ArtsEquator 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. Here’s a round-up of content from this week, scoured and sifted from a range of regional news websites, blogs and media platforms, and brought together in one article for convenient reading.
Rich Brian grows up: Indonesian rapper, formerly known as Rich Chigga, shows mature side on new album
South China Morning Post
In his latest single, Kids, Indonesian rapper Rich Brian gamely tells Asian youths that they can do what they want: “Might steal the mic at the Grammys just to say we won/ That everyone can make it, don’t matter where you come from.”
At face value, these lyrics offer words of encouragement to Asians wishing to break into the (predominantly white) American entertainment industry. But if you look closer at the songs on his new album, The Sailor, you’ll see just how far this 19-year-old artist has come.
Back in 2016, the artist born Brian Imanuel released a video on YouTube titled Dat $tick under his previous moniker, Rich Chigga, which set alarm bells ringing. “Chigga” is a blend of “Chinese” and the N-word. Coupled with his free usage of the N-word and references to gunplay and the gangster life, Imanuel came under fire for rapping about a life he hadn’t lived.
The death knell for bookstores? Singapore bookstores find novel ways of keeping afloat
Good old bookstores are pillars of the community, known to provide solace to many a book lover seeking refuge in its shelves. They are nostalgic, comforting, and we don’t want to see them go. In Singapore, bookstores have been faced with a major challenge that have forced some of their number to clear their shelves and close up shop — exorbitant rental rates. But creativity saves the day for many of Singapore’s bookshops, who have been turning to novel ways to keep customers coming in through their doors.
Last week, beloved bookstore MPH announced that the end had come for two of its outlets — in Raffles City and Parkway Parade — due in particular to high rental rates and competition from online retailers.
Petition demanding Malaysian government to stop banning arts and entertainment events gains momentum
Mashable SE Asia
Admit it, festival and concert organizers. It can be quite a pain to organize a gig or an arts and culture event in Malaysia.
If you think the difficulty lies in logistics or finance, nope. It’s to do with certain groups who’re quick to call for cancellations of shows either by local talents or international acts.
For years, there has been numerous shows, concerts and events cancelled at the last minute due to disapproval from certain unhappy quarters.
These includes several high profile concerts by international artistes such as Kesha, Erykah Badu and Lamb of God.
Giving life to game characters
New Straits Times
Malaysia’s comics industry has been around for decades and we are not short of talents. One of these is Aadi Salman, 39, from Cheras who goes by the pen name Adijin.
However, not many know that the comic books artist, whose work has been published in Urban Comics and Komikoo, is the very same person responsible for conceptualising characters in two illustrious international gaming franchises — Far Cry 4 and Watchdogs 2.
Wild Rice’s new Funan home was inspired by the National Theatre, wayang and Shakespeare
Singapore theatre company Wild Rice has a spanking new performing arts facility and it’s right in the heart of the civic and cultural district. The new Wild Rice @ Funan occupies 20,000 sq ft across three floors of the Funan Mall.
Within the space, which officially opens on Aug 8, there’s the main 358-seat Ngee Ann Kongsi Theatre, which features Singapore’s only thrust stage; a 60-seat performance studio; rehearsal rooms; and the company’s administrative office.
“It’s exactly where a theatre needs to be,” said founding artistic director Ivan Heng. “You know, at the centre of our thinking, of our conversation, of politics, commerce, law, culture, history. It’s perfect.”
Penguin Classics’ Pinay publisher puts the spotlight on PH literature
MANILA — As an executive at the world’s largest publisher of classics, Filipina Elda Rotor has the opportunity to push for the inclusion of Filipino writers into the esteemed list of Penguin Classics authors.
With Penguin Classics’ 75-year history and 1,900 titles in its backlist, Rotor, who is its vice president and publisher, is faced with the daunting task of overseeing the publication of the world’s greatest literary works while making sure that the roster remains diversified and relevant to today’s readers.
ARTJOG ushers in new era with intriguing pieces
The month-long ARTJOG opened its doors on Thursday evening with some thought-provoking artwork to turn the page on a new chapter as Yogyakarta’s premier contemporary art festival.
One such piece is a tunnel made of bamboo that marks the exit to the ARTJOG exhibition space at the Jogja National Museum (JNM). Visitors can only pass through the tunnel in one direction.
“No, you cannot go back. You will damage the artwork,” a nearby guard told a visitor.
‘We are the last targets’: Thai dissident band in Laos fear death
LAOS July 25 ― Taking turns to keep watch at their hideout in Laos, the four members of the self-exiled Thai activist folk band “Faiyen” believe they are on a hit-list like eight fellow dissidents who have already disappeared.
Laos, which neighbours Thailand, became a haven for some of the most outspoken Thai anti-junta activists after a 2014 coup.
All were vituperative in their condemnation of the Thai junta which last month cemented its long hold on power as its chief was elected prime minister by a pro-army bloc in parliament.
Others have been accused of criticising the Thai monarchy, an unassailable institution protected by one of the world’s toughest royal defamation laws.
Trying to save the stories of a Philippine culture, one scan at a time
The Washington Post
MANILA — Long ago, a princess was abducted and taken to a faraway island. A dashing prince rescued her and brought her to his home kingdom.
It sounds like a familiar fairy tale. For some in the Philippines, however, it’s one of the many plots in a centuries-old epic song called the “Darangen,” which recounts the myths and feats of the Maranao culture from the southern island of Mindanao.
Now, a modern-day tale has been added to the lore: how a battle against Islamist militants destroyed some of the foundational texts of the Maranao people and how preservationists stepped in to digitize the pages that survived.
About the author(s)
Kathy Rowland is the Managing Editor of ArtsEquator.com, a registered charity that she co-founded with Jenny Daneels in 2016. The site is dedicated to supporting and promoting arts criticism with a regional perspective in Southeast Asia. Kathy has worked in the arts for over 25 years, working in the areas of critical writing and arts advocacy, with a special interest in media platforms for the arts. She is the Project Lead for ArtsEquator’s Southeast Asian Arts and Culture Censorship Documentation Project, launched in 2021. She has written extensively on censorship of arts and culture in Malaysia. She was a member of the International Programme Advisory Committee of the 8th World Summit on Arts and Culture, 2019.