Drum Up JB! 2023 season finale


The Drum Up JB! show on Saturday, December 30, marked the 18th performance since the series of drum shows kicked off at the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House in January 2023.


A scene from the season finale Drum Up JB!
show. Photo Credit: Tan Chai Puan

The encouraging response to the shows since January led to the staging of two shows each month in February, March, April, May and June, with subsequent shows staged in August and October.


I had the privilege to partner with Drum Up JB! to have a pop-up store for My Johor Stories books at the lobby of the Opera House, opened for the 8pm show.


With Tan Chai Puan and guests
from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

When the shows started in January, I also had the pleasure to witness the first Drum Up JB! show staged at the Opera House. In June I watched the show again to observe how the show’s content had evolved and improved.


Then in October, I watched the show again to see how the content was further improved to keep the audience engaged and entertained.


For the finale show in 2023, I was in the lobby, manning my pop-up store when co-founder of the art of the 24 Festive Drums, Tan Chai Puan, came over to buy a copy of Book Three of My Johor Stories and borrowed my pen to sign it.


My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now, features some stories on brands proudly established in Johor that had spread nationwide and even exported abroad – and this included the story on the founding of the Art of the 24 Festive Drums.


With the Chan family

Tan told me that he wished to present my book to a couple – he is American and his wife is Hungarian – who are retired and now lives in Kota Kinabalu, and who made the trip to Johor Bahru specifically to enjoy the Drum Up JB! live show.


Like Tan, I was impressed by their passion for the performing arts and had no doubt that there were others like them who made their way to Johor Bahru to catch this creative performance by the talented artistes in JB Drums and Orang Orang Drum Theatre.


The art of the 24 Festive Drums was often thought of as a Chinese performing art so it was important to share that the art of the 24 Festive Drums was founded by Johoreans in Johor Baru, and in fact, a proudly Johor-born performing art.


With young Enya and her mother

When young drummers here went abroad to further their studies, they brought along their passion for the art of the 24 Festive Drums and established drum troops in their universities and colleges in the USA, the UK, Australia and other English-speaking nations.


As this art of drumming had spread to nations abroad, my writings about this dramatic art of drumming in English, allowed English-speaking/reading drummers and readers here and abroad, to read and appreciate the stories I wrote about the 24 Festive Drums.


With Chloe Yap and her family members

When people came by my pop-up store to look at my books, I usually asked where they were from.


Some who told me that they are from Johor, also said they were familiar with my articles published in the newspapers, so they probably needed no introduction to, My Johor Stories.


When I asked a family with a young son and learnt that they were from Seremban, I had the privilege to share a brief introduction, to let them know the Contents and what was documented in My Johor Stories books.


It was always a pleasure to meet young people who enjoy reading as a hobby and I appreciate the support of parents who would buy books for them. So it was my privilege to autograph my books for young Enya.


Photo Credit: Jomtaralets
It was also fun to meet familiar people arriving for the show, so I was delighted to see Chloe Yap and a group of people who turned out to be her family members.


After the book was launched last year, I presented an autographed copy of My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now, to Zoe because the Contents of this book featured a tribute to the Johor Society for the Performing Arts (JSPA).


When I first met her, Chloe was helping her late parents, Yap and Suzie, the organisers of the annual Johor Arts Festival that ran for 15 consecutive years. I am pleased to honour their legacy in the Johor Bahru arts scene by documenting a story on JSPA in Book Three, the final instalment to complete the trilogy of My Johor Stories.


It was rather amusing when Chloe’s uncle mentioned that he was familiar with my grandfather’s house and used to go there for badminton training with his schoolmate, my Uncle Eddy Mak.


[My sisters, cousins and I stayed with our grandparents during our school-going years and we had fun playing on the badminton court before serious training started in the evenings. Growing Up in Grandfather’s House and Badminton Glory Days are stories featured under Memories in Book Three.]


With Dwayne Ho and his fiance, Amanda

I often say that My Johor Stories is not all about me but that it also features many Johor people who have impacted other lives, along with what is popularly known as my “grandfather stories.”


Then a young couple came to look at my books. She picked up Book One of My Johor Stories, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage and turned to the Contents page.


When this book was launched in July 2017, it went to the Number One spot of the MPH Non-Fiction Bestsellers list at the first week of its launch. It stayed on the Bestsellers list for consecutive weeks and months, and at year-end, this title was counted among the Best of MPH in 2017.


When I heard the young man say, “That’s my grandfather…” I was pleasantly surprised but could make an instant connection of him to a Johor personality featured under Portraits, James Ho: A blessing to others.


With Tan Chai Puan, Dr Ed Ong
and his lady friends

As he responded to my barrage of questions, I soon learned that Dwayne Ho is the grandson of the late James Ho, a familiar personality in Johor Bahru fondly remembered for his selfless contributions to the community.


Our chat was interrupted when another group approached and I recognised Dr Ed Ong, a lecturer from the Newcastle University campus here, accompanied by several ladies.


It was uncanny that his name was mentioned just days ago when I met with one of his students, an AFS volunteer who participated in a Heritage Walk with me.


Dr Ed, who hails from Kuching, Sarawak, was happy to tell the others that he got to know more about Johor from My Johor Stories after we met as fellow speakers at the 2019 TEDx Talk where I spoke about, Connecting People Through My Johor Stories.


When he saw my books at the pop-up store, Dr Ed said that he bought his copy of Book Three from the MPH bookstore in Kuching.


[After the two years of uncertainty due to the global pandemic, all the MPH bookstores in Johor Bahru, including that in the airport, were closed.]


With Maghrib and her daughter

When the audience started to trickle out of the theatre, a mother-and-daughter came over to get my books. I was of course, delighted that they did not miss the opportunity to get their own copies of My Johor Stories before leaving.


And when I asked, I learnt that they came from Kuala Lumpur to watch the Drum Up JB! show. Then when I autographed my books for the mother, I was pleasantly surprised when she said her name was, Maghrib. I know that it is one of the Islamic prayer times so what ensued was a chat about why she was so named.


As the 2023 season for Drum Up JB! came to a close with a Press Conference held inside the theatre with the key people in the organizing committee, we can look back upon the early shows to see how much they have achieved in presenting such an entertaining and exciting, family-friendly showcase that reached out to unite the community through the language of drumming, percussion and music.


Thank you, Drum Up JB! for your partnership with My Johor Stories.


My warmest wishes for every success in the new year as you plan and produce yet another engaging and entertaining performance to thrill fans from near and far.


Happy New Year 2024!

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