Category Archives: Music

The Eurasian Story

What better way to hear stories, discover or rediscover one’s roots and look to ways of preserving a once-glorious past, than through a celebration of culture, music and food?

The rich history of the Penang Eurasians and their significant contributions to the nation will be showcased this weekend through dialogues, the unveiling of a photo gallery, mouth-watering Eurasian cuisine and music.

The Eurasian Heritage Fiesta 2017 will begin on Saturday with a talk at 2pm on “Discover your roots to preserve Eurasian heritage” followed by the unveiling of a photo gallery at 4.30pm at the Penang Eurasian Association (PEA) House, 107-A, Solok Serani (off Jalan Kelawai), Penang.

Although the Eurasians and original residents of Kampung Serani no longer reside as a close-knit and vibrantly-rich Catholic community next door to the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Pulau Tikus today, the spirit of their music and parties continue to live on in the PEA House.

The fiesta this year is a collaboration between the PEA and organisers of the Eurasian Fiesta and is part of the 8th edition of the George Town Festival.

The Eurasian community is inviting the public to experience its unique ‘Serani’ cuisine and rich musical talents.

“The new photo gallery,” says the event’s organising chairman and former PEA president Datuk Aloysius Gasper, “will be a proud display of our Eurasian presence nationally and not just remain brief references in the history of Penang and the country.”

On Saturday, food lovingly prepared from recipe books of Penang’s Eurasian families and live music will be available from 7pm to midnight, while on Sunday the event is open from 5pm till midnight.

See you for a bite of sugee cake and pineapple tarts or a spread of devil curries and more this weekend at Kampung Serani in Pulau Tikus!

Here’s a take-away of recipes shared by the generous hearts of several Penang Eurasians …

(Images courtesy of Datuk Aloysius Gasper)

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GT80

This posting speaks for itself via the beautifully-crafted illustrations of a very talented young lady, Vanessa Ho.

The watercolour illustrator was commissioned by George Town Festival (GTF) director Joe Sidek to produce this darling little travel journal called GT80.

It lists the top 80 favourites of GTF, in terms of places to go, things to do, people to see and dishes to eat in George Town.

If there is one souvenir you should buy (RM30 each), during this edition of the GTF, it's this lil brown book which makes an invaluable guide for anyone pounding the streets of George Town or those overseas who pine for their beloved Penang.

Here's why ….

You get to rediscover childhood favourites, be they people, food or places or discover new ones and grow to love them.


Copies of the GT80 illustrated travel journal are available at the GTF office (86, Lebuh Armenian, George Town) during office hours.

(All images – but one – are courtesy of George Town Festival)

Eight years and growing from strength to strength #gtf2017

The 8th edition of the George Town Festival (GTF ) opened last night at Dewan Sri Pinang with an upbeat convergence of artistes from near and far around the region of Southeast Asia at SVARA ASEAN. This musical showcase was a celebration of the artistic pride in the region, and a tribute to the sounds of Southeast Asia,  featuring six of the region's acclaimed singers and musicians, filled with mesmerising melodies and a wide repertoire of music genres. Local artistes – including Adibah Noor and Sean Ghazi  who were proud flag bearers of the Jalur Gemilang – presented classic hits and collaborated on some medleys with award- winning Phillipine Madrigal Singers, Penang Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) and PPO’s Jazz Band.

Also featured were Indonesian flautist Gus Teja and soulful Anchee from Thailand who paid tribute to her late king in song.


The opening weekend of GTF continues today, with generous ASEAN flavours, arts, designs, tastes and sounds. ASEAN Design Forum to be held on July 29, brings together Southeast Asia’s leading luminaries in design – Eric Bunnag Booth, Rachaporn Choochuey, Kenneth Cobonpue, Priscilla Shunmugam and Sali Sasaki.

This informative and illuminating nexus of ideas is said to delve into the status quo and future of design, space making, and the creative industries in Southeast Asia.

A market of ASEAN assortments at the Penang State Museum awaits everyone today and tomorrow in the grounds of the Penang State Museum.

'Macam- macam ASEAN' , is a craft and creative market, a tattoo studio, barber shop, live musical performances, wayang kulit and more. This free two-day fun event is an all-ages showcase in line with thisyear’s festival’s Southeast Asian focus.

At this craft market, go spoil yourself with ethically-made tea towels, shoes, tote bags, scarves, jewellery, pouches, tattoos, pillows, bowls, notebooks, and postcards featuring colourful, authentic motifs by collectives from Laos, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam and our very own charming Kuching (from where Jit and friends have flown over some exquisite kebaya pieces and also fine beadwork).

A standout event at Macam-macam ASEAN is being touted to be Laksa of the Region (LOTR), which is a convergence of culinary delights and will see 24 laksa makers gather under one roof to cook up distinctive aromatic flavours representing countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Malaysia’s very own Penang assam laksa, Johor and Sarawak laksa, Nyonya laksa and laksam. 

For the ongoing weeks, other highlights of GTF 2017 include The Manganiyar Classroom by Roysten Abel, CELL, the gravity-defying acrobatic act of A Simple Space, Jérôme Bel’s GALA, The Human Voice, Hakanai –an animated choregraphy by Adrien Mondot and Claire Bardainne of France and lots more. Month-long exhibitions include Noted, Jimmy Nelson’s Before They Pass Away, Yangon Echoes, Portraits of George Town and the mysterious Secret Gardens “Revisited”.

GTF this year is partnering M-ND Media Distribution SEA and FaveKad Sdn Bhd. M-ND is a technology company that revolutionises the way brands and consumers connect with each other through multi-sensory experiences, FaveKad (a start-up technology company owned by George Lee), which aims to give everyone a reason to connect by sending electronic greeting cards with an Asian flair.

The complete festival guide is available at http://www.georgetownfestival.com or simply follow-the-fest on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 

(Some images courtesy of George Town Festival)

All glory, laud and honour

"The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul"
(Johann Sebastian Bach)

Southeast Asia's oldest Anglican church – St George's Church in Penang – has received a bicentennial blessing this year in the form of a pipe organ, the most majestic of all instruments.

The 1,050-pipe Mander organ joins the ranks of its "neighbour" – the Church of Assumption along George Town's Lebuh Farquhar, in hosting its very own pipe organ.

With the consecration of the beautiful new instrument at St George's this morning by the Anglican Bishop of West Malaysia and Archbishop of the Anglican Church of the Province of South East Asia, the Most Reverand Datuk Ng Moon Hing, Penang island now has the distinction of being home to two glorious pipe organs found in two heritage churches on the same street in the Unesco heritage core zone!

"The character of Anglican worship revolves around congregational singing of hymns," said St George's Church's Bishop Charles Samuel, "and an organ is the basic necessity for nearly all of this music. There is no other instrument that matches its ability to lead the singing of a several hundred-strong congregation."

Bishop Samuel has stressed that the new pipe organ is "dedicated to the glory of God" and will also serve the good of the community through special organ recitals and other associated events which will be open to the public.

An inaugural public recital is scheduled to be held in the church on Aug 19 at 4pm and should lend an acoustically-rich addition to George Town Festival 2017, which will be underway by then.

The new pipe organ at St George's took a year to build in England and has been gifted to the parish by the family of the late Datuk Tan Kim Yeow.

The organ has 17 stops (19 ranks) comprising the 1,050 metal pipes (containing tin and lead) in total. There are no electrical components in the organ other than the fan blower and tremulant.

It also boasts pipe shades which carry carvings of foliage and the distinct 'Pinang' tree in its design.

St. George’s church had a few organs over the centuries, including a two-manual 16-stop (17-rank) pipe organ built in 1899 by Forster & Andrews in memory of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

Mander Organs Limited is a pipe organ maker and refurbisher based in London. The company has built and installed numerous celebrated organs such as the 68-stop four manual and pedal organ found in the Church of St Ignatius Loyola, New York. It has also rebuilt the Willis organ at St Paul's Cathedral in London and refurbished the Royal Albert Hall's grand organ.

Present in Penang to ensure that the organ is handed over to the church and left in very in good hands is Dr William McVicker, an organ auditor for the organ maker.

Dr McVicker is also organ curator at London’s Royal Festival Hall, director of music at St Barnabas Church Dulwich and a visiting professor at the Royal Academy of Music.

An experienced musician with a keen ear for organ tone, he is said to offer advice on matters technical and musical, specialising in acoustics, liturgy and architecture, among others.

And who could be more thrilled to welcome the new organ to Penang, than the neighbouring Church of Assumption's resident organist, Leonard Gurunathan.

Leonard is currently lending a hand in training a group of young musicians at St George's Church to master pipe organ playing and lead the congregation in Sunday worship.

It was so gratifying to be surrounded by a group of enthusiastic youths including the musically-inclined Matthew, Miriam, Audrey and Jason last week. They took turns in pulling out all the stops and putting their best feet forward on the new organ as they learn to produce the best sacred music possible.

Oh, and did you know that there are specially-made shoes which organists (especially those handling pipe organs) should wear?

Dr McVicker brought out his pair of organ shoes which looked like they were crafted from the softest of leather and looked narrower than normal dress shoes.

I would imagine that the leather ensured minimal friction between shoe and pedal and enabled the organist to glide their feet across the shiny pedals and actually feel them through the thin sole.

Thank you Chu Hor, Leonard and Dr McVicker for a lovely afternoon of music in the midst of the organ pipes, which have added a measure of beauty to a sacred space, in the manner which stained-glass windows often do.

Thank you Leonard, for generously sharing these shots

George Town Fest rolls on…

It’s back! And for the 8th year running, George Town Festival (GTF) is set to claim its space on the world map of festivals and continue growing into one of Asia’s leading arts festival.

The annual fest will run from 28 July to 3 September this year, together with its satellite event Butterworth Fringe Festival (BFF) on 12 August and 13 August. BFF, which is into its third year, is a two-day street festival comprising local and international acts.


“With this year’s edition primarily oriented towards the youth, community and women, the Festival will host more than 100 shows; out of which 60% focuses on local content. The programmes vary from art, design, photography, film, music, dance to drama. GTF will transform George Town into a universal stage where different arts from traditional to contemporary, local to international converge,” promises Festival Director Joe Sidek.


Award-winning Indian theatre director Roysten Abel is returning with The Manganiyar Classroom since his maiden performance in Penang back in 2012 titled The Manganiyar Seduction and 2014’s The Kitchen.

 The former was a widely acclaimed production at the Perth International Arts Festival and WOMADelaide. The Manganiyar Classroom showcases 35 village children as young as eight on a four-row bench terrace on stage, spontaneously singing and dancing to their schooling days.

A group of handpicked ordinary Penangnites varying from generations and backgrounds will take on the stage in the form of a dance routine. Directed by French choreographer Jérôme Bel, Gala showcases the beauty of diversity, united through the passion of dance. The show has been performed over 55 times worldwide in the past year.


Australian acrobatics ensemble, Gravity & Other Myths presents A Simple Space, where seven acrobats push their physical limits and beyond, leaving the audiences holding their breath.


Beijing-based acclaimed choreographer Tao Ye brings two of his “Straight Line Trilogy” series, 6 and 8 to GTF. The mesmerising dances study the logic of movement and discovers the full potential of human bodies, albeit all kinds of limitations.

Meanwhile, director Naohika Umewaka and choreographer Aida Redza will present a dance-theatre, The Italian Restaurant. The story emerges from a chance meeting of a woman and a man in a restaurant. Destinies are forged and hearts are entwined.

For the first time, Singapore-based the TENG Ensemble will bring their unique brand of music to Penang for TENG @ George Town. Bridging Eastern and Western sounds in a contemporary blend, the band revisits music of the past and reimagines them in the present.

There are several kid-friendly shows, appealing to families alike. They include The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik about deep ocean exploration; Chorus a monumental installation of giant kinetic sculptures and a celestial choir of spinning sound machines; COSMICOMIC Toyscape Workshop consisting of six life-sized toys; and CELL with its Asia premiere in GTF.

Other highlights of GTF 2017 include a talk, exhibition and workshop by Jimmy Nelson, the author of ‘Before They Pass Away’. Macallum Theatre will host special shows including a performance by gamelan ensemble Rhythm in Bronze; In The Amorphous Beings choreographed by Ong Tze Shen and Christy Ma; and The Memories by Orang Orang Drum Theatre.


Programme updates are found at http://www.georgetownfestival.com or on GTF on social media. 
(images courtesy of George Town Festival)

Helloooooo Kuching!

The man who placed George Town on the world festival map is now taking his crazy brand of style and fun to Borneo.

Joe Sidek, the director of the George Town Festival wants Kuching to rock on the fringes of the internationally-acclaimed Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) in July.

He is curating and presenting the Rainforest Fringe Festival (RFF) and promises it to be a 10-day (7-16 July) spectacle of the best which Sarawak has to offer by way of art, food, fashion and music. 

“The festival happens right in the bustling capital town of Kuching in Sarawak and will provide the ultimate lead up to the annual Rainforest World Music Festival. 

“The inaugural Rainforest Fringe Festival will also give prominence to Sarawak’s rich indigenous arts and culture, giving festival goers a true sense of the beauty and energy of the state, its people and rainforest,” says Joe.

Festival-goers will rediscover Sarawak through film screenings, fashion showcases, photography exhibitions, art and craft bazaars and other displays of Sarawak’s highly underrated trove of local talents.

The Old Court House in Kuching will serve as the venue for most events – such as a craft and vintage market, talks, exhibitions and various movie screenings – tied to the fringe festival.
The “Sarawak: Theatre of Clothes” fashion gala will showcase exceptional and multi-talented fashion and accessories’ designers originating from Sarawak.

In upholding their Sarawakian roots, these designers such as Datuk Tom Abang Saudi, Eric Ong, Ramsay Ong, Tanoti and Neng Kho Razali have made their mark on local and international high fashion runaways and will bring to the festival, their show-stopping works.

A special fashion treat awaiting those coming to the fringe festival would be Singapore-based contemporary womenswear label Ong Shunmugam. The label owner is Malaysian-born Priscilla Shunmugam, whose work is designed and made across Asia and offers ready-to-wear ranges and bespoke designs. She is working with `Pua Kumbu’ the traditional patterned multi-coloured ceremonial cloth used by the Ibans and in Sarawak for the fringe festival.

“Music is the way nature speaks to us. It is found in the splash of a waterfall, the rumble of the wind and the flutter of a bird’s wings …These are our music; it means Sada Kamek in the Iban language.”

The Rainforest Fringe Festival will open with an official concert `Sada Kamek’ at the Kuching Amphitheatre, with a line-up of Sarawak-born performers like Dayang Nurfaizah, Noh Salleh, Tony Eusoff, Nading Rhapsody, At Adau, Pete Kallang, Alena Murang and Matthew Ngau.

(Images courtesy of Joe Sidek and the Rainforest Fringe Festival)