PETALING JAYA: Mariam Abdul Nazar looks like your average girl next door. Sporting a tudung, she appears demure and has a captivating smile.
But make no mistake, she’s a lion at heart, at least where playing the drums for lion dance is concerned. She’s adept at playing the huge drums used in the dance.
In fact, her jaw-dropping drumming skills in lion dance performances have left many mesmerised.
Mariam, who gained instant popularity after a StarTV video of her went viral recently, did not have it easy after she decided to join the troupe.
Although Mariam’s parents were supportive of her decision to join a lion dance troupe eight years ago, the 21-year-old said she received opposition from her relatives and friends.
“So far, my parents don’t have a problem as they are open-minded but my friends and relatives think that as a Muslim, it is not right for me to join the lion dance troupe.
“I take lion dance as a sport. They don’t understand it,” she said, adding that they came around after she explained to them that lion dance troupes take part in competitions as well as perform it as an art form.
In the five-minute video, which features Mariam playing the drums and the cymbals, she said she joined the dance troupe because she liked “the sound” of the instruments.
“It looks cool but it’s powerful and has a special rhythm,” she said, adding that drumming with the lion dance troupe makes her happy and helps her relieve stress.
Mariam, who speaks Mandarin, said she improved her mastery of the language after joining the troupe.
She said the first time she played the lion dance drums, it made her scared and nervous as she was afraid that she would make mistakes.
“My palms were sweating and my drumsticks went flying,’’ she said.
Coming from half-Malay, half-Indian parentage, she said that whenever she performs in public, audiences especially the Chinese would be pleasantly surprised, and when the performance was over, they would praise her drumming skills.
“I feel proud and happy to be a Malaysian. I also feel good because I get lots of praises for my drumming skills,” she said. The bonus is that she sometimes gets double the ang pow.
The video has also caught the attention of social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir and comedian Harith Iskander.
Marina had captioned the video as “so cool” on her Facebook page on the second day of Chinese New Year.
The video shared on Marina’s page has since received 14,000 views and 294 shares.
Meanwhile, Harith shared Marina’s post, saying that it was “absolutely fabulous!”
He later shared the video on his personal Facebook page, calling it “absolutely brilliant! Malaysians are wonderful people”.
Facebook user Priya Supra Sanbakam said Mariam’s involvement with the lion dance troupe reflects “the beautiful spirit of Malaysians”.
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