Festive Drum Contest

Tan Chai Puan, one of the founding members of
Johor's 24 Festive Drums
Fans of the unique performance of the 24 Festive Drums will be delighted that the third International Invitation & National Competition of the 24 Festive Drums will be held on August 2 at the Educity Sports Complex in Nusajaya.  In the second edition of the event in 2012, the troop from SMJK Yu Hua Kajang swept up the prizes in all categories and triumphed as the national champion of the 24 Festive Drums competition.  This year, 10 troops representing states in East and West Malaysia will compete for the national title while 6 troops from UK, USA, China and Singapore will present guest performances. 

The troop from Foon Yew High School performing the
24 Festive Drums in Teochew City in 2008
In 1988, when Tan Chai Puan and the late Tan Hooi Song founded the Festive Drums in Johor Baru, they did not know that this spectacular art of drumming would grow into an international art-form.  Since its inception at Johor Baru’s Foon Yew High School, this unique art of drumming has spread nationwide and abroad and now there are more than 300 drum troops worldwide including professional troops in Singapore, Taiwan, China, Thailand, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States.  The 24 Festive Drums celebrated its 26th anniversary June 12 this year and is proud that this art of drumming was recognised as a national cultural heritage by the Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry on 14 February 2009. 

The winning performance by SMJK Yu Hua Kajang
in the Drums Competition in 2012
While the drums are a cultural element from China, this performing art is truly a Malaysian heritage as the 24 Festive Drums was born in Johor Baru and has gone global.  For its future development and to keep this art form viable, Tan said that drum troops will need corporate sponsorship.  He also said that a Coach Training Programme will be established to guide drummers with a standard syllabus and this would be monitored by a professional committee and supported by the Ministry of Education.

The troop from Foon Yew High School Kulai performed
using umbrellas as props in the contest in 2012
“As JB is gaining a global reputation, I’m proud to see that the 24 Festive Drums is becoming an attraction that is as interesting as JB’s annual Chingay parade,” said President of the Tiong Hua Association, Dato Sri Tey Kim Chai.  “Hosting the International Invitation & National Competition of the 24 Festive Drums in JB will also bring in revenue for the local community” he added.
It is interesting that this art form was exported back to China when the Foon Yew High School troop proudly performed the Malaysian 24 Festive Drums at Teochew City, China, on their first visit there in 2008.  In the same year, Malaysian students in Oklahoma State University started the first 24 Festive Drums troop in the United States and were proud that their drum troop had the privilege to perform at half-time for the NBA games in Oklahoma City in 2010.  

The troop from SMJK San Min Teluk Intan gave an
energetic and commendable performance in the 2012 contest

Since 2008 when drumming was included in the primary 6 school syllabus, drum troops have been established in primary and secondary schools in East and West Malaysia and even among the physically handicapped. 

Fans of the festive drums can look forward to a spectacular show featuring colourful and creative drum performances by Malaysian troops and foreign troops including the troops from the Oklahoma State University, USA, the University of Liverpool troop, UK, Hua Qiao University, China, Teochew Qinglong Ancient Temple, China and ZingO Festival Drum Group from Singapore.  Competing troops stand to win cash prizes, certificates of participation and the champion will take home the challenge trophy sponsored by Tan Sri Dato’ Low Nam Hui.

C P Tan [Seated 2nd from Left] with members of the
organizing committee at the event launch
With a smaller venue this year, tickets are limited and are available in categories priced at RM100, RM60, RM40 and RM20.  Ticket purchase also entitles photography enthusiasts to take part in a photography contest.  

Tickets are available from the JB Tiong Hua Association, JB Chinese Heritage Museum, Southern University College, Foon Yew High School and Kin Wah kopitiam at Tan Hiok Nee Heritage Walk.  For enquiries Tel: Tel: 607 – 2249 633, Fax: 607 – 2249 635 or email enquiries to: heritage_museumjb@jb-tionghua.org.my

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Streets Johor on 28 July 2014

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