Of reading habits and happy reunions


Since the first Drum Up JB! shows which kicked off in January 2023, audiences have enjoyed an entertaining and exciting, family-friendly showcase that was created as a catalyst to reach out and unite the community through the language of drumming, percussion and music.


Signing my books for Tan Sri Datuk Hajah
Norliza Rofli at the Drum Up JB! show

This outreach through the drum shows has met with a measure of success as people from different race groups have been enjoying the shows presented in the past months at the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House.


In addition to the throngs of drumming fans, there were Chinese expatriates who work with Chinese ventures here as well as European expats from the teaching faculties of international colleges and universities here.


There were groups of students, both local and foreign, from these international colleges and universities, as well as familiar foreign people who settled here after they married locals.


With the two ladies who bought Book Three
to complete their collection of My Johor Stories

I am privileged to partner with Drum Up JB! to have a pop-up store for My Johor Stories at the lobby of the Opera House, as my stories on the co-founder and the art of the 24 Festive Drums documented in my books, will enhance and complement the audience’s pleasure of watching the drum show.


After being wowed by the drumming performances, many bought my books to learn more about this dramatic art of drumming that was founded in Johor Baru by Johoreans.


From the first drum show in January, I have met with many people who are keen on reading and they included members of the Johor royal family who watched the show and bought my books to read and continue their pleasure of learning more about this Johor-born art of drumming.


Then there were people who watched the drum show for the very first time and told me how pleasantly surprised they were to discover that the art of the 24 Festive Drums had its origins in Johor Baru and that they were thrilled to share the pride of being Johorean too.


Mother and daughters who were
keen on My Johor Stories

There were yet others who were delighted to discover that I have documented the stories in English because in the past, reports on the 24 Festive Drums were mainly published in Chinese, a language which they do not read.


So the Chinese people who do not read Chinese did not have the opportunity to learn about this dramatic art of drumming until my stories on this proudly Johor performing art, were published in English.


When the audience arrived for the 8pm show on Saturday, October 14, I could not help but noticed the various races among the Chinese who entered the lobby to head into the theatre.


While many walked directly to the theatre entrance, some paused to browse around for show souvenirs at the stalls set up in the lobby.


Two ladies paused to look at my books with interest and finally picked up one copy of My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now, the third and final instalment that completed the trilogy of My Johor Stories.


A young lady who was ready to
read My Johor Stories

As I was curious to know why they chose only one book from the set of three books, the ladies told me that they already have Book One and Book Two, and only wanted Book Three to complete their collection.


I can understand their delight in discovering Book Three here because this book was published after the two challenging years of uncertainty during the global pandemic.


And during the long lockdown period, all the MPH bookstores in the city, including the one at the airport, had no alternative but to cease operations. As such, readers keen on buying books from MPH had to go online to browse through the catalogue to order books online.


After Book Three was launched in December 2022, I had permission from MPH to keep a small stock of my books to sell from pop-up stores at events such as the Drum Up JB! show.


While it is a bit more work, I wanted my books to be conveniently available because I understand that many readers liked to hold the physical book, flip through the pages and see its Contents for themselves before they bought any book.


So fans of the art of 24 Festive Drums had the added bonus of buying my books at the drum show to treasure as collectors’ items and as gifts to present to others.


Thy will have the pleasure to read 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.


The story of the 24 Festive Drums, a distinctly Johor brand was published in, My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now, along with other brands that were established in Johor and spread across the nation, with some even exported abroad.


Thanks to the parents who start
their children in the reading habit
from a young age

I must commend all the parents who were keen to encourage their children in cultivating a reading habit because many bought the trilogy of My Johor Stories, not only to read about the art of the 24 Festive Drums but also to learn more about Johor culture and heritage.


It was very encouraging that the former Director General of the National Culture & Arts Department, Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia, Tan Sri Datuk Hajah Norliza Rofli, came all the way from Kuala Lumpur to watch the drum show.


She shared her comments with the organisers after the show and among other things, she said (and I quote!), “I am so glad I came. I enjoyed the show tremendously… Congratulations to your team and keep up the good work!”


I had the pleasure to meet her when she bought the trilogy of My Johor Stories to discover more from the precious nuggets I had documented on people and places in Johor. When I autographed my books for her, she told me to write her name simply as, Norliza.


With Nor'Aini and Normah
of the "N family"

When I joined the audience to watch the show again that evening, I was later told that Normah and Nor’Aini tried to look for me at my pop-up store – and did not see me there – so they made it a point to find me after the show.


Normah and Nor’Aini along with Narimah are sisters with an only brother, Norman. They are family friends fondly known as the “N family” because they are the children of Uncle Nyeh and Aunty Nora, all given names that started with the letter, “N”.


Uncle Nyeh and my dad were former colleagues in the Johor Baru General Hospital who shared the same hobbies like swimming, music and dancing. Meanwhile, mum and Aunty Nora were also former colleagues in the Maternity Department.


With Normah [next to me] and Nor'Aini, 
her daughters and granddaughter

In a bygone era when people made their own entertainment, my dad and Uncle Nyeh played (self-taught!) musical instruments and enjoyed making music and singing, and I am sure, they had their fair share of fun escapades since their bachelor days.


The last time I met with Normah and Nor’Aini was probably in 2010 for Hari Raya in their family home, so meeting them again at the lobby of the Opera House (at least to me!) was truly a reunion of epic proportions. 


I was introduced to two of Nor’Aini’s daughters and one granddaughter who were there for the drum show so after 13 years, nothing had changed except the advancing of age and additional members to the “N family”.


Out of sheer curiosity I asked, and I was not surprised when I was told they were also given names that started with the letter, “N”.


Sharing a photo of my brother with Nor'Aini
and Normah, from my handphone

Needless to say, there was plenty to chit-chat with Normah and Nor’Aini and as we gushed on with our catch-up, I could not help but observed how the younger ladies watched us with wonder – curious to figure out what was going on among us – so I guess they will have plenty of questions to ask their mother and aunt, later.


We could have chatted on into the night but because it was a school day for Nor’Aini’s granddaughter the next morning, they should take their leave soon.


So it was farewell for now as we made plans to meet up again for a fun time of reminiscing together since our wonderful reunion after the Drum Up JB! show.


Don’t miss the final two Drum Up JB! shows for this year scheduled at 2pm and 8pm on Saturday, December 30, so get your tickets now.


Tickets are available 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.

This Drum Up JB! show was proudly presented in partnership with ArtsFAS, Yayasan Hasanah and the Ministry of Finance, Malaysia.

Note: A small stock of My Johor Stories books are available in two outlets in Johor Baru, from JARO and YSpace.

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