Racism, corruption & the Malaysian music scene

February 22, 2011

For everything that afflicts us in Malaysia, it is the entrenched racism and institutionalized corruption that stands out as the greatest barriers to the development of this society, the causes-to-effect accounting for brain drains, voter apathy, waste-of-public-money projects & appalling maintenance on infrastructure, poor & uneven educational opportunities & standards. As policitians plunder the country’s wealth, they are also stifling its potential, and as they cling on to power with populist yet selfish agendas, waste permeates through every facet of society, and foreign investors stay away.  Close to 50% of our GDP and almost the same percentage of our budget is dependant on oil & gas, yet this finite resource has already reached peak supply and dwindling.  The country’s institutions and its populace are ill equipped to cope with outright competition on the global stage. It is a slow and painful downward spiral from here on end.

Most of us Malaysians live superficial lives.  Our wants are materialistic, when we speak we are uninteresting and boring, but I believe this is the result of a society that is undemanding, and education that doesn’t emphasize the creation of value, more so than our own personal or cultural values. It is less easy for a citizen of a low-income society that is also somewhat repressive in freedom of speech to have access to the tools & infrastructure to enrich their lives – as a community and as a nation collectively we have more to go.

However the nation is made up of individuals who are brave and are in active pursuit of the truth; people like Tengku Razaleigh, Lim Kit Siang, Zaid Ibrahim and RPK among the more prominent, and last Saturday, I was in the audience of an event at the annexe gallery in central market, KL, that persuaded me that there was more substance yet in our society, and it is being led by the arts scene in Malaysia.

The Torch Song Massacre invites an always sold-out house to a small, intimate setting inside an art gallery on the 3rd floor.  The audience was overwhelmingly gay, a still-marginalized segment who have nonetheless always been at the cutting edge and the avant garde, and their presence indicated at least that the music would either be over-the-top camp, or simply very, very good.    Once the show started, I was surprised at how good it was; the musicians and actors on stage were funny and engaging, rampant in bad sexual innuendo and cutting in social commentary, its audience were vocal and appreciative, and the music was of a standard I did not expect, punctuated not only by good technical ability, but with emotion and a good deal of poignancy.  

And it’s hosted by Sheilah, an outrageously campy transvestite femme fatale with a headress and stilettos, an alter-ego inhibited by Edwin Sumun, who is easily already 6 foot tall.  Sheilah would never pass on an opportunity for us to catch a glimpse of her loins. I’ve never been more intimidated.

Outside in the gallery, volunteers solicit for donations for Justice for Sisters, an organization that fights for the rights of the Malaysian transvestite transgender; as it raises funds for court cases these people go through for being who they are, as opposed to what they did. Write to Angela [angela@kryss.org] or Thilaga [thilaga.sulathireh@gmail.com] for information.  I donated 50 bucks.

It will be through Edwin’s courage and organizations like JFS who will shape a more mature and inclusive society, it will be because they exist and because they act and protest and shout that we will be prompted to move. and be persuaded that the enrichment of our lives is the embrace & acceptance of our differences & of our humanity, and only as a varied whole we can & shall contribute to the fabric and the wealth of this nation. 

As we break down barriers, we will move the masses, and bring down corrupt and racist governments.

PS- I am now close to overkill going through Youtube searching for clips on Liyana Fizi and Reza Salleh, just 2 of the many outstanding musicians I saw perform. 



4 Responses to “Racism, corruption & the Malaysian music scene”

  1. phang Says:

    nicely written but i’m afraid it’s nowhere being near the reality of what malaysian music is or its non-potential.

  2. Jun Says:

    Hello, my name is Jun as well!

    Could I just point out that Justice For Sisters is raising money to help the plight of the transgender community (Mak Nyahs) and not transvestites (a term loosely used for crossdressers).

    A lovely review anyhow! 😀

  3. jun368 Says:

    oh sorry. Transgenders. Will edit.

  4. Jax Says:

    Vote for JUN Watanabe!
    Vote for JUN Watanabe!
    Vote for JUN Wannabe!
    Vote for JUN Wateverbe!……

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