Esplanade's Malay arts festival Pesta Raya moves online with mix of new and past performances

In Esplanade Pesta Raya theatre production Alkesah, colourful characters from Malay folklore stay in the same kampung. PHOTO: JACK YAM/ESPLANADE

SINGAPORE - With live performances curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 19th edition of the Esplanade's annual Malay arts festival Pesta Raya is taking place online.

The line-up for Pesta Raya Online ranges from theatre and dance to concerts and a storytelling session. There are three new works and six productions from past editions of the festival.

All the performances can be viewed for free on the Esplanade website from June 19 to 28.

Among them is Alkesah, a theatre production commissioned by the Esplanade that sold out its run in 2018.

Written by playwright Zulfadli Rashid and directed by theatre stalwart Aidli Mosbit, the tongue-in-cheek musical draws on Malay folklore and features characters such as hopeless dreamer Mat Jenin and astrologer Pak Belalang living in the same kampong.

The cast - made up of prominent Malay actors in the theatre and entertainment scene such as Siti Khalijah Zainal, Jeff Catz, Siti Hajar Gani and Hatta Said - was named Best Ensemble at The Straits Times' Life Theatre Awards in 2019.

Music performances from the festival's archives include Senandung Puspa Pertiwi, a 2017 keroncong concert by Indonesian singer Sruti Respati,and 2018's GhaMuhyi: Crossing The Boundaries Of Ghazal, which featured Singapore outfits Orkestra Sri Temasek and Sri Mahligai and Malaysian music group GhaMuhyi.

Esplanade programmer Hanie Nadia Hamzah says the archival performances reflect the wide range of regional Malay arts offerings that the Pesta Raya is known for.

"When we were going through our archives to select the six productions for Pesta Raya Online, we were mindful to choose productions that highlight the unique identity of the nusantara (the South-east Asian archipelago), that are across various genres and have the ability to reach out to audiences from all backgrounds and age groups."

The Esplanade's Pesta Raya 2020 include screenings of performances by dancers from dance group Artistari Gentari. PHOTO: AIRISU.CO/ESPLANADE

The line-up is also designed to bring joy and optimism during the pandemic.

"The productions selected also have the universal themes of strength, positivity and hope - timely reminders to tide us through this period and uplift spirits - even though we cannot physically be with our audiences and artists," Ms Hanie says.

The new works include two performances by dance group Artistari Gentari.

Mari Menari! (Let's Dance!) Joget Hitam Manis ft. Pucuk Pisang features a medley of two classic joget songs, while #stateofemergency is a contemporary Malay work with choreography by Badarudin Hassan, film direction by film production group SortCo and music by musician and songwriter Aidil Akmal.

Another new work is Pentas Pesta, a talkshow and music performance that has become a staple of past editions. Hosted by comedians Hafidz Rahman and Zuhairi Idris from online sketch show Lepak One Korner, the show comprises two episodes featuring guests such as home-grown musicians Zalelo, Izat Ibrahim, Asnida Daud and Megat Firdaus.

Also new this year is a children's storytelling session, It's Still Hari Raya!, hosted by Singapore-based actor and writer Tysha Khan.



Where: Esplanade website

When: June 19, 8pm to June 28

Admission: Free

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