What’s On My Playlist: Vol. 3 – May 2019

Time flies when you’re having fun. Heck, it flies even when you’re not.

So it’s been almost a year since my last What’s On My Playlist? video. Someone once told me that the older you get, the less likely you are to listen to new songs. I find that to be true, given the stuff they’ve been playing on the radio these days. That’s not to say everything is bad though – I’ve ‘stumbled’ across a couple of nice new tunes lately while channel surfing.

Without further ado:

CALVIN HARRIS & RAG N BONE MAN – GIANT 

When I’m not listening to rock and screamo, I find EDM mildly enjoyable – and they work best for running (when you need to pace yourself to the beat). Calvin Harris’ Giant is one of my recent favourites, thanks to the addictive trumpet hook and Rag n’ Bone’s husky vocals. Does the guy down 10 shots of rum to achieve that kind of scratchiness?

I would be nothing
Without you holding me up
Now I’m strong enough for both of us

AARON SMITH FT LUVLI – DANCIN 

Okay, so this isn’t new, but the song resurfaced for Musical-ly or Tiktok or some shit recently. The one that caught my eye was this vid of some guy dancing with his cat, which was both creative and hilarious. The original video is pretty cool as well (let’s just say it involves mannequins coming to life and people with TVs for heads).

Get up on the floor
Dancin’ all night long
Get up on the floor
Dancin’ till the break of dawn

SENSUAL SEDUCTION – SNOOP DOGG 

I was just randomly clicking things on Youtube and somehow ended up with Snoop Dogg’s Sensual Seduction. What a blast from the past. PS : Did you know that the ‘explicit’ version actually says “Sexual Eruption”?

All that we ever do is play in the sheets, sheets, sheets
Smoke us a cigarette, then go back to sleep, sleep, sleep

Childish Gambino is one of my more recent favourite artists – I loved the video for This Is America (so much symbolism and layers to interpret!). The original version of Redbone is woke, but the beat mashes up with anything. I’ve seen Tupac & Gotye sampled into this, among others.

Daylight
I wake up feeling like you won’t play right
I used to know, but now that shit don’t feel right
It made me put away my pride

Of course we can’t end this list without my favourite genre to listen to – screamo. Short but sweet, 6 di 6 is taken from Raein’s Ogni Nuovo Inizio album.

Let me know in the comments if you have any great music/bands that you think I should listen to! 🙂

 

Why You Shouldn’t Miss The Ramayana Ballet @ Prambanan, Yogyakarta

If you’re big on culture and the arts, then the Ramayana Ballet @ Prambanan is a MUST-SEE when visiting Yogyakarta in Indonesia.  A unique blend of Javanese dance and Hindu mythology, the performance is based on the Hindu epic Ramayana – and chronicles the tale of Rama, the Hindu prince on a quest to save his wife Sita from the clutches of an evil demon king. The show is held in an open-air amphitheatre against a gorgeous backdrop of the Prambanan Hindu temple – a UNESCO World Heritage site – which adds to the mystery and exotic allure of the entire performance.

Marriott Yogyakarta-Destinations_021

The majestic Prambanan temple complex dates back to the 9th century and is dedicated to Trimurti, the expression of God as the Creator, the Preserver and the Transformer (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva). There are hundreds of smaller shrines within the compound, but the main one towers over 47 metres into the air and features intricate reliefs and carvings – one of which is the epic Ramayana, of which the ballet is based on.

Ramayana-000030

The 2-hour show is divided into two parts, with an intermission. Although it doesn’t have dialogue, there are screens explaining the ‘scene’ on both sides of the amphitheatre.

The massive production features over 200 actors, all of whom are skilled in the art of Javanese dance, which emphasises precise yet graceful movements that are spellbinding to watch.

Video: 

Synopsis: 

The story starts with Rama Wijaya, the prince of Ayodya Kingdom, winning the hand of a beautiful princess named Dewi Sita, through an archery competition. However, the evil ruler of Alengkadiraja, Prabu Rawana, is eager to marry Sita himself. The scene transitions to Dandaka Forest, where Rama, Sita and Rama’s younger brother, Laksmana, are out on an adventure. Rawana sees this as the perfect chance to capture Sita, so he orders one of his followers to change into a golden deer to attract her attention. Sita is awed by its beauty and asks Rama to catch it, which he obliges. After waiting for a long time, she grows worried and begs Laksmana to look for him. Before leaving, he draws a magic circle to protect her. As soon as she is left alone, Rawana disguises himself as a beggar and lures the innocent, kind Sita out before capturing her and flying off to his own kingdom.

Ramayana-000004

Rama eventually realises he has been tricked when the deer transforms back into an evil giant. He manages to kill it, and upon rushing back, realises that Sita has gone missing. The brothers set off to search for her.

20180717_200703

Meanwhile, Rawana carrying Sita meets a mystical bird, Jatayu, who realises she is being kidnapped. There is a fight to save her but ultimately, the bird falls prey to the demon king. As he lay dying, the brothers arrive and find out that it is Rawana who has spirited Sita away.

Ramayana-000035

Moments later, a white monkey named Hanuman arrives. Hanuman is searching for heroes to help kill Subali, a member of his tribe who has taken his uncle’s woman by force. Rama decides to help, and after helping the monkey kingdom solve their problems, Hanuman is sent to help Rama in his quest.

Ramayana-000071

In the kingdom of Alengka, Sita is being held against her will. Rawana’s niece, Trijata, comes to comfort her in the garden. Rawana arrives and asks Sita to be his wife, which she refuses. This drives him into a fit of rage, but Trijata convinces him to spare her, after which he leaves. As Sita laments her predicament, she hears a song sung by Hanuman, who explains that he is there on the orders of her husband. Hanuman destroys the garden, but is no match for Rawana’s son Indrajit, who captures him and sentences him to be burnt alive.

20180717_205005

Just before Hanuman is set on fire, he escapes and turns the tide, burning down the kingdom.

(This was one of my favourite scenes in the production! The actors were using real fire, and even seated at a distance, I could feel the heat coming from the stage)

Ramayana-000089

Ramayana-000090

A large statue of Hanuman rising up from back stage, flanked by burning ‘buildings’ (straw structures that represented houses)

Ramayana-000005

Hanuman makes his way just outside the burning kingdom, where Rama and the rest of the ape troops are waiting. After receiving the report on troop strength, Rama commands Hanuman and other monkey generals to lead the troop on an attack on the kingdom of Alengka.

Ramayana-000068

The war results in the deaths of both Rawana’s son, Indarjit, and his younger brother Kumbakarna. Rawana finally leads his troops to face Rama and a battle ensues. Of course, the hero triumphs, killing the evil demon king with an arrow, before Hanuman drops a mountain (yes, a mountain – Mount Sumawana) on Rawana’s body.

Ramayana-000076

Sita is finally rescued, but Rama refuses to accept her (kinda lol since he came all this way to save her and all, wut) until she proves her purity. To show her innocence, Sita burns herself, and with the help of the God of Fire, walks out unscathed. Her proof makes Rama happy and the pair lived happily ever after.

Ramayana-000082

I was truly awed by the grace and beauty of the dance, as well as how they recreated the Ramayana epic into such a mesmerising show. It’s something I admire greatly in Indonesia – they work hard to protect their culture and keep it alive, unlike in Malaysia where rising religious conservatism has resulted in some authorities ‘banning’ traditional arts, deeming them “against religion” (like the Mak Yong in Kelantan, a pre-Islamic Malay dance).  A majority of Yogyakartans are Muslim, and they have two of the grandest ancient Buddhist and Hindu monuments in Southeast Asia, which are well maintained and kept as national treasures. I believe carrying on tradition and being proud of your heritage has no bearing on what you believe in, if you are truly a follower of the faith.

The Ramayana Ballet at Prambanan is held every alternate day. Tickets start from 125,000 IDR (RM35 – USD8 ) USD to 400,000 IDR (RM113 – USD27) depending on seating.

For the full schedule and to make reservations, go to visitramayana.com  

 

*Photos not watermarked are courtesy of PT Taman Wisata Candi Borobudur

Kuala Lumpur Events in September – Diversecity 2017: An International Art Festival

Celebrate and explore Malaysia’s vibrant arts and culture scene at Diversecity 2017, an international arts festival held annually in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Happening throughout the month of September, visitors can expect a showcase of over 50 local and international acts across genres such as dance, music, visual arts, the arts and more at venues all around the capital.

Entranced: An Evening with a Ghost

For lovers of dance and movement, enjoy an ethereal performance with Entranced: An Evening with a Ghost, which marries contemporary Southeast Asian trance-rituals with traditional Japanese Noh drama. The haunting showcase cleverly weaves together different elements such as dance, installations, visuals, sounds and vocals for a truly spectacular treat for all the senses.

There’s also the legendary Boy Story from Hong Kong, a classic which was first performed in 1996. Now, 21 years later, watch as the cast who have turned from teens to uncles and fathers reunite to bring audiences on a trip down memory lane.

Boy Story
Traditional Malay ‘Zapin’ dance
Che Malambo

For the first time ever in Malaysia, Argentinian all-male dance sensation Che Malambo will be bringing their energetic, fiery performances to the stage. This will be a good time for Malaysians and international visitors alike to see them performing the traditional South American Malambo, which is characterised by a blend of precision footwork, rhythmic stomping, drum beats and song.

On the music front, Diversecity offers a wonderful mix this year, be it band ensembles or classical music and traditional instruments. Highlights include the Once Upon a Time by string quartet 16 Strings and the critically acclaimed Sachal Ensemble, who will be making their debut in Malaysia at the festival. Known for their one-of-a-kind take on iconic songs from bands and singers such as The Beatles, the talented musicians blend Western instruments such as violins with traditional Pakistani ones. The result is as enchanting as it is unique, and will surely have audience members tapping their foot and bobbing their heads to the hypnotic rhythms.

Sachal Ensemble
Back by popular demand, playwright, comedian and actor Wolfe Bowart will be making an appearance with ‘Letter’s End’, featuring his signature physical comedy, illusion, shadow puppetry and interactive film which is sure to tickle and wow audiences of all ages.

 

The young ones are not left out as there will be performances such as The Breath of Dragons and Bon Voyage!(above), performed at the Kereta Api Tanah Melayu Berhad platform.

 

Other activities in the lineup include art exhibitions, poetry readings, literature activities and more. Events are either ticketed or free. For the full festival line up and ticket purchases, visit http://www.diversecity.my. 

Breath of Dragons

 

*Photos courtesy of DiverseCity.

What’s On My Playlist?

A friend once went through my playlist, looked at me weird and then said: “You don’t look like you listen to screamo.” 

I didn’t know you had to have a ‘look’ to listen to music. That’s like saying only people with piercings and tattoos are allowed to listen to rock. Or that you must have a Mohawk to listen to punk. Or people who like power ballads are all sappy, bleeding heart romantics. I think everyone should be allowed to listen to what they want: it’s Music after all.

But if we’re going to talk about that it would be a long rant, so I shall stop. 😛

Here are 10 of the most recent songs on my playlist, in various genres – I usually listen to them at work coz it helps me chill. Enjoy!

Jonas Blue – Fast Cars ft Dakota 

The original by Tracy Chapman was released in 1989 and was quite a hit, but if not for this tropical house remix, I wouldn’t have heard of it at all. I like both versions, but the beat in this remix is really sick. 😀

**another thing that annoys me is when people go “omg the original is so much better” and “omg you haven’t heard of it before this?” Yes I haven’t, so stop your judgmental crap.

Justice – Planisphere 

Justice is a French EDM band. I first stumbled on their music on MTV (back when I still had MTV in my cable package) with their song D.A.N.C.E. The video was super trippy, with a black and white background contrasting with pop art changing on their tees. Planisphere is a four-part series that is 17mins long combined. I like how it has that apocalyptic/horror-influenced tune to it which is reminiscent of 80s/90s horror film soundtracks, or songs like Thriller.

Pryde – Low-Key 

There was a time when I was listening to a lot of Asian-American rappers, and I discovered many gems: Dumbfoundead, Ed-Two, P-Keys… one of them was D-Pryde, or just Pryde is he’s known now. He’s a Filipino Canadian, and has been rapping since his teens. His lyrics can be a tad misogynistic, but I really like the beats and you have to admit that his rap game is good. In an industry dominated by blacks, it’s nice to have some Asians representing the community 🙂

Miike Snow – Genghis Khan

This is a very tongue-in-cheek gay-pride song. The villain falls in love with his captive, and they finally start a family life together. The tune is so catchy I find myself bobbing my head unconsciously at work. I’ve re-watched the video a dozen times, and every time they start the dance I feel like jumping up and doing the dance too! I also think it’s a giant thumb in the face of LGBT-haters.

Alesana – Congratulations, I Hate You

I recently dug out this song from memory and it has been on replay throughout the day. Back in my teens, I listened to a lot of screamo and emo music like My Chemical Romance, Asking Alexandria, Sleeping Sirens and Suicide Silence. Alesana was one of my favourite bands because of the high but scratchy vocals,  and this song in particular, was attached to a person because I kept listening to it after our breakup. It’s been a long time… the rage has turned into a wistful nostalgia lol.

Saosin – I Can Tell 

After Seven Years, they are back! (see what I did there? :P) Another one of my favourite bands in teenhood, they were inactive for awhile and recently announced a new album, which got me looking for all of their old songs. Although… the new lineup won’t have Cove Reber, whom I like better than Anthony Green. 😡

Justin Nozuka – Heartless 

I once dreamed of flying to Canada, bumping into Justin Nozuka and then having him fall hopelessly in love with me. We’d make beautiful babies and live happily ever after.

Coming back from that creepy fantasy… JN has a voice that can immediately melt every woman that hears it. Over a sea of good-looking but auto-tuned boybands, his songwriting skills and prowess is definitely a breath of fresh air. And it’s just so calming ❤ I always feel better after a stressful day when I listen to his songs.

M.I.A – Bad Girls 

I only heard of M.I.A recently while skipping through random songs on Youtube, but she has been around for a long time and is apparently quite popular. ‘Bad Girls’ has an Arabian influenced-melody coupled with an uber cool video. Imagine Sheikh-looking guys in clean white robes doing the drift in the desert. I actually think it’s a very clever idea to incorporate Middle Eastern culture into the music vid, since the Western press is so Islamophobic these days. Also, watch the video and be mind blown that M.I.A is 40 years old.

 

Selah Sue – Alone 

Proof that although sex sells, sometimes pure talent does as well. I like Selah Sue because she’s sexy without being slutty, her voice is one of a kind, and I’m glad the new Transporter movie introduced me to this Belgian songstress.

Kye Kye – Hiding Place 

I watched a tattoo video on Buzzfeed which used this song as BGM, and that – coupled with powerful visuals – made it a constant on my playlist. I like the floaty, airy vocals and uplifting chorus, it feels like I can travel anywhere and see the world.

Cigarettes After Sex – Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You 

Another accidental Youtube discovery (thank you recommendations!). This is the kind of song I like playing in my car while I’m driving back on lonely roads at night.

There you have it, 10 songs on my playlist! Hope you enjoyed them, and happy chilling/rocking/dancing out to them 🙂 If you have other great song suggestions, lemme know in the comments below !

 

 

 

 

MPSJ International Cultural Festival 2015

I was quite disappointed that work didn’t let me off early on Mother’s Day. I ended up covering a cultural festival organised by the local council, with six international and local acts. Halfway through, my mum and dad even came around to join the festivities, so it was all good. 🙂 The acts were great as well! They should have given the event more exposure because only a small crowd turned up.

You can watch snippets of the performances in the video above.

SAM_9754-tile

First up was the 24 Seasons Drum troupe (Malaysia), comprising students from a secondary school in the district. Their drum movements are based on the agricultural seasons according to the Chinese calendar, which divides the four seasons into another four subseasons.

SAM_9758-tile

A traditional Pangut dance from Korea. The dancers were very skilled and the dance involved coordinating various body movements, from head to body, and arms and legs. There was a long white ribbon similar to those played in ribbon sport, attached to their hats, which they twirled in circular, hypnotic motions.

SAM_9767-tile

From Malaysia, the dikir barat – sort of a Malay choir with a tukang karut (storyteller) who sings a story while the rest of them accompany him.

SAM_9775-tile

Arpeggio Dance Group from Sri Lanka performing fast and complicated drum beats coupled with synchronised feet movements.

SAM_9777-tile SAM_9782-tile

I think my favourite performance of the night was the Taiko Drum from Japan. Literally translated to mean ‘big drum’, the performers are real life Zen-Buddhist monks. Starting off with chanting, the show slowly progressed into a full-fledged, extremely energetic drum performance. It was like going into a battlefield with our hearts racing and raring for action.

SAM_9783-tile SAM_9788-tile SAM_9793-tile

Last but not least, the colourful Bhangra dance from Malaysia’s Punjabi community.

SAM_9794-tile

Great initiative by the local council for having more cultural and art festivals like these!

Barong Dance @ Sari Wisata Budaya Cultural Center, Bali

We woke up early on our second day in Bali. Maximising travel time! There are lots of places to see on the island, so a few days really wasn’t enough for us.

We were staying at Abian Srama Hotel in Sanur, about 20 minutes from the main town of Denpasar. The place was pretty old –  the  air conditioning was faulty when we checked in but we were too tired the night before to bother. The floor didn’t look like it had been swept and was dusty, and the hot water was difficult to adjust because of the faulty shower. I realise that I could probably never subject myself to the rough conditions of backpacking.. I love my creature comforts too much. 😀

The ‘Patio’ area outside our rooms. The place has a rustic feel, but if you’re expecting top notch quality then this is not one for you. It’s an okay place to spend the night

The morning view, though, was excellent. From our room on the second floor I could see the ‘pura’ (shrine) area. 90% of Bali’s population is Hindu. They pray three times a day, and it’s a common sight to see the men in their white shirts and sarongs going for prayers. Small ‘boxes’ of prayer items, which contain sweets, fragrant flowers and incense, are often left around the shrines.

We had breakfast in the hotel cafe. The staff were friendly enough, but service was laid back. We had to wait half an hour for our food, even though it was just us and two other customers. Had fried eggs, bacon (yes, pork.), toast and orange juice.

Toto came to pick us up, and we headed to Sari Wisata Budaya cultural centre in Denpasar for a taste of the Balinese culture. They perform the Barong dance here, which is a traditional Balinese dance interwoven with strong elements of Hinduism and local Indonesian beliefs.Reviews online weren’t so good.. most people thought it was a rip-off (entry is 100,000 rupiah per person) and some felt the music was too loud. Personally, I enjoyed the live music of the gamelan as I felt it added an authentic touch.

Most of the crowd in the auditorium were Australians. The show started off with a short ‘prelude’ of music. It was amazing how the simple instruments could create such charming sounds. The beauty of the music was in it’s simplicity and repetition.

The ‘dance’ was a play of sorts. The Barong, a mythical lion-like creature, made it’s first appearance. I loved the costume! It had intricate layers of red, black and gold, with bells that jingled every time the dancer made a movement. The masks in the play reminded me of Japanese Oni. The Barong, or ‘king of spirits’, represents the power of good. It looked kind of like a Pekingese, with it’s wide face and shaggy white fur.

The dancers were extremely skilled in their mannerisms, such as when the Barong sat down to ‘lick’ it’s paws.

Anyway, it was rather difficult to understand the story because they didn’t have dialogue and the translation on the brochure was really bad. From what I gathered, the Barong was in the forest just chillin’, and then it’s companion, a monkey, turned up.

I felt that the monkey was really good. The mannerisms were superb, and the actor playing it was agile and stealthy, just like a monkey. He often climbed up onto a tree nearby. He was also really cheeky- at one part of the play he looked at me and made me a heart shape with his hands lol.

Shortly after, three villagers appeared and drove the animals away. We then moved on to the next scene.

Two pretty young girls played the part of servants looking for the ‘Minister’ (sorry, I forgot the name of the character.) Their dance moves, while nothing big or fancy, had a fluidity and grace difficult to achieve without years of practice. Their faces were also very expressive. Those sarongs they were wearing were difficult to move in as they were wound tightly around their waists. Head dress full of flowers must have been heavy too.

Next came the servants of the Minister, one dressed in black and the other in white. A ‘witch’ character came in, seemingly invisible to the actors, and caused discord among the two. They were broken up by the arrival of the ‘Minister’.

I’m quite confused by the storyline. I think this is the part where the hero (let’s called him Prince. Prince was played by a girl) came in with his mother, who wanted to leave him with the Minister. Somehow the ‘witch’ character came in again and caused the both of them to be mad, hence sacrificing the ‘Prince’ to the evil antagonist of the story, the Rangda. Rangda means widow in old Javanese, and is supposedly a practitioner of black magic.

Once again, magnificent costumes. With long white hair, an angry face and stripes across the body, the demon queen, or Rangda, gets ready to devour the Prince. However, the Hindu god Vishnu bestows his protection on the Prince, making him invincible. Try as she can, the Rangda cannot kill him. A battle ensues, where the Rangda turns into various animals, such as a boar and a bird, trying to kill the Prince.

After a battle with the lion, the Rangda has to face the Barong’s followers, who are all wielding keris (a traditional crooked dagger from the Indonesian peninsula). Part of the performance also involves the performers stabbing themselves with the knives. (Yes, they are real knives!) Apparently if not done properly and without blessings, the performers can be seriously hurt.

Anyway, the Rangda is finally defeated by the Prince, representing triumph of good over evil.

 

If you’re a fan of local culture, I highly recommend seeing the performance. Ofc there will be cheaper, more ‘authentic’ versions, but I enjoyed this ‘touristy’ one immensely either way.

Til next post!