Pesta Raya to pay tribute to Malay pioneers

The songs of Nona Asiah, a popular singer on Malay radio and cinema in the 1940s and 1950s, will be performed at a concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall.
The songs of Nona Asiah, a popular singer on Malay radio and cinema in the 1940s and 1950s, will be performed at a concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall.PHOTO: ESPLANADE

The Pesta Raya festival of arts will honour pioneers in the Malay community

The Esplanade's upcoming Malay festival of arts, Pesta Raya, from Aug 13 to 16, will pay tribute to some of the community's most prominent pioneers, such as Singapore's first President Yusof Ishak and singing doyenne Nona Asiah.

The festival will see the debut of a specially commissioned play based on the life of the late president, titled Yusof, written by playwright and director Zizi Azah Abdul Majid.

Stage and television actor Sani Hussin will play the titular role, in a cast of seasoned stage actors, including Najib Soiman and Siti Khalijah Zainal. The play runs daily from Aug 13 to 16 at the Esplanade Theatre Studio.

The songs of 85-year-old Nona Asiah, a popular voice on Malay radio and cinema in the 1940s and 1950s, will be brought to life by singers such as Imran Ajmain and Sarah Aqilah in the Si Cempaka Biru - Celebrating The Life Of Nona Asiah concert at the Esplanade Concert Hall on Aug 14.

At the Esplanade Concourse, the son of late pop yeh-yeh singer Salim I, Rudi, will relive his father's famous songs on Aug 13.


  • Where: Various venues within the Esplanade

    When: Aug 13 to 16, various times

    Admission: Free and ticketed (go to or call 6348-5555)

    Info: For full programme details, go to

Says Esplanade programmer Hanie Nadia Hamzah: "In this special year where we commemorate the nation's Golden Jubilee, we wanted to pay tribute and honour some of Singapore's Malay cultural icons and treasures, as the community comes together in celebration of Hari Raya Aidilfitri at the Esplanade."

Not all the programmes pay homage to veterans, though.

The festival also seeks to draw a younger audience by shining a spotlight on contemporary Malay talents who are making an impact in the regional entertainment scene.

Pop rock quartet Noah, one of Indonesia's most popular bands, will perform at the concert hall on Aug 15, their first solo show here.

Experimental rock group Pitahati from Malaysia, whose line-up include three sons of top Malay music producer/songwriter/singer M. Nasir, will play a set at the Esplanade Recital Studio on Aug 15.

Malaysian hip-hop artist Altimet will stage a show at the Esplanade Recital Studio on Aug 14 and will perform with home-grown singer Trisno.

The pair scored a hit last year with Hello, a catchy ditty from Altimet's sophomore album, Kotarayaku, released last year.

To encourage families to attend, Pesta Raya will also have several family-friendly programmes, such as children's roving theatre performances at the venue's Concourse and Forecourt; as well as Aku Ada Cerita (I Have A Story), a storytelling competition for young students.

Says Ms Hanie: "The festival's celebration of culture through various art forms instils a strong sense of pride within the Malay community, and we always try new ways to attract more young audiences."

Pesta Raya is sponsored by Singapore Press Holdings and the SPH Gift of Music series.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2015, with the headline 'Concert tribute to pioneers'. Print Edition | Subscribe