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Monday September 2, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Monday September 2, 2013 MYT 8:22:30 AM
by lee mei li
Traditions play a big role in influencing the contemporary, says Pusaka founder director Eddin Khoo (centre), seen here with Indonesian poet and essayist Goenawan Mohamad (left) and Abdul Rahman Dollah at the inaugural Pusaka Lecture on Cultural LIfe 2013.
With an annual lecture series in place, Pusaka hopes to reach out to a bigger audience.
TRADITIONAL performance in the country has seen better days. Part of the reason for its decline could be due to the seeming disinterest of the young, as Eddin Khoo, founder director of cultural organisation Pusaka, puts it.
In his opinion, traditions play a big role in influencing the contemporary. And yet, many opt to brush off the old as old-fashioned rather than something to be revered.
“Traditional culture helps nurture the way we think, the values we have, the feelings, the sensibilities. I’ve seen a steady deterioration in the practise of the arts here. While there’s a lot more of it, the quality is a lot less good. I think what a lot of artists want to do these days is: they want to perform, but they don’t want to learn anything,” said Khoo, 44, during the inaugural Pusaka Lecture on Cultural Life 2013.
The event, held on Aug 24 at the Perpustakaan Kuala Lumpur at Jalan Raja, marks another milestone on the Pusaka front – since 2002, the non-profit organisation has been combing through the challenges in ensuring the longevity of traditional performances.
With the launch of the annual lecture two Saturdays ago, when renowned Indonesian poet and writer Goenawan Mohamad delivered a piece on how notions of tradition and the contemporary coalesce, Pusaka hopes to create a meaningful platform for the exchange and interaction of ideas about culture and its forms of expression.
“To make the traditional new is by no means to put it in new garb but to recall the intensity of its creative impulse; it is not an act of representing but an act of rebirth,” Goenawan, 72, stressed during his lecture.
The event also saw the introduction of the Pusaka Abdullah Ibrahim Memorial Award for Cultural Preservation, an award conferred upon an individual of merit who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to ensuring the viability of Malaysia’s cultural traditions.
This year, the award was presented to Abdul Rahman Dollah, drummer and master musician of the Wayang Kulit Siam tradition of Kelantan. The 56-year-old man, who started learning the music of the shadow puppet play at the age of nine, apprenticed for years under the late legendary Dalang Abdullah Ibrahim, or Dalang Dollah Baju Merah, as he is fondly called.
Dalang Abdullah was among the most popular dalang (puppeteer) in the Wayang Kulit Siam tradition of Kelantan.
Formerly an ambulance driver, Abdul Rahman now heads Anak Seri Baju Merah, a young troupe of seven students. His son Eshark, 15, is also a part of the troupe and has emerged as a protégé in the Kelantan drumming tradition.
“Despite being influenced by a wave of foreign culture, the younger generation still has interest in the traditional and I’m really proud of that. All they need is a little guidance,” said Abdul Rahman, who received a cash prize of RM10,000 from the award, which will be directed towards the nurturing of the young performers as well as the preservation of the Wayang Kulit tradition.
“We all have a role to play to ensure that in 10 years to come, traditional performances like the Wayang Kulit live on, and not just in museums,” he added.
As part of the award, Abdul Rahman will be featured in a visual documentary and book publication, which aspires to document elements of the traditional culture that were principally oral-based.
While Pusaka has always focused on Kelantanese performance traditions, the organisation will, in the next five years, work on “The Cultural Map of Malaysia”, a project that aims to embrace cultures from other states in Malaysia.
“We’re going to transfer the model that we have worked on in Kelantan onto almost every state in the peninsula. We have started to work in Perak, Johor, Terengganu, Penang and Perlis. We’ve also started to work with communities beyond the Malay community – learning from Indian temple drummers in Bentong; recording Chinese lullabies and small puppet stories in Penang,” Khoo revealed.
“A lot of people see the arts today as a kind of bourgeoisie indulgence. Whereas in fact, it’s very rooted in our community,” he opined.
“I think the country has emphasised a lot on infrastructure. It’s time to look at the soul and spirit of what makes us who we are.”
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Entertainment, On Stage, Lifestyle, Eddin Khoo, Pusaka Lecture of Cultural Life
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