Drum Up JB! shows in March 2023


Following the success of the inaugural Drum Up JB! shows on January 7 & 8 at the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House and the experience from shows presented on the evening of Saturday, February 25 and the morning of Sunday, February 26, the organisers decided to present the next two shows on the same day on March 18.


A scene of dramatic drumming from Drum Up JB
Photo courtesy of Kenny Seah

Their experience from the shows in January and February helped the organisers to make necessary adjustments and improvements to ensure that the audience will get the best experience from their shows.


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.


Facade of the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah
Opera House seen by night

I had the privilege of sharing the story of the 24 Festive Drums, a proudly Johor brand featured in Book Three of My Johor Stories, My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now and am honoured by a partnership of a book sale table at the Drum shows.


In fact, I have also documented the story of Tan Chai Puan, co-founder of the art of the 24 Festive Drums, as an exclusive piece under Portraits in my 2017 MPH Non-Fiction Bestseller, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.


During the Drum shows, the MC’s announcements will alert fans of the 24 Festive Drums that the story of the 24 Festive Drums was duly documented in My Johor Stories and that they may buy copies for themselves.


Entrance to the Opera House

With my book sale table strategically placed in the lobby, facing the entrance to the Opera House, I have a clear view of the people arriving for the shows.


It was good to see some familiar people arriving for the shows, including those who participated in the monthly Heritage Walks arranged under the My Johor Stories in Downtown Johor Baru project that kicked off in January this year.


When the shows started and the lobby was cleared of people, I was able to observe that many ticket holders arrived late, some very much later than the stated start time.


Concert-goers arriving at the Opera House
for the evening show

As I watched the lobby team politely advising these late arrivals on how or when to enter the theatre without interrupting the performance, I wondered if such tardiness was because concert-goers here were not familiar with the ethics of arriving on time for the start of any show.


The late arrivals to shows were very annoying (to me!) because as one who appreciate live shows, I will deeply regret missing any part of any show, whether in films or live performances, and always made it a point to arrive way ahead of the start time.


It was much later that I learnt that quite a number of the late arrivals, particularly for the Sunday morning show, were due to circumstances beyond their control as concert-goers from across the causeway were delayed by the heavy traffic on the causeway.


Another scene from the Drum Up JB show
Photo courtesy of Kenny Seah

While I may sympathise with them, it was not an excuse for their delay.


Traffic congestion was typical on weekends – especially on the causeway – and travellers must factor in the delays and make an earlier start if they aimed to arrive on time for any event or appointment, especially for a dramatic drumming show like Drum Up JB.


Not willing to let their audience miss out on any part of the show and to better accommodate arrivals from across the causeway, the organisers graciously decided to arrange their two shows on the same day.


As such, for Saturday, 18 March, the two shows at the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House were scheduled on the same day, at 2pm and 8pm.


At the lobby of Opera House [Right to Left]
Victor Chang, Ajith Baskaran Dass,
Victor's wife and me

It so happened that Saturday, March 18, was the same date for the 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 coincided with the 2pm Drum show that very same day.


In view of this, I told the organisers that the My Johor Stories book sale would only be available for the 8pm Drum show.


Since the book sale which started in January, several readers enquired for Book Two,

My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People, and I was sad to disappoint them because my stock of Book Two had run out.


With Joanna Koleth, whom
I met at the Drum Up JB show

By arranging with MPH Kuala Lumpur and my brother and his wife – who helped to ferry the new stock of books to JB – I was able to offer Book Two for sale again so now readers here may get their complete trilogy of My Johor Stories from me.


Among the familiar faces I met at the lobby of the Opera House on that evening of Saturday, March 18, was my friend, Indian classical dance virtuoso in the art of Bharatanatyam, Ajith Baskaran Dass of Suvarna Fine Arts.


While chatting with him, I recalled that along with Tan Chai Puan, the story of Ajith and Suvarna Fine Arts was also documented under Portraits in my 2017 MPH Non-Fiction Bestseller, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.


Ajith also met with other friends whom I soon discovered, were also his admirers.


And when I brought to their attention that his amazing story was also documented in Book One of My Johor Stories, his friends not only bought this book from me but also borrowed my pen for Ajith to autograph across his photograph in my book.


With Victor Chang who was
delighted to read My Johor Stories

Incidentally, among the people in another group who were keen on My Johor Stories, was Joanna Koleth, a young lady who (I discovered) was classically trained in ballet.


With these two classically trained dancers in front of me, it was only natural to introduce Ajith to Joanna and connect them in the way that My Johor Stories have been connecting people.


Joanna was with her friends, Victor Chang and his wife, and when Victor turned the pages of My Johor Stories, he was pleased to see that my stories were published in English.


I smiled when I overheard him declare in surprise, “It’s in English!”


Having lived abroad for many years, Victor and his wife were just discovering more about Johor culture and heritage and I was pleased that they could identify with the contents of My Johor Stories.


The Chinese community here often shared about Chinese culture-heritage in the Chinese media but very little was published in other languages.


So, it was my privilege to fill this void by sharing news about Johor Chinese culture and heritage in English so that (even!) the Chinese who don’t read Chinese, were able to discover more about their culture and heritage when it was (finally!) written in English.


Poster for Drum Up JB
shows this April with dates for
shows till the end of 2023

Such essential information on Johor culture-heritage has been documented in My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now, that features the Art of the 24 Festive Drums among other Johor brands that were proudly born in Johor.


Tan Chai Puan agreed that stories on the 24 Festive Drums should also be published in English because this art of drumming had already been exported abroad to Non-Chinese-Speaking nations and it was important that the drumming community worldwide could read about drumming events in a universal language like English.


To proud Johoreans (like me!) it was important to share the fact that even though the Chinese drum was used, the art of the 24 Festive Drums originated from Johor Baru – and not China – with the first drum troop established here in 1988.


If you have yet to experience the dramatic drumming in the art of the 24 Festive Drums, catch the next Drum Up JB shows scheduled at 2pm and 8pm staged on Saturday, April 29.


Tickets prices range from RM68, RM85, RM105, RM125 and RM145 only, and are available now from https://www.cloudjoi.com/buy/mic1ja


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.

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