KL has got sh!t on Malacca in terms of culture. Huge shopping malls, mega-clubs and phallic-shaped monuments are no compensation for lack of artistic expression or even interest. And this is probably why, if you ask most travelers (who are young and are okay with not showering everyday), they’d prefer somewhere like Jonker Street over Bukit Bintang.
When I arrived at that part of the historic town of Malacca, it was like walking into a different world-partly forgotten Malaya, partly backpackers’ bohemia and fully 1Malaysia. Where else can you find a guy selling raw pork meat out of his tiny shoplot that’s almost directly facing the entrance of a local Mosque? Where else can you find an ah pek with the most magnificent red beard sitting outside his antique shop puffing and looking like a proud, domesticated dragon? Where else can you find temples and mosques co-existing side-by-side? Where else can art thrive if not in an environment like this that is so different from dystopian KL yet only an hour’s drive away (with good music, take-away pizza and some speed)? Where else can you eat chicken with rice-balls?!! Top that, city-dwelling mofos! Chicken rice ballz!!!
Jonker Street goes by many names (Jalan Hang Tuah, Jonker Walk, Antique Street) and its oldest houses were built in the 17th Century. But enough of the history lesson. Billed as a humble 3-day DIY mini arts festival with no budget but lots of “big hearts”, organisers SiCKL (Studio in Cheras, KL) with the help of their Malaccan comrades transformed the Sama-Sama Guesthouse-a functioning heritage hostel-into a living art world.
Artists such as Wong Perng Fey, Ragazza 88, Hee Chee Way, Lim Keh Soon, Wong Eng Leong, Wong Min Lik and Tuan Nini Farhana displayed their works in the very rooms they slept in which were open to public scrutiny (during daytime, of course). And I wasn’t kidding or being cheesy when I said living art world-Tey Beng Tze did real-time paintings on his room walls throughout the festival which he coined as “dream drawing”.
The festival also saw artists from Singapore (Urich Lau, Jeremy Chu, Wong Yip Kai, Raymond Yap and Ezzam Rahman) and Japan (Katsuyuki Hatori, Eiji Azuma, Koji Tambata and Kotaro Tanaka). And had video art and perplexing improvised performance art and dance acts that I didn’t understand. I’ve seen the woman-man tug-of-war thingy many times, where a man and a woman attach a cord to themselves and start yanking like ungrateful fetuses, but still can’t get it. Gender-based politics or kinky foreplay?
At the reception area downstairs, it was acoustic bantering with folkies and indie troubadours like Azmyl Yunor, Jerome Kugan, Malacca’s own Ika Hwang and a very volatile SCAM [Self Conscious Acronym(ed) Man] who was out for blood with his heart-wrenching tales of distrust and disgust.
While the guesthouse was big, it couldn’t hold any live bands. So I took a short walk through the busy night-market street over to the Karabau Rock Bar on Jalan Hang Lekir. Friday night was chaotic. Uncles and aunties selling their food stuffs and knick knacks like magic wallets that were thin as blades but could hold lots of money; more musically-inclined uncles performing Oldies to backpackers and other uncles; a bar desperately trying to be a club in KL spinning rnb and Lady Gaga sh!t. All of this on the same road that was less than half the size of Changkat.
Karabau looked out of place over here. With lazy-rattan-chairs scattered outside and a mini-bar inside with pictures of Jim Morrison and The Beatles, it struck me that this might be both the rock-out and chill-out centre of Jonker. We were about to smash the latter.
I took stage with Azmyl Yunor, Stru Xus from HKPT and Yandsen for an impromptu noise jam. Yandsen started wailing some Coltrane-ish licks on his tenor-sax, Stru Xus projected visuals on the screen that covered the drumset and shouted and cursed madly at everyone and no one and into the mike all at once while Azmyl and I interchanged on the guitar and drums. It was a sensory overload that left half the bar empty.
A hippie from Chicago told me we were good and that he’d come back tomorrow to watch my real band play and that Malacca was a “good place, it’s a good, good place with the right people and vibe, man.” I couldn’t understand him for I was deaf from the performance and tripping from his business card that he had so nonchalantly gave to me earlier. I was good, man. Good.
The next day, well… I don’t really recall much apart from trying to sober up all morning and drinking orange juice with some of the artists and taking a tour of the temples and Hang Jebat’s grave. HJ’s resting place was a true Malaysian scene. Dogsh!t everywhere and there was a small “offering” in front of the grave. Not one to be spooked by any jampi, I snapped a picture of myself doing a peace-sign over HJ’s earthly bed.
That night we rolled out the jams once more at Karabau. Poet Tshiung Han See kicked off the show with a spoken word-guitar duel with Alan McLean. They were followed by bunch of kids with guitars and a chick singer whose name I can’t remember (the band and hers). Experimental cosplay no wave noise trio Ciplak knocked the socks off and shocked everyone for the first 10 minutes of their set before they sounded tedious. I started boo-ing them but to no effect. I went on next with Ben’s B!tches and well, I was drunk by this time cause it was an awful long wait and I couldn’t eat anymore riceballs. The Abang Guard made out of punk otais Joe Kidd, Bullet and Singaporean guitarist Zai Kuning went up next. Closing the night at about 1am were Slient Keat and Rainf with Citizens of Ice Cream guitarist Hwang. Good bar, good music, good friends, love. I passed out on the lazy-rattan-chair outside.
When I woke up, it was already morning and Azmyl had come over to get me. “What the hell happened?” I asked him. A beer bottle fell off the table and he answered, “History.”
Sama-sama Guesthouse Mini Alternative Art Festival 2010 took place at Sama-sama Guesthouse, Jalan Tukang Besi and Karabau Rock Bar, Jalan Hang Lekir, Malacca from 6 to 8 August. Seeing is believing so checkout the pictures in our gallery. Online art forum Arteri Malaysia did an interview with a couple of the organisers that you can read here.
Image Azmyl Yunor