Feast of tradition: Art festival highlights the splendours of heritage

  • Arts
  • Thursday, 11 Sep 2014

Folk at heart: Penang's Kim Gaik Low Choon Teochew Puppet Show plays at the Panggung Pusaka, The Lawn, at the Yayasan Sime Darby Arts Festival, KLPac. The puppet theatre is one of the many traditional shows curated by cultural organisation Pusaka for the festival this weekend. Tomorrow's headlining show is Wayang Kulit Sri Wawasan Pusaka while Indian temple drummers Chinna Rasa Urumee Melum Masana Kali will close this cultural stage on Sunday.

Panggung Pusaka at the upcoming Yayasan Sime Darby Arts reflects the country’s innate diversity.

Perhaps the most common misconception about expressions of traditional culture is that they remain static, unchanging, immutable. In recent decades, traditional culture, packaged on most national platforms as a reflection of community “heritage” and a nation’s historical well-being have suffered from forms of subtle museumisation – neatly packaged for tourist amusement – that has left it largely bereft of its inner dynamism, versatility and capacity for change.

Nevertheless, the inner stirrings and impulses of traditional forms have spawned novel ways of reimagining and reinventing “tradition.” Since the 1980s, the idea of “World Music” spearheaded by such organisations as Womad and by figures such as Peter Gabriel have created new platforms for a new awareness of the idea of “tradition.”

The “traditional” in Malaysia, having over the past few decades undergone a period of intense institutionalisation and reorganisation of its forms, has not been isolated from such developments.

Since the 1990s, local communities have begun, on their own initiative, to assemble performance groups, involve the young, ensure a transmission of knowledge to a succeeding generation and create independent spaces for the dissemination and nurturing of traditional performance.

Traditional performance cultures in Malaysia remain some of the clearest examples of the country’s innate diversity.

Even within specific communities these performance forms reflect a rich variety of distinct histories, regional variety, even distinctiveness of dialect and tongue.

Deeply reflecting the experience of “The Archipelago” they encapsulate a confluence of influences, belief systems and world views that have defined the sensibilities of the communities that continue to practice them.

Over the years, the cultural organisation Pusaka has attempted to research, document and represent the unique legacy of each of these traditions. Beginning first in the state of Kelantan the organisation’s work and interests have expanded nation-wide, from the each coast in the Peninsula to the reaches of Sabah and Sarawak.

One of the principal discoveries in the course of the organisations work has been the serious and ever growing interest in the young to discover, participate and to innovate with tradition.

From the wayang kulit troupe Kumpulan Wayang Kulit Seni Warisan Pusaka from Machang, Kelantan through to the Kumpulan Kuda Kepang Parit Raja, Johor to the vibrant traditional rock ensemble Nading Rhapsody from Kuching, a resplendent artistry of the traditional with the contemporary is being artfully and carefully assembled.

Some 21 groups nationwide will provide performances as part of the traditional component of the Yayasan Sime Darby Arts (YSDA) Festival at KLPac in Kuala Lumpur this weekend. The performances at the YSDA Festival are a showcase of the traditional arts of Malaysia.

Slated as a showcase of traditional performance cultures, the two-day event will be curated to display the unique individualism which exists in the array of our cultural traditions.

Among the traditions featured include such performances as Teohchew puppetry from Penang, the great Indian temple drumming tradition of Urumee Melum which, while well known and often featured as part of the community life of Malaysian Indians is hardly acknowledged.

A line of storytellers including the Awang Batil from Perlis and the Tok Selampit from Kelantan boast the great tradition of poetic narrative culture.

Ritualised art forms, including the Mak Yong, Wayang Kulit and the Mah Meri masked tradition from Pulau Carey will feature alongside such popular-humouristic forms as the Boria from Penang and the Ghazal Party from Kedah.

To be staged at Panggung Pusaka, The Lawn on the festival grounds, these shows will be performed by acknowledged masters of these traditions, many of whom can boast a lineage of several generations.

Upon a single platform, some of the most representative performance forms in our culture will gather to provide some insight into the richness of our cultural lineage while inspiring in audiences a sense of deep participation and belonging.

The Panggung Pusaka, The Lawn stage runs from 10am to 8.30pm at Yayasan Sime Darby Arts Festival, to be held at KLPac, Kuala Lumpur on Sept 13 and 14, Admission is free. For more info about the festival, visit www.yayasansimedarby.com or www.klpac.org.

The Panggung Pusaka@Lawn stage programme

Saturday, Sept 13

10am - Rebana Ubi Amok Perdana (Kelantan)

10.45am - Sumazau Bimbizangan (Sabah)

11.30am - Dewangga Sakti

12.15pm - Awang Batil Romli Mahmud (Perlis)

1pm - Lunch break

2pm - Gendang Pahang and silat

2.45pm - Mah Meri (Selangor)

3.30pm - Teochew Puppetry (Penang)

4.15pm - Dikir Barat Arjunasukma (Kelantan)

5pm - Boria Mutiara & Omara (Kelantan)

5.45pm - Nading Rhapsody (Sarawak)

6.30pm - Rebana Ubi

7pm - Break

7.30pm - Tarik Selampit (Kelantan)

7.50pm - Wayang Kulit Sri Wawasan Pusaka, closing (Kelantan)

Sunday, Sept 14

10am - Chinna Rasa Urumee Melum Masana Kali

10.45am - Randai (Negeri Sembilan)

11.30am - Ghazal Parti Yan (Kedah)

12.15pm - Manora Eh Choi Mentua (Kelantan)

1pm - Break

2pm - Portuguese music and dance (Malacca)

2.45pm - Qasidah & Marhaban Al-Ikhwan

3.30pm - Lagu Rakyat (Terengganu)

4.15pm - Dabus Tanjung Bidara (Perak)

5pm - Kuda Kepang Parit Raja (Johor)

6pm - Mak Yong (Kelantan)

6.45pm - Urumee Melum, closing

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