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Thursday, 25 September 2014


I stumbled upon a youtube version of "Jambori Rimba" (1996), a project I did with one of my electro-acoustic mentors (and graduate thesis committee member) from Pettersberg New York USA, Barton Mclean, and his wife Priscila. Its a 'slow burner' piece, perhaps not for the fainthearted or those with short attention span. Yet, worth to experience through till the end as the piece is like a visual-aural emotional journey into a rich, diverse, at times hauntingly mesmerizing and densely textured rainforest to encounter the enticing cultural heritage of its inhabitants (the jovial and friendly Iban community of Nanga Sumpa longhouse).  Best to listen with earphone to appreciate and enjoy the rich arrays of stereo sound composition.

I brought both of them to Kuching Sarawak, where they stayed about 3 months, to set-up UNIMAS (Universiti Malaysia Sarawak's) computer music studio and to produce a concert as well as an audience-interactive visual-aural installation. It was a time (late 1990s) when experimental music, electro-acoustic and video performance were not much known yet in the local visual art and performance ecology. Of course, now we have many young people and urban hipsters doing experimental music and electronic/new media performance, especially in Kuala Lumpur. Few even behaved as if there were the earliest trailblazers of such endeavors, which never fail to induce a 'Buddha smile' on my face.

Barton, Priscilla and I went to several remote locations in Sarawak, including staying few nights at the Nanga Sumpa longhouse in Ulu Ai, at the upriver of Batang Ai damn in the Sri Aman district of Sarawak, Malaysia. For a while, we felt as if time time had stopped as we immersed in the majestic, serene and peaceful ambiance of the longhouse jungle ecology. We went even further upstream, experienced river fishing on a boat, picnic by river side in the jungle with foods prepared by using ingredients sourced from the jungle itself, rejuvenated our body by taking a dip in a natural pool by a beautiful waterfall, stayed for a night in a small hut whilst being entertained by the song of cicadas. We recorded both the rich and diverse visual-aural materials of the rainforest, whilst being humbled by the majestic beauty and raw pure natural energy of the rainforest. 

We also brought in a virtuoso Kenyan sape player, Minggu, and recorded Malay Gendang (drum) performance, as well as Ngajat dance-music by Iban musicians-dancers. 

The pinacle of the project was a concert and an open installation for walk-in audience at the Experimental Theater UNIMAS. The concert was recorded by RTM (Radio and Television Malaysia) and later broadcast as a material for its morning program. 

Before leaving, I brought Barton and Priscila to Kuala Lumpur to stay for few days, drove them to my hometown in Teluk Intan to stay at my home to experience a Malay kenduri kesyukuran (thanksgiving dinner) with local Perak traditional foods, went to Melaka and Johor Bharu, and finally to Changi Airport in Singapore. 

It was a three month well-spent, and left a lasting memory in me. I really hope I could see them again, working together in a creative project such as this. Happy and good to know that they are still kicking and active doing their touring. 

Miss you both Bart and Pris!!  

(endnote - I met the little girl featured in the video at the Faculty of Applied and Creative Arts, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, during a final year project assessment for its Fine Art department. I was an invited external examiner. She was one of the final year students there, of all the places!. Click here for the story )

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