The Shadow Player of Kelantan leads project with 70 youth
DiGi's Amazing Malaysian, Eddin Khoo, to share passion for Kelantanese performing arts
Kota Baru, May 19, 2006 - Under the stars, amid fronds of coconut trees swaying in gentle breeze from the South China Sea, 70 secondary schoolchildren sat mesmerised as they listened to the hypnotic notes produced by mak yong musicians, followed by an equally enchanting wayang kulit performance. Finally, a group of raucous dikir barat performers took to the stage, lifting the audience out of their trance-like state back into reality.
Thus marked the launch of The Shadow Player of Kelantan, a DiGi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd corporate social responsibility project, at the Perdana Resort, Pantai Cahaya Bulan, Kota Baru. Leading this project which aims to reconnect the youth of the north-eastern state with cultural traditions that have long been part of daily life, but which over the years have been repressed, is researcher-writer Eddin Khoo. DiGi named Eddin as one of its Amazing Malaysians for the year 2006.
Eddin, a former features writer with The Star, has been researching Kelantanese performing arts for over 15 years. His interest was sparked by a performance he was reviewing as a journalist by one of the country's greatest wayang kulit practitioners, the former Dalang Abdullah Ibrahim. Eddin was so entranced by this performance, he made a series of visits to the dalang at his home in Kok Lanas, Kelantan. Eventually, he gave up journalism to form Pusaka, a centre for the study and documentation of Malaysian arts, in 2002. Since then, Eddin has spent most of the non-monsoon months in Kelantan with some 55 artistes from the state.
Today, he is an expert not only on wayang kulit, which remains his favourite, but also manora, dikir barat, mak yong, main puteri and traditional Kelantanese music that accompanies most of these performance traditions. Eddin does not himself perform, but through his research has come to understand the essence of these riveting art forms. In this project, he will put the 70 youth present at the launch under the tutelage of three "masters" to study under them for two-and-a-half months.
Eddin is pleased to be given the opportunity to expose these youngsters to their artistic heritage, as he is troubled by the effect of cultural repression on the psyche of the community. "Young people who have lost their cultural identity have lost an important way of dealing with the complexities of the world," he said.
The youth, from three schools in Kelantan - SMK Chabang Empat in Tumpat; and SMK Machang and SMK Hamzah Satu, both in Machang - will be divided into three groups. One will study dikir barat, another traditional music, while the third will learn how to make wayang kulit puppets and get a chance to play with these puppets. The students will spend about eight hours every weekend with their respective masters.
In his speech, DiGi's Head of Human Resources Adzhar Ibrahim, whose team has adopted this project, noted that: "In the history of Malaysia, we've had not just Chinese and Indians pass through Malaysia, but also Arabs, Portuguese, Dutch, Persians Needless to say, all of them would have spent time with Malaysians, talking to them, sharing food, song and stories. In the process, a little of their culture mingled with ours and enriched our cultural life. And so, you will find in our songs, dances and traditional stories influences of different lands and different peoples. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, it is something we should celebrate because it is part of our history, part of what makes us the way we are, and who we are."
Following the Friday night launch, the 70 children were looking forward to the Discovery workshops to be held the following afternoon at the Renaissance Hotel in Kota Baru, when their cultural journey would begin with a re-introduction to the art of traditional music, wayang kulit and dikir barat.
About DiGi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd
DiGi is a leading mobile communications company providing a comprehensive range of affordable, convenient and easy-to-use wireless services to simplify and enrich the lives of its customers. The company creates value by selecting the most appropriate cutting-edge technology so that customers benefit from products and services that give them choice, convenience and control.
About DiGi's Amazing Malaysians
DiGi's Amazing Malaysians is a corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme which identifies passionate individuals who, quietly but with dedication, work towards preserving Malaysia's natural, social, art, cultural or built heritage. DiGi provides resources for these ordinary people doing extraordinary things to share their knowledge and skills with groups of 50-100 children or youth. Most of the projects are centred in rural locations, and the children involved come from the surrounding areas. This way, DiGi is able both to support commendable heritage work, and to introduce children to the rich tapestry of culture and tradition that makes up Malaysia's unique heritage.
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