Drumming up excitement at Drum Up JB


The success of the inaugural Drum Up Johor Baru shows on January 7 & 8, led to two more shows that were presented on the evening of Saturday, February 25 and the morning of Sunday, February 26 at the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House.


A dramatic drumming scene by JB Drums
in the Drum Up JB show

Drum Up JB, a collaboration between JB Drums and R&F Princess Cove showcases the art of the 24 Festive Drums in a 90-minute programme that features creative performances by the artistes in JB Drums and Orang Orang Drum Theatre.


From their experience in the January shows, the organisers tweaked the items in the programme to stage an even more engaging performance in the February shows that not only left the audience enthralled and exhilarated, but better informed that this dramatic art of drumming – while it made use of Chinese drums – was a performing art that was proudly born in Johor.


It was my privilege to work with
 co-founder, Tan Chai Puan

The audience learnt that the art of the 24 Festive Drums was founded in Johor Baru by two young men, the late Tan Hooi Song and Tan Chai Puan, in 1988.


While a great deal of news may be shared about this art of drumming, very little was known about the man, Tan Chai Puan.


Having worked with Tan to publish many stories on this dramatic art of drumming showcased in a number of exciting events including their bi-annual International Drum Festivals, I decided to document an exclusive story on Tan Chai Puan, featured under Portraits in my 2017 MPH Non-Fiction Bestseller, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.


Then in December 2022, Book Three was launched. My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now, is the final instalment to complete the trilogy of My Johor Stories.


I am honoured to be counted among the
partners acknowledged at the Drum Up JB show

In Book Three, I documented stories on several brands that were proudly established in Johor and successfully exported nationwide and even abroad.


Among the proudly Johor brands featured was the Art of the 24 Festive Drums, a performing art that was born in Johor and developed nationwide with drum troops now established in nations worldwide.


As the joy of practicing the art of 24 Festive Drums expanded to nations that may not read Chinese, Tan appreciated my contribution to share the pride about this Johor-born art of drumming that has impressed audiences the world over, documented in the English language for everyone to learn about its origins in Johor.


My Johor Stories with
Mrs Jennifer Ho

Since January, I have partnered with the Drum Up JB shows with a sale of My Johor Stories books, in particular My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now, which documents my story on the founding of the art of the 24 Festive Drums.


Among the audience at the February Drum Show who came by to get My Johor Stories books was Mrs Jennifer Ho, who has lived here for 51 years, and still remains at the helm of the Hilltop Private School, a premier child education centre that was established in 1940.


When I met Jennifer again at the Drum Show, I had a flashback to the last time we met in 2015 when she and other pre-school teachers turned up at the funeral wake for our grandmother who passed on at the ripe old age of 103.


[Jennifer read the obituary I posted in the newspapers and recognised the family where two of my cousins were alumni of Hilltop Private School, so she and her colleagues went to the wake to show their support for the bereaved family.


However, the passing of our grandmother, whom I also featured under Portraits in My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage as The Real Champion, was according to Chinese tradition, a celebration of her life and our family were told to dress in auspicious Red colour.]


With the young ladies from
Crescendo HELP International School

After the Drum Show, I received encouraging messages from Jennifer who said:


“Have just started to read your first book… such wonderful memories you shared. Thank you for keeping our history alive,” said Jennifer.


“Loved your first book. Made me realise just how long I have lived here as so many people you mentioned in your book, I know or have met. Loved your stories. Johor is lucky to have you,” she added.


Jennifer succinctly voiced my sentiments because it was indeed precious to document these stories for the people and their families featured in My Johor Stories.


It was deeply reassuring to know that long after I am gone, these stories will remain as a lasting legacy for future generations of the families and organisations established in Johor like the 24 Festive Drums, who have a credible record documented in My Johor Stories.


With Puteri Astrini 
and her daughter
Two young ladies who were keen to get their copies of Book Three, told me that they were alumni of Crescendo HELP International School and remembered me as the guest speaker at their Book Week event in 2018.


So thrilled were they to complete their collection of the trilogy of My Johor Stories that I could not help but shared with them about my uncanny experience with their former principal, Mr Philip Brisley, who was now retired and lived in the UK.


During the Drum Show in January, two school staff brought him to the Opera House as a tourist and they were pleasantly surprised to meet me with My Johor Stories books.


Like these young ladies, Mr Brisley already have Book One and Book Two, and he was pleased to meet me again and for the opportunity to complete his collection of the trilogy of My Johor Stories with the recently launched Book Three.


I was much encouraged by the young ladies who were among the young people who still enjoyed reading books and gladly autographed their books for them.


Young Lewis with Book Three
while I autograph Book One for him

It was so good that schools and parents continue to instill in young people, the joy of reading for a unique avenue to explore new places and gain new experiences by reading good books.


Among the familiar parents I met at my book sale with the Drum Shows, were mother-and-daughter, YM Gusti Raden Ayu Retno Puteri Astrini Mangkoenegoro VIII, fondly known as Puteri Astrini, with her daughter, as well as father-and-son, Allan Fernandez with young Lewis.


Recently, I had the pleasure to meet Puteri Astrini again at an event to present My Johor Stories to the Iskandar Puteri chapter of the Soroptomists International Club and Puteri was delighted with the opportunity to get My Johor Stories books at the Drum Show.


As for Allan, he was pleased to share with me that he and his wife had cultivated the reading habit with their son early in life, encouraged him to read by example and had a collection of his favourite books for him to read at leisure.


Allan was ready to get the entire trilogy of My Johor Stories to add to this collection but I was sorry to disappoint him because Book Two was already sold out.


My Johor Stories with Allan
Fernandez and Lewis

When I shared our photos with Allan a few days later, it warmed my heart to read his reply which said: “Lewis is an avid reader, quite advanced for his age. He already added your books to his ‘library’ at home.”


Meanwhile, too many people were asking for Book Two of My Johor Stories and I deeply regretted the shortage… which made me even more determined to restock before the next Drum Shows in March.


The Drum Shows certainly lived up to its promise of a spectacular show, in particular the Drunken Drummers by JB Drums and Memories, a collaboration between JB Drums and Orang Orang Drum Theatre.


As the organisers analysed the timing for the shows staged in January and February, they reached a decision to better accommodate the audience and decided to stage two shows on Saturday, March 18, instead of one show each on Saturday and Sunday.


Catch the next Drum Up JB shows scheduled on the same day, at 2pm and 8pm staged on Saturday, March 18* at the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House.


Tickets priced at RM85, RM105 and RM150 only are available now from https://www.cloudjoi.com/shows/drum-up-jb#about


Drum Up JB is an initiative under the Downtown Johor Baru Grants Programme: Arts, Culture and Heritage, a collaboration between Iskandar Regional Development Authority and Think City, supported by Majlis Bandaraya Johor Baru, R&F Princess Cove and Malaysia Digital Districts.


*It so happened that Saturday, March 18, was the same date for activities arranged for My Johor Stories in Downtown Johor Baru with a Heritage Walk from 10am and Book Reading session at 2pm, a time which coincides with the 2pm Drum Show that day.


As such, the book sale for My Johor Stories will only open for the 8pm Drum Show, with Book Two available again to complete a trilogy of My Johor Stories.

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