Malaysian storytellers add gritty KL tales to regional digital story festival

Dive deep into the insidious underbelly of the big city with KL Noir: Magic – Storytelling Series, featuring seven bite-sized tales from the KL Noir anthology.

Adapted from Malaysian indie publisher Buku Fixi’s KL Noir: Magic, this digital series is part of Singapore’s storytelling festival StoryFest 2021, which will stream (for free) on the festival’s Youtube channel from June 20 till July 11.

This is definitely something that fans of the KL Noir series wouldn’t want to miss. Featuring seven videos presented by KL-based storytellers, actors and spoken word artists, KL Noir: Magic – Storytelling Series marks StoryFest’s first cross-border digital exchange.

“Despite international travel restrictions, I still wanted to find a way to feature stories from the region. As a Malaysian myself, I have always admired independent publishers such as Amir Muhammad and his work with Buku Fixi.

“I wanted to share regional stories on a platform that will reach global audiences, ” says Singapore-based Kamini Ramachandran, the festival’s creative producer.

Each video, which was shot at KL-based indie cinema space TDSC in April, runs between five and seven minutes (with English subtitles).

KL Noir: Magic – Storytelling Series will be presented by Rajveer Singh, Mia Sabrina Mahadir, Nisha Nair, Ahmed Lafeer, Maya Zaharudin, May Chong and Deric Ee, who is the series’ producer.

The featured short stories are Art (Bissme S), Shucked (Masami Mustaza), Alexa (Lee Chow Ping), Dastar (Sukhbir Cheema), Driving Miss Devi (Rizal Ramli), War Dogs (Derek Kho) and Masquerade (P. Maheswary).

Kamini, StoryFest's creative producer, says that the festival is a way of sharing regional stories with a global audience. Photo: StoryFestKamini, StoryFest's creative producer, says that the festival is a way of sharing regional stories with a global audience. Photo: StoryFest

Draw your curtains, turn down the lights and listen to these dark stories in one sitting, or catch them in small doses.

“Contemporary Malaysian fiction is a treasure trove of delights. But as reading is not the most popular pastime in our country, books and literature need to be marketed and showcased more savvily so they reach a bigger audience.

“This programme, a first of its kind for both Buku Fixi and StoryFest, hopes to thrill audiences with local material and encourage more people to check out the Malaysian section of their neighbourhood bookstores, ” says Ee.

The project started in February with the team selecting seven short stories from the anthology (20 in total).

Discussions and rehearsals followed suit via Zoom till April. Kamini, an arts educator and storyteller, also conducted an online coaching session with the performers.

“This sharing of knowledge connects deeply to my work as a mentor and teaching artist. It was so rewarding to be able to reach out virtually and impart specific storytelling techniques and skills to others, ” says Kamini.

Ee hopes the online series will encourage Malaysians to check out local contemporary fiction: Photo: Adibah KhalilEe hopes the online series will encourage Malaysians to check out local contemporary fiction: Photo: Adibah Khalil

The project was quite a challenge for all concerned, especially with pandemic restrictions in Malaysia.

“It was a challenge assembling and holding onto a team during the pandemic due to the high level of uncertainty in Malaysia’s arts and culture scene, especially with regards to production SOPs, ” shares Ee.

Ultimately, Kamini hopes the KL Noir: Magic – Storytelling Series and StoryFest will ignite interest in storytelling among adults.

“Storytelling for adult audiences is something I am personally passionate about, and StoryFest has always programmed a variety of tales and tellers from around the world who share stories for grown-ups.

“This series of bite-sized videos is a way of introducing the art of storytelling to adult listeners and viewers, ” she concludes.

StoryFest 2021 is co-presented by Singapore’s The Storytelling Centre Limited and The Arts House

More details: StoryFest 2021.

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