Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Good Beginning for the Arts

Many lovers of the arts have often lamented on the sad state of affairs regarding the recognition given to the arts and its practioners in Malaysia. These practioners of the arts (seniman and karyawan) had unrelentingly labored on with their cultural craft without much recognition for their efforts all these years. Many are in their twilight years now. Some have even departed.

Today, with the launch of Hari Seniman Kebangsaan at the PWTC we hope to see the beginning of a new era for the arts in Malaysia. The Hari Seniman Kebangsaan was launched by none other than the Prime Minister himself who rightfully reminded everyone that "the arts become a receptacle for creating a civilized and cultured society". He also reminded everyone that this inaugural Hari Seniman Kebangsaan was the sign of a new era of arts development and propagation in Malaysia. He received thunderous applause for these sweet words from the arts activists who had packed the PWTC for the event. Many had come from as far as Singapore for the event. The whole affair moved me immensely as the variant forms of Malaysian arts are finally being recognized as an important component of national development and unity.

The Ministry of Unity, Culture and Heritage is surely to be congratulated for initiating and executing the event well. Some credit should also go to the former Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage (KEKKWA) Dato Seri Rais Yatim who had begun much work to get increased governmental recognition for the Malaysian arts to truly prosper in an increasingly materialistic world.

RTM has been doing its fair share of promoting the fine arts from the days of Merdeka itself. But increasing commercialism had overshadowed its efforts considerably especially in the last two decades. The RTM programs of yesteryears featured the Boria, Keroncong, Dendang Rakyat, Dikir Barat and Dondang Sayang. These should be revived by all TV stations irrespective of commercial viability. Generous patronage from the corporate sector should come in as a Corporate Social Responsibility.

The recent Anugerah Akademi Muzik Malaysia (AIMM) awards show highlighted the growing tide for a multi-cultural identity in Malaysia with its "perpaduan" or unity theme for the night. It proved to be a roaring success with brilliant performances.

At the launch today, the multi-cultural National Cultural Orchestra under the baton of Dato Suhaimi Md. Zain (Pak Ngah) made me proud to be a Malaysian. The "blatant" collaboration and manipulation of the different ethnic musical instruments and styles into a Malaysian identity was awesome to say the least. Jaclyn Victor sang her popular hit song " Gemilang" was backed by this talented multi-ethnic musical orchestra. It gave the song a better Malaysian identity.

Syabas I say to the government for initiating this formal recognition for the arts in Malaysia by declaring May 29th as Hari Seniman Kebangsaan. In this way, like Hari Guru and Hari Pekerja, the practioners of the various arts in Malaysia are beginning to be finally recognized officially. Now the Ministry of Education has to play its part too in perpetuating the arts from the school curriculum level itself for such efforts to be truly meaningful.

Johami Abdullah @ Joe Chelliah
Malaysian Association for Music Education