Q&A with Cambodia born (Swiss based) blues activist, Bonny B. one of the best blues harmonica players in Europe

"The blues I play is with feeling and simple but very hard to play, and I try to explain to the bands and blues lovers, but the blues is not a commercial musical industry, he has to be always alive even if some people mix them with jazz music... the blues is the blues and he will never change. And he never dies.''

Bonny B. : The Big Heart blues

Swiss based activist of the international blues scene, Bonny B. (Chanmongkhon) is considered one of the best blues harmonica players in Europe. It has a less unusual course. From his early childhood in Cambodia, during which his family suffered numerous violence under the totalitarian regime of Pol Pot, to his first world record in date (in 2009, for 24 hours, he performed the longest blues concert of all time) man has gone through the worst personal dramas and the most beautiful successes with a state of mind that commands respect. Indeed, the singer-harmonica player, director (but also cigar box guitar player) continues to instill positive vibes and to believe in human beings. Endowed with a deep sense of sharing, he is not content to give concerts and record albums.                                          (Bonny B. / Photo by Renato Brandao)

He is also devoted to others. After founding a singing and harmonica school, making two films, setting up two blues clubs, organizing European tours for American artists, creating an online radio, he found the time to make his dream come true, father (that is, to build a school in his native country). Rich with a 13th album, the artist is on the way to paradise.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues (music and culture) influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I listen so many blues like Muddy waters but mostly Chicago blues 50’ 60’. I have a blues school, Blues Club, and so many activities like concerts, conferences...  and I enjoy to go to the nature.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

My sound is my heart’s beating, I’m a blues and soul singer mix with Cambodian feelings... my philosophy is: always be happy what the life gives to me. So, I’m always positive…. the nature gave me a lot of inspirations.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

The most important meeting was the harmonica and the BLUES! They gave me some good devices be strong and follow your dream.

"I listen so many blues like Muddy waters but mostly Chicago blues 50’ 60’. I have a blues school, Blues Club, and so many activities like concerts, conferences...  and I enjoy to go to the nature." (Bonny B. / Photo by Renato Brandao)

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

I have so many memories, gigs over 3000 shows from 30 years... but my best blues sessions are with Bob Margolin, John Primer, Bob Stroger, James Wheeler all these real bluesmen. They taught me a lot!

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I would be very thanks full to meet Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. And my future... I don’t know... I appreciate so much my time.

Make an account of the case of the blues in Cambodia and Swiss. Which is the most interesting period in local scenes?

I would like to give some deep blues for My country but it’s hard because they still suffering a lot from Pol Pot and still scared! So, for the moment I prefer playing in Switzerland.

You have several charitable projects: school in Cambodia. What is the relation between music and activism?

Exactly, I have to do this for the children and for my father Phayoun who gave me his dream when he passed away and I did it because I promised to him to build a school in Cambodia and it still existing from 2007!

"My sound is my heart’s beating, I’m a blues and soul singer mix with Cambodian feelings... my philosophy is: always be happy what the life gives to me. So, I’m always positive…. the nature gave me a lot of inspirations." (Bonny B. / Photo by Renato Brandao)

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in music paths?

To adapt any situations. And get a smile.

What is the impact of Blues on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

The blues I play is with feeling and simple but very hard to play, and I try to explain to the bands and blues lovers, but the blues is not a commercial musical industry, he has to be always alive even if some people mix them with jazz music... the blues is the blues and he will never change. And he never dies.

I am teaching my blues from over 30 years and I’m happy to give à help for the Swiss culture.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

A gig with Muddy Waters Band in the 50’ …And recording to the Chess records.

Bonny B. - Home

(Bonny B. / Photo by Renato Brandao)

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