HANDS II launching week two of Kaleidoscope III
“The heartbeat is a rhythm intimately owned by each and every one of us. Have you ever tried to sense and listen to its rhythm?” asks Bernard Goh, Artistic Director of HANDS Percussion. Over the past week, Goh, his renowned Malaysian drum crew and a colourful mélange of percussive artistes from all around the world have been laying down rhythms, beats and sounds that feed the mind and nourish the soul in Kaleidoscope III – HANDS International Drumming Festival 2014 – The Rhythm of the Heart.
Following hot of the heels of his highly innovative Tchaikovsky on Gamelan show, which seamlessly merged traditional eastern and western elements to striking effect, Goh immediately turned the page and started the final chapter of his 2014 productions – the third installment of the Kaleidoscope festival series.
Tchaikovosky on Gamelan
“It is our hope that the audience will have a brand new understanding of drum playing, and that drums can soothe the mind and soul, and help leave worries and troubles behind,” says Goh when talking on the essence of Kaleidoscope III, where professional drummers from Norway, Vietnam and Spain were invited to perform alongside a myriad of acclaimed local groups.
The Binh Minh Ensemble
The illustrious international line up included the Spanish-Netherlands based Bi-Hots, the Vietnamese Binh Minh Ensemble, and the Norweigan SISU Ensemble while Malaysia representation came from the famous Kamrul Hussin & Geng Wak Long, sitar master Kumar Karthigesu, new age drum group No Noise Percussion and of course HANDS I and HANDS II.
The Young at Heart
The launch of Kaleidoscope III saw local schools from around the country show off their percussive skills at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre, the home of this year’s festival. HANDS have always been closely linked to the development of drumming in Malaysia, holding workshops and drumming camps throughout the year and even striking out into the country, bringing these workshops to rural villages in the Balik Kampung initiative started in 2009.
Chong Hwa Indepedent High School performing LIFE
Choreography, stage design and music in perfect harmony – the Cempaka International School
A total of 16 schools joined the ranks of drummers this year, including the incredible YMCA Deafbeat, made up of 10 deaf youths who combined rhythm, vibration and touch on stage for one of the most memorable performances in the entire set list.
The programme opened with the Hundred Drums, featuring 100 drummers from seven schools all pounding in unison on stage, proudly raising their mallets to the beat of their hearts. A more fitting start could not have been envisaged.
The Tsun Jin High School and their piece named Solitude stood as another highlight, blending choreographed dance with synchronised drumming and ending their performance to the sounds of mobile phones blaring out.
Hundred Drums all in a row
Ages four to 72 were represented in the performances, which featured schools including SJK(C) Lick Hung, SJK(C) Puay Chai2, Cempaka International School, SJK(C) Chen Moh, Chong Hua High School and ChongHwa Independent High Shool.
SJKC Puay Chai 2
SKL Teo Chew Women & Fei Huang Work Station
Each group brought its own unique flavour to the drum menu, forming a part of the whole of the kaleidoscope.
Striking at the Heart
Major performances took place on consecutive weekends, while tying the two together were a variety of workshops throughout the week. 24 Festival Drums classes held by HANDS Percussion as well as music and percussion workshops hosted by international performers and local artists took place daily, allowing the public to get first hand instruction from some of Malaysia’s, and the world’s, most revered percussionists.
Round two of the performances then threw the spotlight on an eclectic set of artists, kicking off with HANDS 1 and HANDS 2, experimenting with tempos and rhythms in their trademark, highly methodical style. Well known for pushing the boundaries of sound, one piece saw the members placing glass bowls of water on their drums and manipulating sounds by rubbing mallets on rims. As always, visual elements accompanied the pieces making for a sensory feast.
Experimental by nature, HANDS utitlise a diverse range of objects in their productions
The Bi-Hots, a Spanish duo from the Basque country now based in Holland, brought to the table sounds using traditional Basque percussive instruments: the txalaparta and harmonious sounding hang and halo. Highly melodic in nature, the pieces deftly blended pulses, beats and harmonies emanating from the hang – an instrument similar in sound to the calypso drum. It was a study in resonance as the entire hall was bathed in a lush warm sound.
Javier Olaizola and Javier Murugarren aka the Bi-Hots
Javiar Murugarren on the harmonious Hang
The Binh Minh Ensemble, consisting of five members from Vietnam, honoured the humble bamboo in their performance, playing traditional instruments made out of the versatile grass. Equal parts energetic and creative, there’s was a mesmerising set that had audience members captivated from start to finish, clapping along the way while the talented five-piece hummed away on stage.
The five piece Binh Minh Ensemble have performed around the world
Thu Ha Thi Truong on the bamboo xylophone
The time honoured bamboo xylophone, or t’rung, played by Thu Ha Thi Truong took centrestage, leading the ensemble through a selection of songs that transported listeners to the heart of Vietnam. Rice drums, bamboo tocsins, coin clappers, bamboo flutes and lithophones, each producing a inimitable sound, came together for one of the true highlights of the entire show, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd after the last note was played.
Hoang Anh Nguyen on another type of traditional xylophone
Composer, music educator, director and improviser Kamrul Hussin & Geng Wak Long immersed the audience in classic Kelantanese music, retelling a tale sung by his sister-in-law Zamzuriah Zahari, while the rest of his family – four brothers and his father – accompanied her with traditional instrumentation.
Kamrul Hussin & Geng Wak Long
Next came prominent Malaysian musical figure Kumar Karthigesu, who let it rip on the sitar with his piece ‘The Jog’s On You’ (the jog referring to an Indian musical scale). The pulsing sound of the tabla mingled with the sitar while the box-shaped cajon – a six-sided percussive instrument played by slapping the front and rear faces – provided beats and the Indian violin, the soaring strings. The instruments chatted with each other, sometimes roaring to a crescendo, sometimes all but whispering. It was a heady journey through the Indian musical landscape.
The sitar is an extension of Kumar Karthigesu, an instrument he has been intimately involved with his whole life
Achyutan Sashidaran Nair on the Indian Violin
No Noise Percussion, a group inspired by such groups as Stomp Out Loud, Blue Man Group and Wadaiko Yamato, injected a dose of comic relief into the show, playing anything they could lay their hands on. Water pipes, traffic cones, car exhausts and all manner of recycled objects, modified to suit their needs, made an appearance in the awesome routine. Members flew around on stage, chucking items at each other while banging away to infectious sounds. The audience clapped away and cheered with appreciation as the No Noise boys rolled out.
No Noise Percussion abound with leaps
Traffic cones formed the basis of one of their pieces
Rounding out the show in spectacular fashion was the SISU Ensemble. The prolific Scandinavian trio produce contemporary music of the highest quality, incorporating electronic elements into their pieces. Fusing rock and other rhythmic elements, the trio delivered a whopping wall of sound which at one point saw a metal sheet being manipulated, drowned out in reverb while a percussive avalanche took place in the background.
If you missed Kaleidoscope III, you missed out big. Rarely do such a varied group of percussive performers come together to stage such a diverse set of sounds. This is, after all, the underlying philosophy in the HANDS framework. It is the commitment to uniting cultures on a musical plane, while honouring and preserving traditional Malaysian sounds.
Another triumphant achievement which closed 2015 on a highly rhythmic note, we for one can’t wait for the next Kaleidoscope from Bernard Goh and his team of drummers.