Percussion Paradise celebrated talent and history on the 30th September at the Plenary Hall, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre ; as many came to watch HANDS Percussion’s 20th Anniversary: Percussion Paradise. As the doors open, a night of story-filled wonder began.
A round of formalities kick-started the night, aided by the gracious charisma of MC, Adrian Seet. The opening focused upon the evolution of HANDS Percussion, centered around Bernard Goh’s story about starting his career anew, and diving into the Malaysian Performing Arts industry for over two decades. Not only has he and his team nurtured their unique showmanship of performing with percussion, but their overall philosophy evolved too. The performing arts groups began to raise awareness that ‘art can inspire change’, as quoted by Bernard Goh, “It has the capacity to capture a person’s attention first, then the potential to affect positive social change through music especially with children. Along with the opportunity to raise awareness of social and economic issues through our performances and community work, these are the reasons we still do what we do.” YAM Tunku Zain Al-‘Abidin ibni Tuanku Muhriz had also attended the showcase and shared his wishes and support for HANDS Percussion.
Education & Outreach
A short video montage of the HANDS Percussion crew in London with Syrian refugees touched our hearts, as we watched fellow our Malaysian musicians teach and cheer on with the children. The audience also had the privilege to enjoy a short piece called Bunga Emas by dancer named Zamzuriah Zahari, as she explained the stigma and perceptions of people who often look down on dancers. A group of refugee students from Fugee School, Kuala Lumpur gave an endearing performance put together by the HANDS Percussion group as a part of their Education and Outreach programs. Their spirit and determination won our hearts considering the background from which they came.
“Round” was the first of the six pieces. A blue and glow light bathed the stage, and the red costumes worn by the percussionists turned into shades of purple under the lighting, as they did jeté after jeté in perfect synchronisation. Their drum beats resounded around the hall in perfect union, piercing through the air on every strike made by their sticks. A story about people woven by the red strings of destiny is brought to life by the vividness of the colors. All of that is punctuated by the intensity of each beat and the solo piece of a lone percussionist as he paints the image of the delicacy of life, using various parts of his limbs as instruments. Howz’s flute performance made this piece more whole, accompanying the enigmatic movements of the percussionist.
“Nature”, composed by Jack Wan with guest composer Wayan Sudirana,was the second piece. It starred a Kelantanese traditional musician, Mat Din, to perform alongside HANDS 1, in a breathtaking performance of Malay, Javanese and Balinese-inspired music. The stage turned into a shade of beautiful green, and a forest atmosphere came to life as the sounds of the pereret and rainstick created the serenity that smoothed into a contemporary piece of traditional Malay Gamelan. The nuanced gongs transitioned into the energetic and vibrant rhythm of Balinese. The ceng-ceng, trompong, peking and rebab created a beautiful version of the fantastical theatrical piece Kecak, bringing the audience on a journey through the Nusantara age.
Nostalgia & experimentation
The performances titled “Focus”, and “Transcendence”, composed by Tai Chun Wai and Tee Leong Hoe respectively, focused on the aspects of strength in technique, through discipline and order. The sleeveless happi coat clad HANDS 1 put on a fierce display in homage to the Japanese style of performing kumi-daiko. The powerful and uniformed technique amazed the audience with sounds resembling heartbeats in unison; the beauty of it really lies in the amount of detail put into each beat, and how you can find comfort in even the most primal of all instruments.
Transcendence was a nostalgic trip back to our high school days; which is where the concept behind this piece originated. This was performed by HANDS 2 and their trainees. By using their hands, they created a rhythm by clapping to a beat and then using the kompang and snare drums to further the progression. It was a lovely rendition of a marching band, where they moved into various complex formations.
The audience was in for a treat for the next piece; entitled “Fantasy”, composed by Ng Siu Yee, that HANDS Percussion teamed up with SISU Percussion & Tan Su Yin from Norway to bring a Björk-esque wonderland to life. The stage was doused with bright colors, and designer Moto Guo brought out the eccentricity of the visuals by his fabulous costumes. The Norwegian percussionists began to create music that almost sounded industrial, with different time signatures and bordered on the experimental. It reminded us of the instrumental sections of Sigur Ros’s music- the raw and bubbly yet introspective fusion of Asian & Scandinavian music was a magical, artistic experience.
“Play” was the resplendent bow to the gift that kept on giving. “Play” was composed by Jimmy Ch’ng, which was about the innocence and wonder in discovering new things through playing around or experimenting with your surroundings. This piece was fun and light, though the down-tempo and irregular composition gave it more depth. The stage was riddled with four huge inflatable white bears and a sheer silk screen that separated half of the stage from the crowd. A performer cycles the stage, and goes around in circles seemingly aware of the simplicity of life, and how beauty is everywhere if you have the ear for it.
Percussion Paradise celebrates the night by invoking us emotion, color, and sound like no other. Moments filled with intensity bore meaning about stability and resilience; taught us about our heritage and the history that we must never leave behind. HANDS Percussion has taken the art of percussion to the next level for the past 20 years – showing us that dedication, commitment, and love is required to make an art form recognized and perfected.