The art of drumming has always been admired in the complimentary it has adopted. Coupled with their string instrument friends, the drums are briefly praised as they shy behind the spotlight. Rarely recognized in isolation, Kaleidoscope, an international drumming festival, has proven that percussionists are just as worthy of sharing the spotlight as a story is told in beats and rhythms.
HANDS Percussion, Malaysia’s only professional and self-funded percussion group, has returned this year for its fifth edition, Kaleidoscope. The festival which took place from the 2nd to the 5th of August, featured an ensemble of percussionists from the local scene and countries like Uzbekistan, South Korea, Australia and Syria.
The theme for this year’s festival was UNBEATABLE which encompasses the hunger and the hopeful and unrelenting spirit entailed of a percussionist in their pursuit of making their mark. It tells the tale of their perseverance and hard-work in order to get to the stage they are on today.
Coming together from different walks of life, uniting under the same passion for drumming, the drummers took the stage for one last time on the last day of the festival to deliver an unforgettable performance.
With Hands like Lightning
Abbos Kosimov, a renowned percussionist with hands like lightning from Uzbekistan, served as the introduction to the festival. It is no wonder why he is considered to be the master of Dorya as he fashioned to traditional Uzbek and Tajik instruments to deliver an electric performance. Fast-paced and captivating, Abbos displayed his immaculate skill with the drum as his hands wielded two to three drums at a time.
Bouncing back and forth between each drum, he produced rhythms and beats that entertained as much as they captured the audience. Abbos, who wore a wide smile throughout his performance, seemed to have embedded fun and delight into every beat. As his performance neared its end, Abbos grew interactive. Gesturing to the audience to imitate his beats with claps, Abbos highlighted how music is a collective experience, extending past those who play it.
The Artistry of HANDS
Following suit is a retelling of the classic, The Little Prince, choreographed by Tee Wee Lin and Arifwaran and performed by HANDS. A tale of searching for light and meaning through the dull and ugly, this interpretive piece hopes to shine light on the beauty we often overlook and take for granted.
The stage, lit with an arch of light is spun into the air, and the performance begins. A man bent to the ground at the centre of the stage with a drum and a stick is accompanied by a row of performers on his left and right. Tapping the drum and ground, the performers follow suit, executing motions resembling martial arts. Tranquil and graceful the story started, heart-pounding and intriguing the story ends.
Utilizing various percussion instruments such as the Chinese Shigu drums, suspense was built and the story was written, illustrating the power a percussionist holds in the construction of a narrative. Emerging from the shadows, wings stretching long and wide tied to a performer. Using the beads found on the wings, she dragged and swung her wings, creating rhythms of struggle and fight. Percussion, found in its unlikeliest manner, was able to create a scene that though I did not completely understand, spoke volumes to me.
In a performance absent of dialogue, the drums were able to convey each moment of unease and anxiety. A whirlwind of emotions swept me, leaving me in a daze. An interpretive piece in truth, the performances leaves you unsure and uncertain of anything except your own emotions, leaving the audience to construct the narrative.
HANDS has exemplified the precision and coordination required of a percussionist. In deConsTruction, their second performance for the festival, the majestic vibrations of the traditionally Indonesian Gamelan coupled with the traditionally Chinese heart-thumping lion dance drums and Opera cymbals, HANDS 1, HAND’s full-time percussionists, adorned in their white costumes, delivered a contemporary spin on the old instruments we often confine to tradition and ceremonies.
Dancing from the gamelans placed at the edge of the stage to the drums behind them, the performance went beyond just the music produced but reaching movements as well. As seen in the performance delivered by HANDS 2, a group of part-time HANDS percussionists, as they maneuvered and tapped their drums in synchronization.
Making use of the space given as they ran and danced, they illustrated the intricate and intimate relationship a drummer has with their drums. Despite being a collective and group performance, the performers could be seen as individuals, with their individual dances and movements, all coming together to form a heartfelt performance.
Innovation in Percussion
as the last act of the show was Ben Walsh, a renowned and innovative drummer from Australia. A convergence of technology and music, Ben mixed the electronic music we often see on its own today with the improvisation of drums, all coming together to form a jazzy piece.
With plans of taking drumming to the next level, comes Ben Walsh’s Drum Wheel, a giant octagon with a drum of each side. Starting off slow and gradual, the drumming grows intense and fast-paced. Capturing the audience, Ben bends his body in all directions to hit each drum to produce rhythms and beats.
The festival ends with a collaborative performance, starting off with just Ben and Abbos, it grew to include the main percussionists of each performance. Delighting in their common love and passion, it represents unity despite diversity and how we each have so much more to see and learn.
Percussionists are often known to be underrated and underappreciated but with artists as initiative as those in HANDS, the drumming scene can see to flourish to reach international avenues and touch every heart.
To catch more of HANDS, they will be embarking on tour to Seremban on the 19th of August. If you’re unable to catch that show and you’re just itching for more of HANDS, they will be performing for 243018, the 30th anniversary 24 Festive Drums Concert in December!
To learn from, support or join HANDS, you can check out their official website!