Building Bonds through Drum Up JB!


Drum Up JB! – a live presentation to showcase 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 – is the brainchild of Lee Sheah Liang.


A scene from the dramatic drum show
dubbed, Drum Up JB!

In April 2022, the nation reopened its international borders and as families reunited and visitors thronged our streets and malls again, the city saw a revival in its economy.


Then in June 2022, when Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) in collaboration with Think City, and supported by MBJB, the Johor Baru City Council, offered the Downtown Johor Baru Grants Programme: Arts, Heritage and Culture, JB Drums was among the many who applied for the grant.


This grants programme was in line with IRDA’s efforts to build a strong community that contributes to reactivating the heritage core of Downtown Johor Baru and to complement the refreshed Sungai Segget and its renewed promenade, to make Johor Baru an amazing place to live, work and play.

Another dramatic scene from Drum Up JB!

The grant programme also aimed to support community-based initiatives that provide exciting, surprising and meaningful opportunities to rejuvenate Downtown Johor Baru.


With the support from this grant, the first two Drum Up JB! shows were presented at the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House in January 2023 with much success.


The encouraging response to the shows led to the staging of two shows each month in February, March, April and May.


A dramatic scene from 'Drunken Drummers'

Several years ago, I met Lee at one of the annual Johor Baru Arts Festivals organised by the Johor Society for the Performing Arts (JSPA)* where he led a drum troop dubbed, the Unity Drums.


As its name describes, this drum troop uniquely featured drummers who played drums and percussion instruments like the tabla and kompang, musical instruments clearly identified with the main race groups here.


Lee, an accomplished drummer in the art of the 24 Festive Drums, was keen to create greater unity in our community through a common love for drumming.


Among the people I met at my pop-up
store were parents of Lee Sheah Liang

So it was only natural for him to connect the Chinese drummers with like-minded drummers from the Indian and Malay communities and collaborate with them in a drum troop known as the Unity Drums.


When the Unity Drums presented a showcase in the city’s Heritage Quarter as part of the Johor Baru Arts Festival programme, I had the privilege to enjoy this exciting performance.


Fast-forward to 2023 where the Drum Up JB! shows were arranged in an entertaining and exciting, family-friendly showcase which Lee believes, was a catalyst to reach out to and unite the community through the language of drumming, percussion and music.


After each month’s shows, the organisers of Drum Up JB! paid attention to feedback comments to help them fine-tune and improve the show programme to ensure that the audience will get the best experience from the next shows.


Autographing my books for Benard Kok
and his daughter at the Drum Up JB! show

From the many positive comments received from the audience, Tan Chai Puan, co-founder of the art of the 24 Festive Drums, was thrilled with the good impact of the monthly Drums shows that were staged since January.


In addition to being pleased with the strategic partnership of Drum Up JB! with R&F Princess Cove for the second launch of the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House, he was delighted with the schedule of shows arranged for the rest of the year which made Drum Up JB! the First Permanent Cultural Attraction in the city.


The dates for the next Drum shows are scheduled on one Saturday per month up to December 2023 for drumming enthusiasts to plan their trips to Johor and enjoy a spectacular live show at the Opera House. [Please see event poster for the dates!]


With Tammy Cyngier of Crescendo
HELP International School

So now visitors to Johor may include the exciting Drum Up JB! in their itinerary when they visited JB over the weekend of the show dates.


Drum Up JB! has also partnered with hotels and resorts here with Stay & Show packages where guests will benefit from the transport provided to and from the Opera House to enjoy the Drum shows in a fuss-free experience.


When the Drum Up JB! shows kicked off in January, I had the privilege to partner with them by opening a pop-up store for My Johor Stories books at the lobby of the Opera House.


The MC at the Drum shows will make announcements to alert fans that the story of the 24 Festive Drums was duly documented in My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now (in English!) and that they were welcome to visit my pop-up store to get their own copies and have them autographed by the author.


With Tan Chai Puan and
Jasmine Shadiqe of NST JB

Meanwhile the story on cultural activist, Tan Chai Puan, was documented in my 2017 MPH Bestseller, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.


Both Tan and Lee know that the art of the 24 Festive Drums was often thought of as a Chinese performing art so they appreciate how My Johor Stories has clearly documented the fact that the 24 Festive Drums was founded by Johoreans in Johor Baru.


It was always good to meet with a host of people who stopped by to browse through My Johor Stories books and for me to say, “Hello!” to familiar people.


On the evening of May 20, I had the pleasure to meet with Benard Kok and his daughter as well as Tammy Cyngier of Crescendo HELP International School who remembered me from their Book Week event hosted in their school in 2018.


Among the audience that evening was my former colleague with the JB Bureau of The New Straits Times, Jasmine Shadiqe, who emerged from the show absolutely wowed by the spectacular Drum show.


When Tan stopped for a chat, he was happy to share with me some of his ideas for the activities planned for the 35th anniversary celebration of the founding of the 24 Festive Drums since June 1988.


I had the pleasure of sharing in the journey of the 24 Festive Drums over the years, and was even a privileged guest at their 30th anniversary national level celebration.


The audience at the Drum Up JB! shows scheduled at 2pm and 8pm on Saturday, June 17 can expect a special performance in conjunction with the 35th anniversary celebration, so get your tickets now.


Tickets are now available from


Among the fun activities events planned for the celebration weekend of June 17 & 18, are a 24 Festive Drums Workshop, a Drum Up JB! Photography Exhibition, and the 24 Festive Installation Art By Artbaiduren.


And on Sunday, June 18, there will be the 24 Festive Drums Guided Walk that includes a tour of the Museum of the 24 Festive Drums and two sessions of Drum Up JB Coffee Talk, 11am session conducted in Mandarin and 2pm session conducted in English, held at YSpace, Johor Baru.


The Coffee Talk in Mandarin will feature guest speaker, Dr Koh Doh Tat while the guest speakers in the Coffee Talk in English are Tan Chai Puan, co-founder of the 24 Festive Drums who is also known as Xiao Man, Indian classical dance virtuoso in the art of Bharatanatyam, Ajith Bhaskar, and Mohd Shahril Abd Manan of Think City Johor Baru, with me as the Moderator.


So come join us at the Coffee Talk in English which aims to discuss how the staging of Drum Up JB! shows impacts audience members from our multi-cultural community and ideas on what’s next in developing the cultural scene in our city.


Attendance fee at RM25/session with complimentary drinks, top-up RM40 for lunch.

RM60 for both sessions with lunch and two drinks.


The activities in the coming weekend, June 17 & 18, to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the founding of the 24 Festive Drums, are not to be missed. So make yourself free to join in the fun this coming Saturday and Sunday.


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.

No comments:

Post a Comment