The 17th edition of Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay’s Pesta Raya – Malay Festival of Arts returns from 12 to 15 July 2018, coinciding with the celebration of Hari Raya Aidilfitri, which extends till mid-July.
This year, the festival showcases the history of the Nusantara. Said Fezhah Maznan, Programmer, The Esplanade Company, “Pesta Raya has always celebrated the rich Malay heritage, arts and culture from the region, and through the festival we hope to continue forging meaningful relationships with the artists and our audiences. This year, we have works which highlight the Malay identity, with thoughtful re-imagining of Malay folklore and characters in our festival commission Alkesah, and fresh re-interpretations of the traditional keroncong and dikir barat.
"We also look back and pay tribute to the rich history of Malay dance in Singapore, with a special performance by Sriwana. We hope that many will find ways to connect with the diverse programmes at the festival and immerse themselves in some of the very best the Nusantara can offer.”
Dikir barat is a traditional musical form that involves singing in groups, while keroncong is both the name of a musical instrument and the name of an Indonesian musical style.
• Written by Zulfadli Rashid and helmed by director Aidli Mosbit, this year’s festival commission Alkesah (“as the story goes”) re-imagines Malay folklore. Beloved characters such as Mat Jenin (the hopeless dreamer), Sang Kancil (the mouse deer), Pak Belalang (the village astrologer) and more, come together in Kampung Alkesah in a tale of misfortune, survival and secret love.
This is the first time the festival is commissioning a Malay pantomime at the Esplanade Theatre Studio, and will feature a stellar cast including Siti Khalijah Zainal, Jeff Catz, Siti Hajar Gani, Hatta Said and more. Alkesah will also see musical theatre veteran Elaine Chan and vocal coach Babes Conde working for the first time on a Malay production.
• Another first for the festival is a commission for a non-ticketed performance, GhaMuhyi: Melampaui Sempadan Ghazal, which will open the festival at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre on 12 July. This collaboration melds contemporary ghazal by the ensemble GhaMuhyi from Malaysia and the work of Singapore traditional Malay music groups Sri Mahligai and Orkestra Sri Temasek.
• Dress vintage and joget during Pesta Berpesta at the Esplanade Annexe Plaza and Annexe Studio on 14 July with popular music from the ’60s to the ’80s. The Esplanade presents Tarakucha!, a kebaya jazz performance conceived by Malaysian singer and actor Sean Ghazi. The event will feature original compositions and songs by P Ramlee, Sudirman and Jimmy Boyle.
There will be free performances by NADA (comprising Singapore musicians Rizman Putra and Safuan Johari), who will present a contemporary visual arts and sound project that specialises in conjuring up lost eras through music, as well as Indonesian duo Iramamama who will be playing nostalgic tunes and quirky sounds, from funk to post-punk music from their home country.
• Singapore-born Kuala Lumpur-based singer-songwriter Imran Ajmain, who sang the hit Seribu Tahun, celebrates a decade in music with a concert, First 10 Years, at the Esplanade Recital Studio. He follows in his father Ahmad Husaini Ajmain’s footsteps, writing for an array of Singaporean and Malaysian musicians such as Taufik Batisah, Hady Mirza, SleeQ and more. Besides featuring songs from his upcoming album, Imran will also be singing hits from the ’70s and ’80s which his father penned.
• Inspired by Indonesian folklore, guitarist Addy Cradle has written an epic love saga about a prince and a warrior princess. In Transcendence – The Legend of Ryu Wuri at the Esplanade Recital Studio, Addy provides the instrumental backdrop to his dark tale where visual artist Muhammad Izdi and video artist Wu Jun Han add to this multidisciplinary performance. This will be the first of three volumes that features a fusion of rock and traditional music from China, Indonesia, Japan and India.
• Trace the history of Malay dance with Singapore’s oldest Malay performing arts group Sriwana as they present Lenggang Legenda: Merintis Sejarah on 13 July at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre. The audience will be treated to iconic dances by the company that has produced the who’s who of the Singapore Malay dance scene, including Som Said, Osman Abd Hamid, Rizman Kassim and more.
The Classic Tarian Workshop by Sriwana on 14 July will be conducted by Ibu Surianty – also known as Mdm Lim Ah Choon – the Indonesian dance teacher who introduced repertoires of zapin and other Malay dances to Singapore in the ’60s.
• In their first-ever concert in Singapore, and fresh from performing on Astro’s singing competition Gegar Vaganza 2017, Dua Diva features ’80s pop diva Aishah and ’90s sensation Liza Hanim. With music direction by composer Datuk Ramli MS, who was also the judge of Gegar Vaganza, this one-night only performance will see them performing their own songs and also together.
• With 26 albums over the course of their 24-year career, Indonesian pop rock band GIGI returns to Singapore after seven years to perform classics such as 11 Januari, Terbang, Andai and Kepastian Yang Ku Tunggu.
Screen capture from the Pesta Raya page on the Esplanade website, featuring theatre, music and dance acts as well as workshops.
• Combining Javanese and Western music traditions keroncong is widely believed to be a genre brought to Indonesia by the Portuguese, evolving to become the ukulele, guitar, violin, flute, cello and bass ensemble that many recognise today. For Pesta Raya, Indonesian composer Pak Liliek Jasqee leads his ensemble to pay homage to the musical, cultural and language ties between Indonesia and Singapore in Titian Nada Persaudaraan. Singapore jazz artist Rudy Djoharnaen will also perform familiar tunes and new compositions with the ensemble.
• The festival continues to feature programmes for the young and their families, including Walang Weh, a storytelling performance by the musicians and vocalists of RENTA Collective, Dek Hujan, a performance by P7:1SMA that combines spoken word, dance and soundscapes, as well as Kemas (a Malay term that means “tidy up”), a series of roving site-specific movement pieces performed at venues around Esplanade that examines everyday cleaning rituals as engaging and spiritual chores.
• At the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre, Ceria! Konsert Si Cilik returns this year where Singapore’s Malay children's songs are celebrated in a concert featuring performers between the ages of 10 to 16.
• Over at Esplanade’s dedicated space for children and families—PIP’s PLAYbox—will feature interactive storytelling sessions by Dalifah Shahril, who will also share more about how the sarong plays a significant part of Malay culture and identity, as well as sessions where children will also be able to craft their own kuih-muih (desserts).
• Following previous editions of Dikir Battle, this year’s festival offers another interpretation of the traditional art form of dikir barat. Dikir-pella by JUARA will showcase for the first time, classic dikir songs sung acappella by some of the finest singers in the scene.
• Back by popular demand, Pasar Pesta! curated by online shopping hub LalooLalang returns with a wide range of traditional handicraft as well as specially curated food vendors selling “instagram-able” and unique Malay food items.
Tickets for Pesta Raya – Malay Festival of Arts 2018 are available from Esplanade’s Box Office at Mezzanine level (call +65 6828 8377), the SISTIC Hotline (call +65 6348 5555) and all SISTIC outlets.