide musical knowledge, a music studio and rehearsal space, and we can livestream gigs for bands, all of which makes Hope Music Center a real one-stop shop for music,” said owner El Bunthoeun, known as Jonathan.

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Owner El Bunthoeun. JOE CURTIN

The 29-year-old says the sector is in a healthy position despite the Covid-19 outbreak, with Phnom Penh now home to many music shops due to a high demand for musical instruments and studio equipment.

“The music shop market value was around $1.2-$2.2 million per annum before the pandemic but has now decreased to less than $1.2 million.

“I think I’m blessed despite opening Hope Music Center during the pandemic. Because of our honesty and value in providing our services and products to the customer, we continue to thrive.

“In just one year, we have received huge support from both locals and foreigners. While many businesses are struggling during the pandemic, with some unfortunately even permanently closed, Hope Music Center still goes up every day,” Bunthoeun said.

Bunthoeun has held a lifelong passion for music – something shared by all his staff members – and the name of his shop reflects what he sees as one of the art form’s most powerful properties.

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Hope Music Center sells a range of high quality instruments. JOE CURTIN

“I grew up in a strong Church background and was involved with musical instruments daily. So I love music, and it is such a privilege to be able to combine my business with my passion.

“Everyone faces problems and struggles in life, and I think music plays a big part in motivating people, to give them hope in order to get through any difficult situation. As our motto says – ‘music is hope’,” he said.

While in the past, Cambodian popular music relied heavily on covers and reworkings of foreign songs, the Phnom Penh native says there has recently been a sea change.

“The local scene is ready to grow massively. We are witnessing a Cambodian musical revolution as fans are now more discerning and demanding more original music.

“As a result, people want to record new original material and sounds, and are increasingly ready to do so. We want to assist in this every step of the way – to be there to help and inspire the young generation.

“For example, with the price of studio time prohibitive for many young musicians, we have addressed this by providing tutorials on home recording to help them start and build confidence,” Bunthoeun said.

And studio manager Proeung Thun Panhavorn says this is reflected by the impressive turnout for the Hope Music Center’s first music contest, held when the fledging business was less than six months old.

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A ‘one-stop shop for music’, it boasts a recording studio and practice space. JOE CURTIN

“We were very surprised and happy to see so much talent apply. Around 70 contestants recorded an acoustic song and posted it on our Facebook, with whoever received the most likes and comments winning.

“The winners received 27,000 views in just one week! This shows the strength of the scene, and we are optimistic of even greater numbers for this year’s contest in November,” Panhavorn said.

With four years’ experience in imports and exports, Bunthoeun has now combined his business expertise with his passion for music – and a commitment to his customers and the Cambodian music scene.

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Hope Music Center provides maintenance and rapairs, and can even source custom guitars. JOE CURTIN

“Competitive pricing is important – as ours are – but we also focus more on the three most important points.

“The first is the quality of the products and services we provide; the second is providing true and detailed information to customers – only facts are provided to our clients. Thirdly and most importantly, our customers are more than just that to us. We treat them with the best attitude and respect.

“This is the secret of our success – we like to say that you come in as a customer but leave as a friend. And with a large number of locals and foreigners from more than 20 countries already, our group of friends just keeps growing,” Bunthoeun said
And Panhavorn was quick to voice appreciation for their loyalty.

“Hope Music Center would like to express our thanks for all the support and love from our customers both locally and internationally. Without their support, we wouldn’t be here,” he said.