From 11 October to 2 November 2019, the three-week Malay CultureFest 2019 will showcase a myriad of hybridised Malay cultural art forms such as bangsawan (opera or theatre), ronggeng (dance) and keroncong (music). Through more than 18 programmes and performances, the Malay CultureFest traces the cross-community developments and draws attention to the cultural significance behind these various artforms – for instance, how bangsawan was not just an opera or theatre performance but was once used as a political tool, and how keroncong is actually a marriage of music from the Portuguese and Nusantara.

MHC’s General Manager Asmah Alias added, “Our focus for MHC’s Malay CultureFest this year is to open up a conversation on the significance of the various Malay art forms, beyond the purpose of entertainment. We hope to highlight how many of the art forms still have social or political significance; and showcase the cross-cultural linkages and influences that have shaped our intangible cultural heritage. We hope that this will encourage visitors to widen their appreciation and understanding of the shared history across the Malay Archipelago.”

Highlights of the Malay CultureFest include:

• The festival’s opening piece, a special one-night-only theatrical performance which depicts key moments in Singapore’s history in a bangsawan or Malay operatic theatre style, and narrates the story of Singapore from the arrival of Sang Nila Utama to the British.

• Balada Tumasik (Ballad of Tumasik), a video mapping show on MHC’s façade, that retells the history of Singapore from its founding by Sang Nila Utama to the arrival of Raffles. Spanning some 700 years of Singapore’s history, audiences will be introduced to key moments from the island’s past.

• Lintas Nusantara, an annual collaborative dance festival featuring dancers and musicians from Singapore, Indonesia, and for the first time, the Philippines. The festival will showcase dance forms such as joget, ronggeng and sagayan that were inspired by colonial contact, and which highlight the often-turbulent relationship between coloniser and colonised.

• Keroncong Syurga Neraka, a musical showcase which pays tribute to the early forefathers and pioneers who have overcome great odds, by telling their stories through the various keroncong styles from throughout the Nusantara. This showcase also features rising star Jamilah Abu Bakar.

• 7etangga-A musical voyage (pronounced Tujuh Tetangga), a musical showcase which traces the history of communities that came and made Singapore their home. Featuring seven distinct ensembles including NADI Singapura, Sri Setia Pulau Singa, SG Oudist, Orkestar Trio, Sa The Collective with Cheryl Ong, Tamarind Sound Project with Govin Tan, Alfalah (Indonesia) and Nii Tagoe (UK) which collectively represent the multicultural microcosm of Singapore, the showcase will see the groups performing and merging their distinct musical styles.

MHC has also worked closely with students from River Valley High School for Youth Invasion, a series which sees students take over the running of museum programmes for a day. The students have crafted an interactive and exciting programme for visitors to learn more about the history and heritage of the Malay community. Visitors can discover Malay fashion, create their own wayang kulit puppets and even try their hands at a barter trading card game designed by the students.

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