Museum of 24 Festive Drums is open!

The official opening ceremony for the Museum of the 24 Festive Drums kicked off at 10.10am on 01.01.2020, the first day of the new decade.

A section of the drumming performance at
the start of the official opening event for the
Museum of the 24 Festive Drums
While the commentary was mainly in Mandarin, I managed to understand the significance of the time and date, 1010-0101 because visually, these numbers resembled drums with its drumsticks!

The Master of Ceremony for the event started with a round of introductions and when she mentioned a name, a Datuk or a Datuk Seri, the person stood up.

Suddenly she spoke in English and as her words registered in my mind, she next mentioned my name! And I followed suit by standing up spontaneously!

She continued in Mandarin, announcing names as others took their turn to stand and wave a “Hello!” and sat down again, until she completed her list of special mentions.

Tan Chai Puan and the Red T-shirt which
members of the original drum troop wore in 1988
This was because I was counted among a group of “non-drummers” who have contributed towards the setting up of the Museum in different ways and for our efforts, each one of us would be awarded with a Certificate of Appreciation.

During his opening address, co-founder of the 24 Festive Drums’ art of drumming, Tan Chai Puan, pointed to a Red T-shirt, carefully preserved within a frame with a glass front, and explained that it was an old T-shirt which was worn by the original drum troop members in 1988.

Then Tan added his signature on the glass and wrote in two dates: 12 June 1988, for the first date it was worn and 1 Jan 2020, the official opening date of the Museum.

The plaque signed by YB Liow Cai Tung to
officially declare the Museum of 24 Festive Drums open
After the Museum was officially declared open by YB Liow Cai Tung, State Tourism, Women Development, Family and Community Committee Chairman, Tan escorted the YB along with other distinguished guests, including representatives from the Johor Baru Tiong Hua Association and the five main Chinese dialect clans on a Museum tour.

Prior to its official opening, Tan had taken me on a conducted tour of the Museum and highlighted its features so that I could publish a My Johor Stories on the Museum in the January 2020 issue of The Iskandarian, the official newspaper of Iskandar Malaysia.

For more than ten years, I had the privilege of working with Tan to share Chinese culture and heritage happenings in the city quite efficiently because he shared info with me in English and explained archaic Chinese traditions to help me gain a better understanding so that I could write it clearly for readers who don’t read Chinese.

I received a Certificate of Appreciation!
Through my working partnership with Tan, I was able to share a great deal more about Johor Chinese heritage because he took the time and trouble, not only to let me experience the events but also provided info and explanations when I needed it.

In fact, I was writing about the 24 Festive Drums since 2010 and often shared news and stories about drumming events and the bi-annual drum festivals.

In 2016, Tan invited me to participate with the JB Tiong Hua Association to provide the English version of the Johor Chingay tradition that was translated into Chinese and Malay and published in a souvenir book.

The proud heritage of the Johor Chingay was preserved in this book – in three languages – aimed at educating and informing our multi-cultural community about this annual Johor tradition that was kept for hundreds of years without any interruption, except once during the Japanese invasion.

With Mrs Tan, widow of Tan Hooi
Song, her two children and
Wong Lee Leng [Left]
When the Johor Sultan graced the Chingay parade, traditionally held on the 21st night of the first lunar month, a hardcover version of this Johor Chingay souvenir book was specially presented to His Majesty on the stage.

As I got to know Tan and became familiar with his involvement with the development of Chinese culture and heritage, I decided to share about Tan Chai Puan, cultural activist, as an exclusive story under Portraits in My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.

In 2017, the same year my book was launched, I was delighted when Tan was also awarded with the prestigious Iskandar Malaysia Social Heroes Awards in the Arts & Culture (Individual) category.

In 2018 the 24 Festive Drums celebrated its 30th anniversary since its founding in JB by the two Tans, Tan Chai Puan and Tan Hooi Song.

I had the privilege to witness the reunion of the original drum troop in a special ceremony held in the forecourt of the Johor Gu Miao or Old Temple.

After my feature on the 30th Anniversary of the founding of the 24 Festive Drums was published in the Life & Times section of the New Straits Times, Tan asked to have this story republished in their souvenir booklet for the 3oth anniversary celebration.

Bottom Photo shows Tan Hooi Song standing
in front of the drum troop like a conductor
He wanted an English version to be included in the souvenir booklet so that non-Chinese readers could read and appreciate the rich heritage of this art of drumming.

When the Association of the 24 Festive Drums organized a Gala Dinner celebration in Kuala Lumpur for the 30th Anniversary celebration, I was deeply honoured to be among the guests at this momentous event.

I vividly remembered the emotional moments when tributes were made to the late co-founder of the 24 Festive Drums, Tan Hooi Song, particularly when his children played violins in a special performance.

Tan Guang Mei, daughter of Tan Hooi Song, was also in
this group photo with Tan Chai Puan and the drum troop
At the Museum’s opening event, I had the pleasure to meet with Mrs Tan, the widow of Tan Hooi Song and her two children.

During the pre-opening tour of the Museum with Tan, he showed me the chronology of the Drums as it developed since 1988 and pointed to a faded photograph that was published with an early newspaper article.

While the 24 Festive Drums now perform in properly rehearsed and perfectly synchronized movements, from this old photo, Tan noticed how the early drummers performed with Tan Hooi Song standing in front of the troop, like a conductor!

After I highlighted this photo to the Tan children, Tan Hooi Song’s daughter, Tan Guang Mei, directed my attention to the group photo of Tan Chai Puan with the original drum troop, taken at the Johor Old Temple in 1988.

I'm honoured to be among the
Museum's Working Partners
It was amazing that (after all these years!) I never noticed it!

In this photo, standing behind Tan and the first row of drummers was a little girl and she was none other than Guang Mei when she was just three years old!
. . .

Since my pre-opening visit, I saw that Tan and his team had put in the finishing touches to get the Museum ready for its official opening.

At the Museum entrance where the wall plaque announced in three languages – Malay, Chinese and English – that the Museum was recognised as a Malaysian Intangible Cultural Heritage, I saw that a separate section was added to the plaque.

I read the names under the portrait photos of three people in the Working Team led by Tan, and below it was a group of seven listed under Working Partners.

Next to the photo of Designer, Ms Wong Lee Leng, was my avatar and my name, the Writer of My Johor Stories, preserved in a place of honour here!

Inside the Museum, an exhibit was added to display several books written in Chinese about Tan Hooi Song.

My book, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage is opened to the pages that featured Tan Chai Puan
Next to this collection was my book, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, opened to the pages that featured Tan Chai Puan, cultural activist!

The Museum of the 24 Festive Drums is located upstairs at No. 31 Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, 80000 Johor Baru, Johor. Open daily, 8.30am to 5pm. Closed on Tuesday.

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