Keen drum troop at Kiswire

Kiswire Malaysia employees who formed a drum troop to play Chinese drums in the art of the 24 Festive Drums, were delighted to meet with Tan Chai Puan, one of the founders of this unique art of drumming recently.

Members of the Kiswire drum troop practicing their moves
While this creative art of playing the 24 Festive Drums was founded by then Foon Yew High School students, Tan and the late Tan Hooi Song in 1988, Kiswire Malaysia was established in Johor in 1989 as a US$600 million investment.  In 2009, this unique art of drumming was recognised as a national cultural heritage by the Unity, Culture and Heritage Ministry.

Inspired by drummers they saw in past International Drum Competitions, some employees in Kota Kiswire, their regional headquarters and research and development centre in Johor Baru, decided to form their own drum troop.  Since last December, this group has been training under drum coach, Koh Chung Wei, a skilled drummer and Foon Yew High School graduate.

Drumming coach Koh Chung Wei [Left], co-founder of the
24 Festive Drums Tan Chai Puan [5th from Left], Kiswire
CEO Charles Lee [4th from Right] with the drum troop
Kiswire SEA Headquarters, CEO, Charles Lee, said that they have a Sports and Social Welfare Club for staff to arrange sports events as well as the company’s annual dinner for some 1300 employees in their high-carbon steel products operations in JB and Tanjung Langsat.  In addition to playing games like football, badminton, table-tennis and bowling, their sports club also has a drum troop.

"Part of our philosophy is to always appreciate our colleagues who work hard for the company’s success,” said Lee.  “We are like a big family here,” he added.

“Muhamad Shahrul Nizam has a good sense of rhythm and he leads the troop to play the drums with good timing,” said Koh about the troop member who probably honed his rhythm sense from his experience in playing the traditional kompang.  Koh coaches the troop for two hours per week in a second floor space that the company allocated for the drumming training.

“Every day after lunch, we practice our drumming,” said Chris Chai, one of the women members of the drum troop.  She explained that they initially started strongly with 20 members but due to various reasons, their membership dwindled to only nine.  At the moment, their troop comprises five Malay, three Chinese and one Korean member.

The Kiswire drum troop after their performance at the
company's Annual Dinner held in March 2015
“This is very significant for drumming,” said Tan who was delighted to discover this drum troop in Kiswire, a Korean investment here.  In his recent visit to China, Tan was thrilled to discover a Shanghainese company, another private corporation that also has their own 24 Festive Drums troop. 

Tan, a cultural activist and poet who is also head of the Art & Cultural Museum in Southern College, anticipates more interest in this art of drumming as the next International Drum Competition is being organised for the fourth time in JB.

This unique art of drumming was exported abroad when more graduates from Foon Yew High School went to further their studies and formed drum troops in universities in Singapore, Taiwan, China, Thailand, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States.  With more than 300 drum troops worldwide, Tan is pleased that this JB-born art form has gone international.

A version of this was published in The Malaysian Insider on 2 July 2015 

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