6 Unmissable Highlights from George Town Festival 2017 Week Two

The George Town Festival 2017 picked up speed in the second week with more outdoor events that saw festival goers, both locals and international visitors, celebrate the arts at a community park, a coffee shop and an open space at Dewan Sri Pinang.

highlights from George Town Festival 2017 week two
Gamelan: Malay Music in the Park (picture credit: Stephanie Kee)

The programmes in the second week of GTF 2017 radiated a different vibe. In the first week, we explored the beauty of ASEAN cultures and our own traditional art forms. While the highlights of George Town Festival 2017 week two were two stellar stage performances at Dewan Sri Pinang that brought different flavours through the variations in artistic techniques. This week’s programmes also demonstrated the importance of our public spaces and sparked ideas on how to utilise them.

Here, we round up the highlights of George Town Festival 2017 Week Two.

1Gamelan: Malay Music in the Park

Encik Jufri leads the Wak Long troupe in Gamelan (picture credit: Stephanie Kee)

The weekend kicked off with an evening at Armenian Park where the crowd was serenaded by Wak Long, led by Encik Jufri. Wak Long performed Gamelan, a traditional ensemble music popular in Malaysia and Indonesia. Made up predominantly of percussive instruments, Gamelan is often presented at official government events and formal occasions. To attract the youths to the art of traditional music, Gamelan music has been commercialised to include contemporary songs. It is now more commonly performed at public events.

It was a pleasant sight to see the community park filled with bright coloured bean bags and picnic mats. Children were skipping joyfully to the music while their parents relaxed in the shade. Although there was very little variation in the songs they performed, however, it was a good exposure to traditional Malay music, especially for the predominantly Chinese community. The young boy musician who switched between playing the gong and bonang was definitely a crowd favourite.

If you missed this event, not to worry. There will be other music groups performing at the park on the following dates:

11 & 25 August 2017: Pneumanarch Music Group
18 August 2017: Muzik Asli

2The Manganiyar Classroom

The Manganiyar Classroom by Roysten Abel (picture credit: George Town Festival)

This is one of the most anticipated shows of the year. From the same director who brought ‘The Manganiyar Seduction’ and ‘The Manganiyar Kitchen’, Roysten Abel returns to GTF with 35 school boys who spontaneously burst into song and dance in ‘The Manganiyar Classroom’.

Known for his complex stage set-up with multi-layers of sensory experience, Abel surprised his fans with a minimalistic set this time around – just a four-row bench terrace on stage. The performance centres around a group of extremely talented children who are passionate about traditional folk music and adamant in going against the strict structure of the Indian education system.

These boys’ flamboyant performance captivated the audience and many found themselves tapping their feet away in their seats. When a pair of boys whipped out the dholak and dhol, the audience burst into cheers as the sounds of rhythmic Indian drums echoed throughout the hall.

The performance would have been better appreciated if subtitles for the songs were provided. The language barrier somehow disallowed the audience to delve deeper into the message of the performance. It would have been helpful to fully understand the depth of the boys’ plight for the freedom to achieve greatness in the field of music.

“This week’s programmes demonstrated the importance of our public spaces and sparked ideas on how to utilise them”

3Character Types

Character Types Exhibition by Goh Hun Meng & Gareth Richards (picture credit: Stephanie Kee)

Character Types is a visual exhibition by graphic designer, Goh Hun Meng, and writer, Gareth Richards. The exhibition explores visual representations of the changing dynamics of the most human of attributes – language. An array of collage reliefs, assemblages and pop-ups illustrate the beauty of different languages spoken in Penang and the character of people behind them.

Goh, who has a great interest in typography, produced these artworks to engage with words, both literally and figuratively. His collaboration with Richards, who has an obsession for linguistics, gave birth to an interactive play of everyday words. Some of them are cognates that link back to the colonial era and times of mass migration when languages crossed regions and cultures. Some words have no correlation with each other but they are playful takes on the similarity in tones and meaning.

Are you curious about how ‘duit’ (Malay) and ‘lui’ (Hokkien) are linked through history? Find out at this month-long exhibition. There will also be a talk by Goh and Richards on 19 August 2017 at 3:00 pm.

Venue: The Space, 216 Beach Street, George Town, Penang.

Konsert Kopi-Tiam

Konsert Kopi-Tiam at Asia Cafe (picture credit: Stephanie Kee)

Curated by poet-lawyer Cecil Rajendra with the objective to liberate the arts and take cultural festivals to the streets, Konsert Kopi-Tiam gives accessibility to the arts for people, especially the locals, regardless of their financial means. This is a series of events held at the modest of places – coffee shops, where local artists and performers get the opportunity to showcase their talents to their community.

Konsert Kopi-Tiam also creates a space for reunion among veteran writers and artists. Friendly hugs and squeals of excitement were heard at Asia Café, the first coffee shop of the Kopi-Tiam series. Donned with multicoloured disco lights and vintage ad prints as a backdrop, the performance switches from popular oldies numbers to poetry readings and stand-up comedy. The people who performed at Asia Café were Nadairama, Redwood, James Lochhead, Garu, Wan Phing and Barry Khoo “The Great Barrini”.

The next four Konsert Kopitiam will be held at the following locations (from 6:00 to 8:00 PM):

1. Ho Ho: Saturday 12 August 2017
2. Hock Leong Yen: Friday 18 August 2017
3. Ping Hooi: Friday 25 August 2017
4. Hwa Pin: Saturday 2 September 2017


Chorus by Ray Lee at Dewan Sri Pinang (picture credit: Stephanie Kee)

Giant metal tripods have landed in our city. Festival goers flocked to the open space at Dewan Sri Pinang to witness the installation of giant kinetic sculptures by British Composer, Ray Lee. Towering above the audience, these tripods support a pair of rotating arms that emit precisely tuned musical pitches. A low humming pitch, radiating from speakers placed on the ground, created an ambient surrounding.

People could roam about freely at the square to experience different pulsating tunes and harmonies. Whirling red lights on the arms of the sculptures created mesmerising orbits of colour that illuminated the evening dusk at Dewan Sri Pinang. It was indeed a hypnotic experience to witness the Chorus of motion and sound.


CELL by Smoking Apples & Dogfish (picture credit: George Town Festival)

CELL, a puppetry and physical theatre piece, is a product of collaboration between Smoking Apples and Dogfish. The production takes the audience through the life of Ted, a man who finds child-like joy in collecting stamps from around the world. It is almost impossible not to fall in love with his jovial character and love for adventure. Hearts break as the audience journeys with him through his Motor Neurone Disease diagnosis.

The performers float about on stage with intricate movements, bringing in different textures through props and sounds. One almost forgets that Ted is just a puppet on stage. With an original score and perfectly timed lighting, the set evokes a range of emotions – from light-hearted humour and excitement for adventure to utter despair and loss.

CELL is a beautiful representation of puppetry mastery, where less is often more.

Overall, it was an eventful weekend in the second week of George Town Festival 2017. Some of these shows and exhibitions are still ongoing, so try not to miss them. If you missed out on the highlights from the first week, we have it covered here.

If there is anything you feel should be on this list of highlights, please let us know in the comment section below.


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