ArtsEquator’s Southeast Asia Radar features articles and posts about arts and culture in Southeast Asia, drawn from local and regional websites and publications – aggregated content from outside sources, so we are exposed to a multitude of voices in the region. In the weekly Southeast Asia Radar, we publish a round-up of content that have been scoured and sifted from a range of regional news websites, blogs and media platforms.
Here is this week’s Southeast Asia Radar:
Ink on the body is not a stain on the country
LETTER | I recently read the news that the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture is looking to take legal action against the organisers of the Tattoo Malaysia Expo 2019, following allegations of attendees “parading” around the premises semi-naked.
In regards to that announcement, I would like to ask, what exactly is the issue here?
First off, I would also like to highlight that according to the official event website and banners placed throughout the event, this tattoo conference is supported by the ministry itself along with the Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau.
In other words, this event is fully endorsed by the ministry. For them to do so, wouldn’t the ministry be required to conduct their due diligence to ensure that the event falls within the parameters or “conditions”, that the ministry themselves has set out?
Jitti Chompee Is Stepping Up
Among Thailand’s most prominent dance luminaries is Jitti Chompee, founder of contemporary dance group 18 Monkeys Dance Theatre. A well-known figure in both local and international performance art scenes, the choreographer is celebrated for his non-conformist ways and his unique ability to blend various forms of dance to create a uniquely captivating piece. His style—often difficult to define, even for Jitti himself—has been referred to as organic and animalistic.
Given his talent and success, one could be forgiven for thinking he has been dancing his entire life. However, unlike most professional dancers who start young, Jitti’s entrance into the milieu of performing arts didn’t begin until he was at Chulalongkorn University studying for a degree in chemical engineering. “I took up dance in my free time, as a hobby. I had to put in twice as much effort as everyone else because I was starting late and frankly musicality did not come naturally to me,” he explains.
As a result of his perseverance and ambition, the dancer later received a scholarship from the Jean M Wong School of Ballet in Hong Kong and then another from the Ailey School in New York. What began out of sheer curiosity and a desire to try something new flourished into a successful career. Today, in his capacity as director and choreographer of 18 Monkeys, he has masterminded several acclaimed pieces and participated in numerous international dance festivals including as a guest choreographer at Holland’s Nederlandse Reisopera and at Festival Tanztendenz in Greifswald, Germany.
Indonesia and all Southeast Asia should heed the music of connection
When acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma takes the stage on Friday at the Jakarta International Expo Theater, the power of his music and his message will be clear.
Music moves and has the power to connect across cultures — at home and abroad. Turning that message of connection into reality is something that we each could do more of these days in Indonesia and around our region and the world, at a time when so much of our civic conversations are focused on division.
Presented by Shoemaker Studios and GoImpact — a venture I support that is focused in part on building an ecosystem to help turn sustainable development goals and sustainable finance rhetoric into reality — Ma will perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s six suites for solo cello in one sitting.
This landmark performance and an accompanying “Day of Action” in Indonesia is part of The Bach Project — a journey to three dozen cities around the world to celebrate Bach’s ability to speak to the common community and also explore how culture connects people to a better future.
Meet the Unsung Hero of Traditional Chapei Instrument: Mr. Aok Ang
In an attempt to further promote the precious traditional arts we have as well as highlight the few surviving artists from the Khmer Rouge regime, I’d like to introduce Mr. Ouk Ang, a 74-year-old farmer, and master of Chapei, Arak and wedding music from Prey Veng province.
Ouk Ang has been playing this Chapei since his childhood, in 1953, during which Cambodia gained independence from France. He seemed to have an affinity with this instrument, picking it up and playing it even without encouragement from his family or friends.
Nowadays, he worked in this field alone among his family because he does not have the ability to create a band and become as famous as any other artist. Villagers living near each other called him to play Chapei for a show. Thus, the income is not enough to provide for the family, but the children to earn extra.
Life Sounds: A playlist exclusively made by your favorite musicians
Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — It’s tough out there. So much new music gets released every day and you’re noticing that it’s the same songs over and over that populates your Spotify “On Repeat” and “Repeat Rewind” playlists. But worry not! CNN Philippines Life is here to the rescue.
We’ve asked some of your favorite musicians to select a few of their favorite songs and current obsessions — from pop, K-pop, to indie rock — and put them in a playlist. Because there’s nothing like a bunch of songs carefully picked by an actual human who knows that they want and love in a song than a generator run by an algorithm. The new playlist will be uploaded every Friday on the CNN Philippines Life homepage.
The first edition of Life Sounds is by BP Valenzuela (listen below if you missed it), who’s launching her album “half-lit” this Friday. The inaugural playlist has a pop theme, perfectly suited for a musician who has been inspired by pop music all throughout her life. She says, “I’m inspired by a lot of the pop I listened to growing up, which was sappy 2000s pop rock, which was kind of informed by the ‘90s emo and grunge alt-rock rise — but these songs in the playlist are a mix of indie rock, pop, house, R&B, but all very pop in a sense of being sticky in the way that I personally like.”
IMDA sets aside $20m for joint regional media projects
The New Paper, Singapore
A scary creature haunting a faulty underground train system – that is the premise of Singapore’s first monster movie, Circle Line, which is set to be released next year.
As a Singapore film produced with regional partners such as Thailand’s Kantana Post Production and the Malaysian arm of media company mm2 Entertainment, it is what the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) calls a “made with Singapore” project.
Hoping to boost more of such collaborative media projects in the future, IMDA has introduced a slew of new initiatives.
Among them, the Government is setting aside $20 million in a call for partners to jointly fund regional media projects.
Preserving the ancient craft of making palm leaf manuscripts
Phnom Penh Post
Vowing to preserve Khmer culture and tradition, a former monk who mastered the skill of inscribing palm leaf manuscripts uses the craft to earn a living.
At the young age of 15, Lorth Loeng, who is now 36, entered monkhood. In 2001 – a year after he first started wearing the yellow robe – he began mastering the trade of inking palm leaves in a pagoda in Siem Reap province.
After leaving monkhood, Loeng married and now has three daughters. He lives in Siem Reap’s Samrong village in Leang Dai commune, Angkor Thom district.
His childhood fascination for the ancient art of inscribing manuscripts has now turned into a venture that supports his family’s daily living.
“My wife sells brooms made from grass and wild fruits while I work on palm leaf manuscripts. My three daughters, through practice and my guidance, are now picking up the skill little by little. One of them is among one of my 10 students.
Artists’ groups call for release of nabbed Panday Sining activists
MANILA, Philippines — Artists’ groups are condeming the arrest of four Panday Sining activists in Manila on Saturday over protest art to mark Bonifacio Day and are calling for their release.
Panday Sining, which was recently in the news for protest slogans they painted on the walls of a Manila underpass, said the four—one of whom is reportedly a minor—were arrested by police in civilian clothes after the Bonifacio Day protests.
“To commemorate the birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio, Panday Sining’s protest art posed the question: ‘What would Bonifacio do?’,” the group said in a statement.
It said the protest was done in the context of “de facto martial law” and the government’s operations against legal activist groups in its “whole of nation approach” against communist rebels.
A brother’s tribute to the Gendang master
The Malaysian Reserve
“I WISH we had more time to play together,” Zahid Ahmad said, as he reminisced the good old days with his older brother Yazit, the former drummer of rock band Search who passed away in September.
Zahid is still reeling from the great loss. One could also tell that Zahid is still processing the fact that his brother is gone.
“…I still remember his jokes and all. I have to take things slowly. This too shall pass,” he said.
Ever since childhood and right till his final days, Zahid said the late Yazit had remained true to himself — the same old joker who was revered by his family and friends.
“He always likes to poke fun at things. He only slowed down when he fell ill. My brother was a nice guy and was so much fun to be with,” Zahid said.
ArtsEquator’s Southeast Asia Radar is compiled every week. All sources and credit belong to the original publishers and writers. Click here for past editions of Southeast Asia Radar.