Road to My Johor Stories - Live!


In early March 2020, I was at a media event hosted in the Amari Johor Baru to kick start a series to showcase the work of local artists in the hotel dubbed, Art at Amari.


Photo courtesy of Sunah of Sunah Sakura; 
captured at the Art at Amari event, March 2020

Among the artists featured as the first in this series was Johor’s gifted young artist, Yap Hanzhen, but he was, however, not able to attend that day.


While waiting for other media partners to arrive, the crowd carried on with the casual chit-chat. When I saw some books on the table published with the artwork by Hanzhen, I picked them up and spontaneously introduced his work to the others.


I am familiar with Hanzhen and his gift in sketching and drawing because I had the privilege to feature him along with other Johor personalities who have impacted our lives, under Portraits in my 2017 bestseller, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.


I thought I should share a bit of background about Hanzhen as I was well acquainted with his story. Unknown to me, cameras were clicking, and I was delighted when my friend, Sunah of Sunah Sakura, captured a shot of me in action…


Attendees at my book launch events and other speaking engagements where I spoke about My Johor Stories, are familiar with how I could go on and on, talking about a subject which was close to my heart.


It was PR and Marketing Communications professional, Grace Chiam, then our host for the Art at Amari event, who observed how our media friends were paying rapt attention to my spontaneous sharing about Hanzhen and his gift in drawing.


It was she who was so inspired to suggest, “Let’s do a My Johor Stories Live event!”


While I already had this idea as a spin-off from My Johor Stories the blog and books, this was the first time that someone – Grace – had vocalized it.


Not long after this media event, the nationwide Movement Control Order (MCO) came into force from March 18 and life as we knew it before the global pandemic, suddenly changed forever.


As we stayed at home to stay safe, it was a tremendous relieve that the use of modern technology kept family and friends connected during the lockdown.


I quickly learned to use WhatsApp video calls to meet up with family members based in various parts of the world – all in real time – and it was especially useful to video chat with a dear friend who was going through chemotherapy treatments.


When the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) came into effect from May 4 to August 31, the strict conditions under the MCO were slightly relaxed.


With Tan Chai Puan at the FB-Live event
in July 2020, held at the R & F Mall

As the situation in the country improved and the economy gradually reopened, the CMCO continued with less limitations from June 10 under the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO). I felt comfortable enough to send my car to the workshop.


That very day I received a phone call from Tan Chai Puan, co-founder of the 24 Festive Drums, who shared with me about the exciting online activities planned by the 24 Festive Drums Association to celebrate the 32nd anniversary of the founding of this unique art of drumming.


He was delighted that the Association had found creative digital ways to mark their anniversary through Facebook-live events, celebrated with drummers and drum enthusiasts, both locally and abroad.


When he told me about the thousands of participants they reached in their series of online events, I congratulated him and the Association on their success.


These thousands of participants in their FB-live events, were made up not only of drummers and drum enthusiasts the world over but also from past and present alumni of Foon Yew High School, established more than 100 years ago, and the home of the first drum troop.


While all their anniversary events were hosted in Mandarin, Tan said that one event planned for July 2 was in English in a two-part live broadcast, with the first part featuring Tan in Johor Baru and the next with other drumming personalities in Kuala Lumpur.


As this presentation of the 24 Festive Drums was in the English language, Tan invited me to join him to share with the audience, an authentic Johor story on the founding of this art of drumming.


I was familiar with him and the founding of the 24 Festive Drums because I had featured Tan as an exclusive story under Portraits in my 2017 bestseller, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.


Armed with relevant knowledge on this subject, I agreed to join Tan in this presentation and came away from my first experience of a FB-live event with no regrets because I had benefited from this interesting and insightful experience.


With Tan Chai Puan [Right] and
Lee Sheah Liang [Left] at Infinity8 Reserve

In the wake of our FB-live event together, Tan was full of confidence about getting My Johor Stories to a wider audience through the FB-live platform.


Tan and I recalled our experience being guest panelists in the series of successful Sketch Design Talks, organized by y.architects back in 2015. This was a private event created for budding architects to hone their speaking skills by presenting their design ideas to a live audience and for a panel to comment or quiz them for any clarification.


This initiative by y.architects was the inspiration that encouraged Tan to push me to do My Johor Stories Live because he felt strongly that Johor was ripe for this form of live events with a very small and exclusive audience.


Tan was so supportive about the concept of My Johor Stories Live that he arranged for me to meet with Lee Sheah Liang at Infinity8 Reserve, a co-working space located at Level 18 of Menara JLand, in the heart of the city.


I had visited Lee at other Infinity8 co-working spaces, so it was good to meet Lee again and let him show me the facilities at Infinity8 Reserve in Menara JLand.


Infinity8 Reserve aims to work closely with Facebook, professionals and Johor personalities to host talks and workshops here, so Tan was hopeful that I would consider this facility favourably as the venue for hosting My Johor Stories Live.


It was fascinating to discover that this co-working space was the first in Malaysia to collaborate with Facebook and was equipped with Facebook-Live Lab facilities.


A photo memento captured
at my book launch event on 15 July 2017

While I was deeply grateful for Tan’s support, I explained that I wished to consider my options and plan my project in greater detail, with sustainability in mind.


On July 15, Grace sent me a photo memento to commemorate that special day she witnessed exactly three years ago when my 2017 bestseller, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, was launched in an event held at DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Baru.


In later conversations, I shared with Grace about the events leading up to the recent meeting with Tan and Lee about my proposed My Johor Stories Live, a concept that was originally mooted by Grace at that event held at Amari JB, in March 2020.


Brainstorm session with Grace
Chiam, the PR MarCom professional

On hearing this, Grace did not hesitate to assure me of her professional PR and Marketing support to promote Book Three of My Johor Stories (a work-in-progress!) and the activities in the next chapter of My Johor Stories.


It was August 2020 when I met with Grace again, this time at her office for Brand Culture PR & Marketing Communications, to brainstorm and discuss further ideas about My Johor Stories Live.


Grace agreed that I should bounce off our ideas with two of our media friends, Edey Suresh, editor-in-chief of The Iskandarian, the official newspapers of Iskandar Malaysia and K K Lew, co-founder of MAGistrate, a bilingual print and online magazine platform.


To approach the project more realistically, we knew that it was healthy to share our ideas for constructive feedback from media practitioners and fellow content creators like Edey and KK.


Archive photograph of a master storyteller
in a bygone era

The idea was for the Johor Storyteller (me!) to read excerpts from my books, discuss Johor topics and maybe include a few guest speakers in an inter-active chit-chat.


In the olden days – before the age of radio and television – people had to create their own entertainment, some played musical instruments and sang songs.


With the introduction of radio and the gramophone to play vinyl records, those who could afford it, listened to recorded music and broadcasts for entertainment.


From records by the National Archives of Singapore, I learnt that people used to enjoy listening to a Chinese street storyteller in live storytelling sessions. Crowds of people would gather around to listen to his stories, told episode by episode.


Archive photo of Lee Dai Soh;
courtesy of the Singapore Archives

This master storyteller would light an incense stick or joss stick and knew how to end each episode in a cliff-hanger precisely when the joss stick burned out.


Eager to hear more, the listeners would pay a few more cents to make the storyteller light up another joss stick and continue with more juicy details in his exciting story.


To me, doing My Johor Stories Live was reminiscent of a Cantonese radio show that our grandmother used to listen to. I thought this was so nostalgic – just up my alley – to share culture-heritage stories from My Johor Stories.


Old-timers may remember this regular radio show by Lee Dai Soh on the Rediffusion channel where a traditional storyteller would broadcast a series of episodes popularly known as, Dai Soh gong gu, loosely translated as ‘Dai Soh tells a story’.


At end August 2020, a reader reached me because she was here to do some research on Sultanah Fatimah of Johor. Then I arranged to meet her and her friend in the heritage quarter for a walking tour, the walkabouts which I fondly call my Fifty-Sen Tour.


As always, I gave a lively commentary during our walking tour.


Brainstorming session with
Edey Suresh (Centre) and K K Lew (Right)
When we sat down for refreshments, her friend gave very encouraging comments (blush! blush!) about my style in sharing such an informative commentary and said that it was just-right for podcasts.


I appreciated his frank appreciation of my guided tour because my special heritage walks were tailored to the tastes of visitors where I plan age-appropriate walking tours for the young and young-at-heart, a Museum Trail for history buffs, a Food Trail or even a Temple Trail on our Street of Harmony.


Thanks to each one of you – you know who you are – for your support and encouragement because it was both affirming and reassuring to know that I was indeed, on the right track in progressing with Live events – in my style of storytelling and conducting heritage tours – to share more of My Johor Stories.

1 comment:

  1. thank you Peggy for featuring my photo! 😆
    I always love your spontaneous sharing on everything!