5 shows to catch at DiverseCity: KL International Arts Fest 2019

Romli Mahmud, as an Awang Batil, wearing the hulubalang mask during his story telling performance at Taman Budaya, Perlis.

A tragic love story set in a “paddy field” right at the heart of the city, a symphonic marriage between Chinese drums and Malay/Balinese gamelan in a percussion concert, a multidisciplinary concert piece conceptualised and brought to life by Lan e Tuyang, a group of cross generational practitioners from the Kenyah and Kayan community in Sarawak, a photography exhibit about Kuala Lumpur’s vibrant communities and an outreach arts programme into the low-cost public housing residences.

That’s just a sampling of the upcoming DiverseCity: Kuala Lumpur International Arts Festival 2019’s programme.

This fifth edition of the festival features dance, performing arts, music, pop-up art spaces and literature, with a mix of local and international content.

DiverseCity, which starts Sept 1, will see a city-wide month-long series of activities to be held at places such as Auditorium DBKL, The Intermark, Malaysian Tourism Centre, the Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC), the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac), Royal Lake Club, Padang Merbok, Ruang by Think City and yes, the streets of downtown KL.

Here's a list of five highlights:

Gamelan orchestra Gangsapura is all set to perform its first contemporary Malay gamelan concert series. Photo: Handout

Buka Langkah: Inner Resonance

Where: DPAC, Petaling Jaya

When: Sept 7 and 8

KL-based gamelan orchestra Gangsapura presents its first major concert series, with seven new works inspired by contemporary gamelan movements. The new material is written by Gangsapura's co-founder Teuku Umar Ilanywas. Founded in 2016, the group's sole mission is to promote, to elevate the value and to bring awareness about the existence of traditional Malay gamelan. Through the years, Gangsapura has built a niche with public showcases and community workshops. This Spectrum series at DPAC sees Gangsapura collaborating with musical guests such as Jamilah Abu Bakar, NJWA and Azizul Haqim.

Sarawakian sape master Mathew Ngau Jau leads Kelunan,a joint showcase of the cultures of the Kayan and Kenyah communities in the Spectrum series at DPAC. Photo: DPAC

Kelunan Featuring Lan E Tuyang

Where: DPAC, Petaling Jaya

When: Sept 6 and 8

The Spectrum live series at DPac features Kelunan by Sarawak-based group Lan E Tuyang. Led by sape master Mathew Ngau Jau, this joint Kayan and Kenyah community-based show explores the universal theme of love through a multidisciplinary stage performance. Here's a rare chance to experience poetic singing and storytelling, dances and traditional music. The cast consists of cross generational Kayan and Kenyah cultural practitioners, including Mathew and Adrian Jo Milang, the youngest practitioner of indigenous oral art forms of Parap and Takna. The line-up is completed by Rose Belare, Salomon Gau,

Lian Balan, Edmund Ngau Bilong, Marlyn Lengan, Eleanor Simon and Grace Saban Henry. This show is produced by The Tuyang Initiative, a Sarawak-based social enterprise committed to responsible development and promotion of cultural-heritage talents.


Where: KLPac

When: Oct 4-6

In conjunction with KLIAF, drum ensemble Hands Percussion will roll out a new production called Taksu – The Spirit Of Gamelan at KLPac in October. Taksu, directed by theatre practitioner Ghafir Akbar, will combine Chinese drums with Malay/Balinese gamelan. This show is also a tribute to the late theatre legend Krishen Jit, who inspired Hands Percussion’s Bernard Goh, founder/artistic director, to try out gamelan, theatre and percussion as a live performance setting in 2005. This upcoming show also has Balinese gamelan master I Wayan Sudirana back on board alongside the Gamelan Yuganada group. Taksu is the second collaboration this year between Hands Percussion, Ghafir and Wayan after their work in the George Town Festival show Armour And Skin in July.

Director Shamsudin Othman will stage a musical version of the classic Malay play Uda Dan Dara at Padang Merbok in KL. Photo: Filepic

Teater Uda Dan Dara

Where: Padang Merbok, Jalan Parlimen, KL

When: Oct 18 and 19

If you’re looking for classic Malay theatre under the moonlight, head over to Padang Merbok to catch theatre director Shamsudin Othman’s musical staging of the late Datuk Usman Awang’s Uda Dan Dara. Think of it as the Malaysian version of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Don’t be surprised to find the open pitch, more known for rugby games, transformed into a paddy field. With its outdoor setting, this free admission event presents something different, with installation works such as scarecrows and torches. This musical version of Uda Dan Dara was staged two years ago in a paddy field in Sungai Besar, Sabak Bernam in Selangor.

Romli Mahmud, playing the Awang Batil role, is seen wearing the hulubalang mask during a traditional storytelling performance in Perlis. Photo: Filepic

Awang Batil: Hikayat Cendawan Putih (Legend Of The White Mushroom)

Where: Dewan Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia Tourism Centre (MaTiC), KL

When: Oct 25 and 26

Traditional Malay storytelling gets the spotlight with the Awang Batil: Hikayat Cendawan Putih show, presented by Persatuan Teater Opera Mimpi Negeri Perlis (Topeng), with a special appearance by Romli Mahmud. In this traditional show format, the Awang Batil - storyteller - is the life of the party. He inherits many folk tales and each tale is told with comedic elements. Masks are also common place to play characters such as ‘Hulubalang’ (guard) or Ahli Nujum (soothsayer). In Perlis, Romli is regarded as the one and only Awang Batil. He inherited the talent and art of storytelling from his father, the late Mahmud Wahid. Romli now resides in Kampung Pokok Sena, Chuping in Perlis.

More info:www.diversecity.my.

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