Hitting the high notes in Ipoh


Grooving to the beat: The crowd at PORT Fest in June last year. More such events are in the offing with Ipoh’s new Unesco status.

Thriving music ecosystem led to Unesco recognition for capital city, says state agency

Ipoh, which has been declared a City of Music by Unesco, hopes to emulate Busan in South Korea by becoming a music hub.

Ipoh mayor Datuk Rumaizi Baharin said Busan was famous for its K-pop music and his vision was to make Ipoh known for its Nusantara (Malay archipelago) music.

He pointed out that Busan was not well-known until it received recognition in 2014.

The audience enjoying a concert during Karnival Mesra Anak Muda in September. — Photos: RONNIE CHIN/The Star and courtesy of PORTThe audience enjoying a concert during Karnival Mesra Anak Muda in September. — Photos: RONNIE CHIN/The Star and courtesy of PORT

“Now the whole world knows about K-pop, which brings revenue to Busan and South Korea as a whole.

“K-pop artistes perform in many parts of the world including Malaysia. Busan is a model that Ipoh can follow,” Rumaizi told StarMetro.

Honour for Ipoh

On Nov 1, Ipoh joined Unesco’s Creative Cities Network (UCCN).

It was reported that the Perak government – with Federal Government support via Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry – had prepared a dossier and submitted Ipoh as a City of Music candidate to Unesco in August last year.

The Perak capital is one of 55 new cities on the UCCN list, announced in conjunction with World Cities Day on Oct 31, 2023.

Unesco’s City of Music designation is part of the wider UCCN programme.

Drawings outside the PORT office in Ipoh signal the agency’s intention to nurture the arts.Drawings outside the PORT office in Ipoh signal the agency’s intention to nurture the arts.

The network, launched in 2004, has member cities in seven creative fields (Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts, and Music).

Rumaizi said Ipoh City Council (MBI) had plans to showcase its City of Music status in line with the UCCN recognition, which is valid from Jan 1 this year until 2026.

“We have outlined the 4P concept of ‘pengurusan acara’ (event management), ‘pendidikan seni’ (arts education), ‘peningkatan ekonomi’ (economic boost), and ‘peluang’ (opportunities).

“We need to create awareness among the public on the importance of music, and we also need to enhance the economy via music. This will benefit not just music enthusiasts but also the city itself.”

Rumaizi wants Ipoh to become a music hub similar to Busan.Rumaizi wants Ipoh to become a music hub similar to Busan.

He said the city council was still planning with industry players and strategic partners on how to go about the process.

“Once we have concluded our meetings, I will provide more details.

“I can say that we plan to host big-scale festivals this year, which will not just focus on music but also other forms of art such as fashion, literature, film, folk art and gastronomy.

“We are getting input from our counterparts in Indonesia where big music festivals have been held in cities such as Jakarta and Makassar,” he added.

Some music materials on display at the PORT office. Some music materials on display at the PORT office.

Rumaizi said the first step would be working to showcase Nusantara music with Indonesia, southern Thailand, Singapore. Brunei and southern Philippines.

“We want to draw more Muslim tourists from the archipelago to our City of Music events.

“Before we organise big music festivals, smaller events will be held where the city council will work with our strategic partner PORT.”

PORT (People of Remarkable Talent) is a creative agency under the purview of Perak government.

Some posters of previous events organised by PORT.Some posters of previous events organised by PORT.

Rumaizi said some people had a negative perception of music.

“Therefore, it is vital to carry out educational programmes and engagement sessions to point out the positive elements of music.”

On venues to hold both big and small music events, he said the Ipoh Town Hall building was undergoing construction work to feature a philharmonic orchestra venue and digital studio. The work is expected to be completed by June.

Rumaizi said other venues for music events include Ipoh International Convention Centre, the amphitheatre at D.R. Seenivasagam Park and Pincer MBI Studio in Meru Raya.

Major achievement

PORT general manager Nur Hanim Mohamed Khairuddin said they proposed to the mayor about two years ago the idea of applying for creative city status.

She said it was not easy to achieve the status and in some instances, a city could take years to be recognised.

“It is a miracle that everything turned out to be faster than expected.

“Now PORT has been invited by the city council to help plan more music events.

“A few years ago, we were tasked to map out ‘Ekosistem Muzik Independen’, an independent music ecosystem,” she added.

It comprised a map, guide and directory listing of infrastructure and institutions in the music industry including venues, recording studios and musical instrument shops around the city.

Musicians performing at PORT Fest, one of the many events organised. — FilepicMusicians performing at PORT Fest, one of the many events organised. — Filepic

“This compilation was one of the supporting documents used when applying for the Unesco status,” said Nur Hanim.

She said PORT also started the Perak Music Archives a few years ago.

The work involved compiling all sorts of materials on Perakian music, she elaborated.

She said PORT had some 3,000 items and there was a plan to start a Perak music gallery or museum.

“We also created an online programme called ‘Port Cast’ on our YouTube channel, which is a platform for sharing Perak music.

“Our main event is the Ipoh Music Symposium series, now into its fifth year.

“The series, held in October yearly, features presentation of papers by music industry players and at times, people from Singapore and Indonesia take part.

“Last year’s theme for the symposium was ‘Pop 60an’.

Nur Hanim showing a functioning jukebox at the PORT office.Nur Hanim showing a functioning jukebox at the PORT office.

“Besides paper presentations, we hold workshops, roundtable discussions and a concert, which has always been a crowd-puller.

“Alleycats and Francissca Peter were among the artistes who performed at the latest symposium,” she added.

Another venture supported by the state is the Perak Arts Fund which started in 2019.

It comprises three components — visual arts, performing arts and music.

Nur Hanim said the music component would receive many submissions, and through this, more support could be given to record music and hold concerts.

“In Ipoh, the younger generation has started a lot of initiatives including gigs, concerts and festivals that were a major help in the submission of the dossier to Unesco.

The Ipoh Town Hall building is undergoing renovation to turn it into a proper venue for a philharmonic orchestra.The Ipoh Town Hall building is undergoing renovation to turn it into a proper venue for a philharmonic orchestra.

“Apart from performances, there is also an educational element.

“We use music as part of a healing therapy for patients with dementia and mental illness, and also in programmes for old folk’s homes,” she added.

PORT also has a monthly schedule of programmes including Port Fest in June. It took part in the three-day ‘Karnival Mesra Anak Muda’ organised by the Mentri Besar’s Office in September.

PORT also collaborated with sound artist and researcher Dr Kamal Sabran during the Ipoh International Art Festival and Healing Art Festival where he used sound for therapeutic purposes on dementia patients.

On plans to host a big-scale music festival this year, Nur Hanim said they were still waiting for the main meeting to be called by the city council.

“The symposium will be conducted again in October and we also hope to develop a digital format for our archives which is currently in physical form.

Kamal demonstrating the therapeutic power of music to visitors at Healing Art Festival.Kamal demonstrating the therapeutic power of music to visitors at Healing Art Festival.

“We have a collection of traditional, rhythm and blues, and punk rock music from the ’60s until now.

“The Ipoh International Art Festival is usually held in November or December.

“We have plans to host more concerts but that will depend on the budget,” she said.

Non-governmental organisation Ipoh City Watch president Dr Richard Ng lauded MBI and PORT for landing the City of Music recognition.

He said it would help Ipoh become a Sustainable Heritage City, which would draw tourists from all over the world.

Ng said that apart from “Pop Yeh Yeh” and traditional Malay music and dance, the government should also showcase Chinese and Indian arts and culture to tourists.

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