Esplanade's Malay arts festival Pesta Raya marks 20th anniversary with short films

Sarung by Garin Nugroho. Pesta Raya returns for its 20th edition from June 10 to 27.
Sarung by Garin Nugroho. Pesta Raya returns for its 20th edition from June 10 to 27.PHOTO: ESPLANADE – THEATRES ON THE BAY

SINGAPORE - The humble sarong takes centre stage in a new short film by acclaimed Indonesian director Garin Nugroho.

Sarung, which premieres at the Esplanade's Malay arts festival Pesta Raya on June 10, stars a veteran classical dancer and looks at the ties that bind people to home and family.

"The sarong is a very important aspect of Malay culture, be it religion, daily life, contemporary fashion or philosophy," says Garin, 60, of the ubiquitous fabric.

"We use sarong to cover our physical self, it has many functions such as for play (as puppets) and to carry items. It's used from our birth till our death."

Pesta Raya returns for its 20th edition from June 10 to 27.

This year, the annual festival will be wholly virtual - like last year's - after a slew of ticketed performances and workshops were cancelled because of stricter Covid-19 measures which came into force in May.

As a result, some of the previously announced highlights, such as Pulang Balik, a double-bill theatre performance by Teater Ekamatra, and Sanisah Huri - The Lady In Concert, have been cancelled.

Still scheduled to run are five short films, which will be screened online. It is the first time the festival has commissioned films.

Besides Sarung by Garin, the films are by Indonesian director Riri Riza as well as home-grown film-makers Sanif Olek, Faisal Ishak and M. Raihan Halim.

Garin, who weaves elements of local culture into his work, says in Bahasa Indonesia: "I always feel like a farmer constantly on the move, searching for the right soil to grow a new field, to incorporate elements of local culture.

"I believe every element in local culture is filled with the past, now and the future where there are endless possibilities. It is not static, it can bring you anywhere.

"Since I live where various cultures exist, both local and global, I believe in the philosophy of nasi campur ('mixed rice'). Everything will be mixed to provide a new flavour."

Esplanade producer Hanie Nadia Hamzah hopes future editions of the festival will continue to present and commission films.

"As we look at contemporary expressions in the region and the Nusantara (Malay archipelago), film is a form that we wanted to include as part of Pesta Raya," she says.

She adds that the films are a way to connect with arts practitioners in the region who are unable to be physically present for Pesta Raya.

Pesta Raya has about 10 other events, such as dance, music and storytelling performances that can be watched on the festival's Facebook page.

Electronic music artist Safuan Johari and Azrin Abdullah, who plays the traditional stringed instrument oud, will come together in Gambus Electronica.

Other shows are Rumahku, a performance by dance group Azpirasi, and Pesta Dangdut II, featuring the popular dance and folk style of music that emerged in Indonesia in the 1960s.

Here are some of the highlights from this year's online Pesta Raya - Malay Festival of Arts:

20th Edition Special Films


Warisan by Riri Riza. PHOTO: ESPLANADE – THEATRES ON THE BAY

What: Five short films by Indonesian directors Garin Nugroho and Riri Riza and home-grown film-makers Sanif Olek, Faisal Ishak and M. Raihan Halim

Where: Online

When: June 10, 8pm, till June 27

Admission: Free

Info: Esplanade's website 

Gambus Electronica


Electronic music artist Safuan Johari (left) and oud player Azrin Abdullah. PHOTO: PESTA RAYA/FACEBOOK

What: Electronic music artist Safuan Johari and oud player Azrin Abdullah will take listeners on a 30-minute sonic journey combining their contrasting styles.

Where: Online

When: June 11, 7.30pm, till June 27

Admission: Free

Info: Pesta Raya's Facebook page 

Rumahku


Dance group Azpirasi. PHOTO: ESPLANADE – THEATRES ON THE BAY

What: This performance by dance group Azpirasi explores the idea of home.

Where: Online

When: June 13, 8.30pm, till June 27

Admission: Free

Info: Pesta Raya's Facebook page  

Enche Ahmad


The band Enche Ahmad will perform their original compositions. PHOTO: ESPLANADE – THEATRES ON THE BAY

What: The band Enche Ahmad will perform their original compositions.

Where: Online

When: June 10, 7.30pm, till June 27

Admission: Free

Info: Pesta Raya's Facebook page  

Pesta Dangdut II


Pesta Dangdut 2. PHOTO: ESPLANADE – THEATRES ON THE BAY

What: Singers Masnie (Masni Mohamed), Rahila Rashun and Sheer Angullia will perform in the style of dangdut, a popular dance and folk music genre that emerged in Indonesia in the 1960s and bears the influences of Hindustani and Arabic music.

Where: Online

When: June 11, 8.30pm, to June 12

Admission: Free

Info: Pesta Raya's Facebook page  

For more information, go to this website.