by GAN PEI LING © The Star 3 July 2017
KUALA LUMPUR: A troupe of Malaysian Chinese drummers tirelessly raised enough funds to fly themselves to France this Wednesday to perform at eight international folk art festivals from July 7 to Aug 22.
The team includes 20 professional and part-time drummers from the Orang Orang Drum Theatre and JB Drum Enterprise.
“Whenever we perform overseas, people always ask if we’re from China or Taiwan.
“This is our way of showcasing the Malaysian Chinese story,” said Leow Sze Yee, 35, who is one of the more seasoned performers in the troupe.
“We’ve prepared four performances.
“Two are pure 24-festive drum performances while the other two are a fusion of the 24 festive drums with other Malaysian traditional folk instruments like the Malay kompang.”
Leow, who picked up drumming two decades ago, co-founded the theatre with her husband Boyz Chew, 36, in 2013.
Since then, the Orang Orang Drum Theatre has been invited to perform in Germany, Belgium, Italy, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea.
When the theatre received the invite from France last year, it extended the opportunity to the JB Drum Enterprise.
Founded in 2006, JB Drum often performed locally besides Singapore and China.
Leow added that their signature 24-festive drum performance, An Era, relates the story of Chinese immigrants in Malaya.
The two drumming groups raised about RM90,000 to fund their flight tickets to France.
Their foreign hosts will cover accommodation, food and local transport.
Leow’s younger brother, Damien, 29, who studied theatre in France previously, has been giving French classes to the troupe in preparation for the trip.
Tok Yong Shan, 18, the group’s youngest performer, is excited and anxious to participate in the six-week tour and visit Europe for the first time.
“We learned a bit of French but I don’t know if that’s enough to converse with the locals,” said the school leaver from SMK Taman Desa Skudai.
Tok picked up drumming after being pressured by her friends to join the 24-festive drum classes when she was in Form One.
Her friends eventually dropped out while Tok stayed on as her passion for drumming grew.
Upon their return, the group will be performing at the George Town Festival on Sept 1 and 2.
They presented a token of appreciation to their sponsors, including Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall yesterday.
Tan Chai Puan, who founded the 24 festive drums with the late Tan Hooi Song in 1988, was also present at the press conference.