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Tuesday April 6, 2010

Malaysian beat for NBA game

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia made its name in the international arena once again when members of a drum troupe wheeled in 24 drums, bearing the Chinese characters of ancient festive seasons, to an NBA court on Sunday.

The 24-Festival Drums – the creation of two talented Malaysians – was made known to the American audience when the troupe performed during half-time of the NBA game between the Minnesota Tim­ber­­wolves and Oklahoma City Thunder.

Oklahoma State University’s Malaysia 24 Seasons Drum Troupe made its first major appearance at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, where the two teams were playing.

It gave a six-minute performance called “Drunken Drum”, created by the 24-Festival Drums group from Foon Yew High School in Johor, which was one of the first few schools in the country to form a troupe.

Its founder and leader, Ben Loh Weng Kheong, said the troupe members were dumbfounded when they learnt that they were going to perform at the event.

“There was a moment of disbelief as they kept asking me ‘Are you sure?’ when I relayed the news to them,” said Loh, who is from Ipoh.

He said performing at the opening of an NBA game was a milestone for the troupe, describing it as a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience.

Loh said the team had previously performed only at cultural nights, dinners and conventions.

“Many people do not know the origin of the 24-Festival Drums and thought that it was Japanese or Chinese drums.

“This was a great opportunity for us to introduce this performing art to people in that part of the world and tell them that it is from Malaysia,” he said, adding that the troupe had applied for a chance to perform through a friend who works with the NBA.

The group, founded by five Malay­sians and two Japanese, prides itself in being the first 24-Festival Drums troupe set up in the United States.

It has more than 100 members from more than 10 countries, including Japan, China, South Korea, Palestine, India and the United States, since its setting up in 2003.

Cultural activist Tan Chai Puan, who jointly created the performing art with the late musician Tan Hooi Song based on the 24 festivals in the lunar calendar of the ancient Chinese agricultural community, said he was very proud of the troupe.

“We had a humble beginning and I am very excited with this new development as more people will get to know this performance from Malaysia,” he said.