Klasik Malaya throwback with JCorp


I was delighted to receive the invitation to a Ramadan feast with Team Media Johor jointly hosted by Johor Corporation, JCorp and Co-Action Events, held at Selasih Persada Johor, a restaurant renowned for authentic local fare.


Going Klasik Malaya at the JCorp Ramadan event

My eyes zeroed in on the event theme, Klasik Malaya, and my imagination soared to visions of classic P. Ramlee movies, his melodious music and the stylish costumes sported by the female stars…


No, I could not picture myself dressed in the hourglass silhouette figure ala Saloma but it did set me on to digging through my wardrobe to put together a classic Malay costume.


This invitation also came with an event agenda that included speeches by the hosts, represented by Hasnina Hafiz, Head of Group Corporate Communications, and David Bareng, Chief Executive of Co-Action Events, a Lucky Draw to win prizes and even a Best Dressed Award.


On arrival, I was warmly welcomed
to the event by Marsha Tan of JCorp

I had no intention of winning any award but only wished to follow the dress code and not be over or under-dressed for the occasion.


I replied with my confirmation to attend and looked forward to the fun of observing the range of classical Malay outfits that other attendees may showcase at this event.


I have always appreciated the classic looks in traditional Malay costumes and with the help of my friends at Yayasan Warisan Johor or the Johor Heritage Foundation, I have covered many stories on Busana Johor over the years.


It was a pleasure to meet with Hasnina Hafiz
again at the JCorp Ramadan event

In fact, I do so appreciate the proud heritage of the Baju Melayu Telok Belanga that I featured a story under Culture-Heritage in, My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now, the third and final instalment to complete the trilogy of My Johor Stories.


On the evening of the event, I followed the signs put up inside the Persada International Convention Centre that directed attendees to the location of the Selasih Restaurant, recently relocated to the lower ground, at street level with Jalan Trus.


Two escalator rides down brought me to the lower concourse where I was warmly welcomed at the reception desk and presented with door gifts: One box (I later discovered) of dried dates and another gift box of cookies made by Sedap Corner.


With Fazi of Group Corporate 
Communications, JCorp

Personally, I was pleased that our hosts partnered with Sedap Corner for their door gifts, which I thought, was an excellent practice of a local brand supporting another.


I am familiar with the cuisine, local kueh, cakes and cookies by Sedap Corner and the family who continues in this proud tradition of serving a menu of Johor specialties because I featured their story under proudly Johor brands in, My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now.


The event area was gaily decorated with photo booths that invited attendees to pose for shots while the stage was designed as a sitting room within a traditional Malay house, complete with scalloped curtains adorning its windows.


It was good to meet with friends in JCorp again, many of whom I met when I participated as a Human Book in their exciting Human Library event in September 2022. Among them were Shahrizad Zainal and Marsha Tan.


With Sis Lin, JDT Blogger

My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now, also featured a story on another proudly Johor brand, the KPJ Healthcare Group, and I was pleased that Nina, shortform for Hasnina Hafiz, graciously attended my book launch event in December 2022.


When I saw Group Corporate Communications Senior Manager, Fazi, we had plenty to chit-chat and catch up with each another and she even hinted about the next edition of the Human Library, an event planned for later this year.


As more media friends arrived and filled the seats arranged around banquet tables, event MC, the vivacious Rozana Rahmat, better known as Zana, went around the tables to welcome and chat with attendees.


While her friendly banter with attendees set the mood for the event, my interest was in her traditional costume which she wore, accessorized by a classic kain dagang as a charming head covering.


With Norfy, The Iskandarian

In my story on the Baju Melayu Telok Belanga, I also documented that in ancient times, the lady’s kain dagang was a versatile column of fabric with multiple uses.


This piece of kain or cloth, may be used as a head covering to protect against the elements, a receptacle to carry firewood or fruits and for special occasions, it was an accessory to dress-up the ensemble. 


In the 1940’s selendang or shawls became fashionable and were used as head-coverings and accessories especially for attending weddings and public events. By the 1950’s many ladies replaced the kain dagang with scarves and other head-coverings.


Other than seeing the kain dagang worn in Busana Johor fashion shows and by dancers performing traditional dances, this was the first time in recent years that I saw an outfit that prominently featured the kain dangang as a fashion statement.


Muzri Remy Muhadi and his wife, Nabila Munir
dressed in matching Baju Melayu Telok Belanga

Not to be outdone by the ladies, some of the menfolk also made the effort to dress in classic Malay costumes, complete with accessories like walking sticks and headgear of songkok, tanjak and even a fez.


The arrival of a pair, dressed in matching outfits that resembled a bridal couple, caused quite a stir when they posed comfortably for the official photographer at the photo booth.


When this charming couple headed over and joined us at our table, I had the pleasure to chat with them and got to know them better.


MC Zana [Right] wears a traditional kain dagang
with her traditional costume, speaking to Lisa and
her sister, Shida, of Visit Johor

It turned out that this pair was in fact, a married couple and they were wearing their wedding costumes inspired by the traditional Baju Melayu Telok Belanga which he accessorised with a tanjak cloth headgear, fashioned into a Balut Ayam (cockerel?) style while she had fan hairpins of gold protruding from her flowing headscarf.


He is Muzri Remy Muhadi while his wife, Nabila Munir, fondly called Bella, is an Instagram and TikTok personality who shares cooking recipes on bella_ _ nabilaa.


Just ahead of the breaking-of-fast, the event proper kicked off with words of welcome from Hasnina Hafiz who thanked media partners for their constant support of JCorp and welcomed everyone to enjoy the annual Ramadan feast, served by Selasih Restaurant at its new location in the Persada International Convention Centre.


The lucky winner who received
an ironing board with his prize
of an electric iron

Meanwhile David Bareng was pleased to announce that Co-Action Events has lined up two exciting events: One was the Johor Baru 10km Trail Eco-Run planned for May 11 and the other was the second edition of the Aku Music Festival on June 8.


With a reminder that there was more food being served from live-cooking stalls at the outdoor section of the restaurant, I saw many returning to the tables with a variety of freshly-made items like skewers of beef and chicken satay, murtabak and emping, among other local favourites.


Then the feasting began. When we were almost done with the serious business of enjoying a veritable feast from the wide buffet, we heard MC Zana making the announcement for the next exciting item on the agenda – the Lucky Draw.


Prizes for the Lucky Draw were familiar brand names for a range of electrical and electronic items for home and personal use, arranged on a table set up on the stage, so we cheered and clapped for the lucky winners whose numbers were picked to win the prizes.


The cheering and laughter probably doubled when the winner of the prize of an electric iron was announced because this prize was paired with an ironing board.


These shortlisted Best Dressed men and ladies
are all winners for their sporting spirit

It was indeed, rather amusing to watch this winner posing for photos and then carting off his prize of an electric iron that came complete with an ironing board.


Before awarding the top prizes, the Lucky Draw took a break for the next segment to find the Best Dressed Man and Lady. This was done by picking the top three favourites among the men and ladies and then, inviting them on stage.


MC Zana encouraged, first the ladies and then the men, to individually perform a simple challenge, one after the other. And thanks to the sporting spirit of these six people, we had a most hilarious time as the place literally rocked with laughter.


After this, the candidates were told to stand in a row and turn away to face the back of the stage while the audience (us!) cheered and clapped when the MC pointed to each individual because the loudest cheers will determine who wins.


When the winners were announced, I agreed that the Best Dressed Man and Best Dressed Lady were deserving winners, not only for their costumes but also for their sporting spirit.


Laksa Johor was among the
specialties served by
Selasih restaurant

When the Lucky Draw resumed, Nina and Daniel were invited to draw the top few numbers to win the top – and higher value – prizes.


When the number was drawn for the final prize in this media appreciation event, I thought that it was rather uncanny that it belonged to none other than Johor Media Club president, Mohamad Fauzi Ishak.


The event was officially over but the fun continued as we took the opportunity to capture special photo mementoes with media friends, dressed in the Klasik Malaya theme, for classic shots that reeked with a charming sense of nostalgia.


Thank you, JCorp for your generous hospitality in hosting this annual Ramadan feast with the media in Johor. I don’t know about the others, but for me, it was always good to be appreciated. Thanks.

A Heritage Walk to remember


At the end of our Heritage Walk, I asked participants the all-important questions: “What do you like most and what did you like least, about your Walk experience?”


Introductions and preliminary briefing at the
start of Heritage Walk in March 2024

Seema, one of the participants, did not hesitate to volunteer her honest reply, and said she liked everything about the Walk but not the heat!


You see, this group chose Saturday, March 23 for our Heritage Walk as it was a Public Holiday in Johor to mark the Official Birthday of the Johor Sultan.


This hot season, we have been experiencing tropical heatwaves so our group was well prepared with hats and umbrellas, bravely walking outdoors in the sweltering heat.


Little did we know [until later when I read the news!] that at 1.11pm that very same afternoon, we experienced a Zero Shadow Day, a natural event where objects such as a stick or a pole on the ground, will cast No Shadow!


At our Meeting Point at the start of our Walk;
Check out the cloudless sky!

This Zero Shadow Day, known as the Lahaina Noon, is a semi-annual tropical solar phenomenon when the sun reaches the zenith at solar noon, passing directly overhead, which resulted in the sun’s rays falling exactly vertical relative to an object on the ground, casting no shadow at all.


Thankfully, at 1pm we were just outdoors for a few more minutes before the Walk took us to our final destination in the itinerary, out of the scorching sun and indoors to air-conditioned comfort.


When she had gathered her thoughts, Seema – who is from India and lived in Johor Baru for more than 30 years – shared her comments about her Walk experience.


Heading out on Segget Walk

She said: “Thank you for a lovely morning spent learning about some of the history of Johor Baru. While the information was insightful, your presentation of the historical facts in your unique “storytelling” style made it extremely interesting too.


It has changed the way I will view the all-too-common Jalans (roads!) of Johor Baru that I have been travelling on all these years and the designs on everything, ranging from the lamp-posts to wall murals. Thank you.”


At the start of the Heritage Walk, Seema talked about her embarrassment when her daughter’s in-laws came to Johor Baru armed with a list of Things-to-Do/Places-to-Go, when she who lived here for a while, had little or no idea of what to do or where to go with her visitors.


Now after her Walk experience based on My Johor Stories, I am confident that she is better equipped with some tips on what to do and where to go with her visitors.


Johor's iconic pepper and gambier
motif on the railings of Segget Walk

While we waited for more arrivals at our meeting point, one of the gentlemen participants approached me and whipped out a copy of My Johor Stories 2: Interesting Places and Inspirational People, from his carrier bag.


Lim Len Chow explained that my book sequel – launched in 2018 – belonged to his son and when he knew that Lim was joining my Heritage Walk that morning, he passed the book to his father to get me to autograph it.


I was more than ready to sign this copy of my book but I told Lim that when we sat down for a chat at the end of the Walk, I will then autograph his book.


In fact, we will be visiting two of the heritage traders featured in this book, third-generation heritage traders who were still doing the business started by their forefathers.


In our chit-chat, I learnt that Lim was from Negeri Sembilan but moved to Johor when he joined the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) and was based in Woodlands, Singapore. He was now retired and still resides in Johor Baru.


Photo memento for Stella and Brandon
in the Indian Heritage Centre

I am familiar this because our Uncle Arthur was also with the RMN and was based in Woodlands. He was our sea-man Uncle who travelled the world for work and represented the RMN in badminton tournaments.


When Uncle returned from his overseas trips, he will always bring a gift for me and one of the most treasured gifts must be a Chinese quilted coat in Red, which I am still keeping to this very day.


I told Lim that my uncle was also with the RMN, based in Woodlands, and then we discovered that Lim was familiar with Uncle Arthur because they both served on the vessel, KD Rahmat!


[At the end of our Walk, I not only autographed my books for Lim but also exchanged contact details with him so that he could reconnect with Uncle Arthur again.]


At about 9.55am, almost all the participants had assembled at our meeting point except for one. Someone called to check on her whereabouts and told me that she was heading right over (from a wrong meeting spot!)


In front of the Sultan Ibrahim Building
on Bukit Timbalan, Johor Baru

In a few moments, a young lady approached our group – dressed in denim and sporting aviator shades – and confirmed that she was the one expected to join us.


I appreciate it when participants arrived on time so that we could start the Heritage Walk on time and complete it just on time when the sun was too hot to be outdoors.


After introductions and a preliminary briefing, this group set out from the Segget Walk in relative shade because of the greenery along this promenade.


As we crossed the bridge to head towards the Arulmigu Rajamariaman Devasthanam Hindu Temple at Jalan Ungku Puan to visit the Indian Heritage Centre, someone who was familiar with Johor in a bygone era, paused to ask about the site next to the temple.


At front entrance of the Johor Baru Chinese
Heritage Museum, Jalan Ibrahim

Rows of cars were parked on this site which was used as a carpark, so the present generation or visitors here do not know that this site was once Johor Baru’s Chinatown food court, a popular destination for dinner and supper.


We reminisced about the tasty food from this makeshift food court that came with the unforgettable pong from the putrid food waste left daily in the adjacent river, that was literally an open sewer where refuse decayed in our tropical climate.


While all these are now just memories, I am pleased to have documented my story on Johor Baru’s first food court in my 2017 MPH Non-Fiction Bestseller, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.


In the Johor Baru Chinese Heritage Museum

Inside the Indian Heritage Centre, I was pleased to observe how the participants of Indian origin could relate to the artefacts on display that chartered the Milestones of traditional Indian life and showcased their early occupations and lifestyle of the Indian community here.


Among the precious artefacts were travel trunks used by early immigrants who arrived from South India to Peninsular Malaya by steamships like the MV Chidambaram that docked in Penang.


While this steamship may be familiar to Indian participants whose forefathers may have arrived in Malaya on it, I was pleasantly surprised when Lim mentioned that he had actually seen this vessel when the KD Rahmat was in Penang.


One for the album: In the Museum of
the 24 Festive Drums with Angeline Chia
[Centre] of JB Drums

In the Johor Baru Chinese Heritage Museum, the Chronology of Events documented on the wall poster provided a clearer view of the Chinese contribution to the development of Johor since the 1800s.


From the collection of old photographs of the Johor rulers, I shared with the participants about the strong relationship established by the Johor rulers with the Chinese community in early Johor, a special bond that continues to this day.


[As I was speaking, I looked at the participants gathered in front and noticed someone unfamiliar standing, front and center, paying rapt attention to me.


Trying their hand at drumming:
[L to R] Stella, Lim and Seema

She was clearly not from our group so I paused to check and she confessed that she was visiting from Singapore but just wanted to listen to my engaging commentary!]


Meanwhile visits to the Museum of the 24 Festive Drums was by appointment only and when I finally secured an appointment for this group to visit the Museum, I was pleased to add this destination to our itinerary.


“Ohh…I didn’t know that there was a Drums Museum here…,” was the response I received when I informed Elizabeth Wong.


On the morning of 1 January 2020, I witnessed the official opening of the Museum of the 24 Festive Drums but before the Museum started to welcome visitors, the global pandemic reached us and the subsequent lockdown years kept the Museum closed.


Chatting with Stanley Yeoh at Sin Keng Wah
Kedai Tilam, Jalan Trus

So our visit to the Drums Museum gave this group a further insight into this dramatic art of drumming that was proudly founded in Johor, with drum troops established nationwide and also abroad, including being exported back to China.


From the start of our Walk, I shared the stories behind road names because we have a rich heritage in road names. [Read about it in, My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now.]


When we exited the Museum and walked to Jalan Ibrahim, I mentioned that this road was named after Temenggong Ibrahim, the father of Sultan Abu Bakar.


Walking through an ancient shortcut

At the junction where Jalan Ibrahim meets Jalan Trus, I pointed across Jalan Ibrahim to the area that was now a carpark and explained that the area beyond was reclaimed because that road through the carpark was known as Jalan Tangga Duke.


“So who was this Duke?” I asked and encouraged the participants to hazard a guess. Out of the many nonsensical guesses, it was Lim who gave a wild but right guess.


On 16 December 1869, when the Duke of Edinburgh visited Johor as guest of Sultan Abu Bakar, special steps (tangga in Malay) were constructed at the wharf that bordered the Johor Straits for his comfortable arrival when his ship docked nearby. This road then earned its name as Jalan Tangga Duke.


When the Duke toured the town, Jalan Duke – where Bank Negara is located – was named to commemorate his visit to Johor Baru.


In the rear extension of the Johor Old Temple;
Lim is looking into the ancient well.

At Jalan Trus, we visited Sin Keng Wah Kedai Tilam, the last of the traditional mattress-makers in the city, to observe how a custom-made, cotton-stuffed cushion was being completed by hand-stitching its edges.


I observed that it was a fascinating discovery for most of the participants who did not know that such a heritage trade still existed here. While Stella and her husband, Brandon, decided to buy a cotton-stuffed pillow, some of the others planned to bring their own cushion dimensions for these skilled artisans to custom-make their orders.


Back on Jalan Trus, we dropped by at the Johor Old/Ancient Temple, also known as the Temple of Unity because it uniquely houses the deities worshipped by the five main Chinese dialects who settled here.


Johor’s Street of Harmony bears testimony to the good relationship the Johor rulers have with the people who made Johor their home because land was presented to the Christian, Catholic, Hindu, Sikh and Chinese people to build their places of worship. [Read more about Johor’s Street of Harmony, in My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage.]


My Johor Stories 2: Interesting
Places and Inspirational People

autographed for Norman, Lim's son

In the rear extension of the Johor Old Temple, valuable artefacts on display included an ancient bell with inscriptions that hinted of the temple’s age and two wells that used to provide devotees with “blessed” water.


At the temple forecourt, a video recording of the recent Johor Chingay played on a wall-mounted television screen for visitors to have a glimpse of this temple’s annual tradition that has gone uninterrupted for more than 100 years except once during the Japanese invasion in 1942.


I enjoyed leading the Walk through an ancient shortcut that links Jalan Trus with Jalan Wong Ah Fook for us to (get out of the sun!) and reach Johor Baru City Square Mall in the shortest possible time.


An elevator ride to Level Six took us to Mee Ho Seng Kee where Elton Ho, a third-generation operator, is still doing the business started by his grandfather that had progressed from a pushcart to a cool café in the mall.


Seated in air-conditioned comfort, we chilled out over drinks while some participants chose to savour Mee Ho Seng Kee’s famous duck egg noodles.


Pointing out Uncle Arthur to Lim from a
family photo in My Johor Stories: True
Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage

I had the pleasure to autograph my books for them and turned the pages to a family photograph to point out Uncle Arthur to Lim. Later, I received his comments:


“Thank you for the wonderful narratives during the Walk today.


It was very informative on the history of Johor Baru especially where the Johor Sultans worked very closely with the Chinese community to develop the land.


In fact, I learnt a lot from today’s Walk. I thoroughly enjoyed it.”


I too, enjoyed my time with this group who braved the heatwave and benefited from our time together. Well done, everyone!


Photo Credits: Elizabeth Wong, Seema Unnithan, Prasanna Nair, Stella Ponnapalam, Tan Soke Har and Florence Liew.

Cultural Consultant = Cultural Bridge


I read the invitation to the Press Conference closely and understood its dual aim:


Tan Chai Puan [Centre] on his appointment as
Cultural Consultant, with Lee Ming Liang [Left]
and Xie Zehao [Right] of R&F Group Malaysia

One was the Appointment of a Cultural Consultant and the other was the Announcement of the Performance Plan for the 24 Festive Drums that will kick off in June 2024 as they commemorate the 36th Anniversary of its founding in 1988.


The event was jointly organized by R&F Princess Cove and the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House in collaboration with JB Drums, held at the R&F Princess Cove Sales Gallery.


I did not hesitate to accept this invitation as I was keen to witness the appointment of cultural activist, Tan Chai Puan, as the Cultural Consultant to build a cultural bridge to link cultural exchange activities, both local and from abroad, with the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House at R&F Princess Cove in Johor Baru.


The event kicked off with a performance in the
art of the 24 Festive Drums by JB Drums

I know that Tan is the ideal personality to help the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House develop the cultural branding of this property and provide professional advice for the operations and management of the Opera House in a sustainable way.


Looking back, I probably met Tan while I was featuring stories from the annual Johor Baru Arts Festival, published in the The New Straits Times, a leading English newspaper with nationwide distribution.


When Tan was with the Tan Hiok Nee Heritage Walk Committee, this team was tasked to arrange weekend cultural events, presented at a makeshift stage set up in front of what is popularly called the Red House at the Tan Hiok Nee Heritage Walk.


Tan Chai Puan, cultural activist, was featured as
an exclusive story in my 2017 MPH Non-Fiction
Bestseller, My Johor Stories: True Tales,
Real People, Rich Heritage

Tan was instrumental in keeping me updated on these exciting events and made an effort to help me understand these Chinese cultural events by providing the English translation from Mandarin so that I could write more accurately.


Thanks to the then JB Bureau Chief of The New Straits Times newspapers who published my stories on Johor culture and heritage in cover-page-centre-spread issues of the weekday pull-out Southern section called JBuzz, that was later rebranded as Johor Streets.


People enjoyed reading about themselves and this was a golden era for local news when readers bought the newspapers to see their stories and photographs published in the English print media.


Tan’s help with the English translation was important because the bulk of Chinese cultural activities here were only reported in Chinese publications so people who do not read Chinese, do not know about it.


The story of the 24 Festive Drums was featured in
My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now

So with Tan’s help, I was able to write about Johor Chinese cultural activities in English – published in Travel Times and Johor Streets – for readers who do not read Chinese, to finally read about these Chinese cultural activities, in English.


Tan also invited me to 24 Festive Drums events where I learnt that he and Tan Hooi Song were the co-founders of this dramatic art of drumming that had developed from a school drum troop in Johor into an international drumming phenomenon.


These events were (again!) mainly conducted in Chinese and it was Tan who made me feel welcome by providing the English translation for me to better understand and write accurately.


Tan Chai Puan performing the Handprint
Ceremony witnessed by Lee Ming Liang [Left]
and Xie Zehao [Right] of the R&F Group

Over the years, I had the privilege to enjoy many drum shows as well as witnessed the International Drum Festivals hosted in Johor Baru, and learnt more about Tan and the art of the 24 Festive Drums.


When I was working on the manuscript for the first My Johor Stories book, I included Tan Chai Puan, cultural activist, as an exclusive story under Portraits, featured with other Johor personalities whose lives have impacted others.


On the first week of its launch in July 2017, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, went to the Number One spot of the MPH Non-Fiction Bestsellers list and stayed on the Bestsellers list for consecutive weeks and months, and at year-end, this book was counted among the Best of MPH2017.


Later on in 2017, Tan was recognized for his contributions as winner in the Arts & Culture (Individual) category at the prestigious 4th Iskandar Malaysia Social Heroes Awards (IMSHA), which aims to “Spot, Recognise and Empower” individuals and Non-Governmental Organisations who carry on their work in the community valiantly, voluntarily and unconditionally.


As he continued relentlessly, not only as a cultural activist but also as a cultural initiator and innovator, Tan was honoured to be acknowledged as a Living Cultural Heritage of Malaysia by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture in October 2018.


By then, I was familiar with the achievements of Tan and the 24 Festive Drums – a proudly Johor-born brand – and decided to include this among other brands that were established in Johor, expanded throughout the nation and even exported abroad, in My Johor Stories 3: Proudly Johor, Then and Now, published in 2022.


As the economy gradually reopened in mid-2022, the team at JB Drums created a cultural attraction dubbed, Drum Up JB! that was successfully presented to audiences at the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House throughout 2023.


With Tan Chai Puan in front of my
pop-up store at the lobby of the
Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House

It was my privilege to partner with JB Drums to set up a pop-up store at the lobby of the Opera House for the audience who enjoyed the dramatic drum show, to buy my books and read the stories on the Art of the 24 Festive Drums as well as, Tan Chai Puan, cultural activist, documented in My Johor Stories.


With his outstanding achievements in arts, culture and heritage, nationwide and abroad, his tireless efforts in nurturing young talents as well as promoting art and culture, Tan has earned wide recognition for his contributions to the arts scene both here and internationally. 


That morning, the event at the Sales Gallery aptly kicked off with an exciting performance of the 24 Festive Drums presented by the JB Drums troop.


In a simple ceremony to mark his appointment as Cultural Consultant, Tan was invited to perform a Handprint Ceremony where he pressed his palm on a frame of golden putty to create a handprint that symbolized his collaboration with the R&F Group Malaysia.


Chairman of the R&F Group Malaysia, Lee Ming Liang, presented Tan with a Letter of Appointment, witnessed by Vice General Manager, Xie Zehao.


Tan Chai Puan presenting his speech

In his acceptance speech, Tan thanked the R&F Group Malaysia for their trust and confidence in him to carry out his role as Cultural Consultant, to build a cultural bridge by promoting the art and culture of Johor to the world and to host more quality art and culture exchanges, here.


Tan said that the late Tan Hooi Song, his co-founder in the art of the 24 Festive Drums, had spent his entire life calling for the construction of a concert hall here, so Tan expressed his appreciation to the R&F Group for their initiative to build the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House as a gift to the arts and culture community here, who have longed for such a venue for the performing arts.


He also expressed his appreciation for the support of the R&F Group, as the Opera House was the venue for the highly acclaimed series of Drum Up JB! shows last year.


Tan was pleased that the Malaysian 24 Festive Drums Competition, inaugurated in 2010 and held bi-annually until 2018 but postponed for five years due to the global pandemic, will resume this year with preliminary competitions arranged in six regions nationwide.


Cultural Consultant, Tan Chai Puan

This year, for the first time, the finals for the National Competition and the International Drum Festival will be held in Kuala Lumpur to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Malaysia and China.


JB Drums president, Lim Yi Kai, was pleased to announce that the celebrations for the 36th Anniversary of the founding of the 24 Festive Drums, will be hosted at the Permaisuri Zarith Sofiah Opera House with afternoon and evening events on June 8.


He said the afternoon event will include the inauguration ceremony of the 24 Festive Drums Association Malaysia in Johor while the evening event will feature performances by JB Drums in collaboration with other professional drum troops in the nation.


Meanwhile, co-founder of Drum Up JB! Lee Sheah Liang, provided encouraging data derived from the analysis of the performances presented last year which included unprecedented milestones of achievement in the history of the drum shows.


Lee was proud that Drum Up JB! was the first ticketed drum show performed at the Opera House since the reopening of the economy after the global pandemic and it successfully presented 18 shows to some 6,500 people in 2023.


Drum Up JB! was ranked second nationwide
among the music shows staged in 2023

He was optimistic about establishing Drum Up JB! as a permanent cultural attraction in Johor Baru because data showed that the non-Chinese audience increased from 5% to 30% last year, while some even deliberately planned their travel to come here to watch this show.


Using charts, Lee unveiled the future plans for Drum Up JB! shows scheduled from this year onwards to 2026, along with encouraging information on the Top Ten Bestselling Music Shows in the nation, when Drum Up JB! ranked second, last year.


At the close of the event, I had the opportunity to chat with Cultural Consultant Tan, who declared, “I am honoured to be the pioneer to open the gate of the arts and culture scene here and step out from traditional small circles by playing the bridging role between Johor and the arts community in Singapore and beyond.”


He was referring to better connectivity with Singapore when the Rapid Transit System (RTS), scheduled for completion by end 2026, comes into operation. He was also optimistic about presenting quality shows at the Opera House while providing local artistes with opportunities to showcase their talents here and abroad.


As we look forward to a more vibrant arts scene in Johor, please accept my best wishes and congratulations, Tan Chai Puan, on your appointment as Cultural Consultant with the R&F Group Malaysia.