non-fiction rock from Aotearoa New Zealand

Southeast Asia Tour Diary 8: Farewell KL

We take the last bus ride, from Singapore back to Kuala Lumpur, it is a quiet and sleepy journey that precedes a very long day. So far our plan for the day is that once we return to KL we make our way back to Joe’s place where we’ll have the opportunity to clean up and pack for the flight back to Aotearoa in 16 hours. There no point packing tightly as we still have one more show to play somewhere tonight. At this stage were not too sure how were going to get to wherever we are supposed to be. But there’s plenty of time yet to problem solve. We envisage that we’ll get back to Sentral, after the show, where we’ll catch a bus back to the airport in the early hours, find a corner to sleep for a bit then pack proper for the flight, shifting and ditching weight as per requirements. However, that’s hours away.

We arrive back in KL around two and we cram into a train that will take us to Sentral station. Joe has had contact with Mat Noor, the legendary shop Ricecooker‘s number 1 shitworker, to collect us and transport us to Bukit Ceylon where we gather our stuff. This goes smoothly, though constant in the back of our minds is that this time tomorrow we will be back in transit returning to Aotearoa.

art at MapEverything is collected, double and triple checked to make sure nothing is left behind. Then we leave this place for good, we know that next time we return that it won’t be to this place. There are plans afoot for  a studio spaces across the other side of town. Mat Noor and friend decide there is time for lunch, and so an Indian meal of dosa is devoured before the 30-40 minute drive to venue Map at the Publica complex.

As we pull in to park it’s a little unsettling. The entrance is a large foyer, massive glass doors and stylish modern art all around. And as we move through the building, up levels of modern architecture, we are a little unsure of what we have gotten ourselves in for. Disoriented in the complex, we come to a floor that’s humming with activity, there are stalls of craft works, clothes , zines and many other small items your find at a hip market. This event has been organized by Filmmakers Anonymous, but twenty metres away, on the same level just in a different corner of the building is a major grind core show, looking very slick and well attended. That event has nothing to do with the one we are to play at, it’s just this venue is managing to accommodate both with ease.

mega mosqueInside at Filmmakers Anonymous, there are acoustic performances, poetry, and other interaction (we see no films being screened though…). We find that our performance area is on a stage outside. Leaving the market, we are shown the door to the courtyard, it’s massive! Directly in front of us and too our right are two tower blocks of accommodation we guess, but directly in front at our level is a HUGE court/complex/square/space, there is a stage in the central area covered by a vast glass circular roof. A high stage that has the beautiful appearance of being constructed by many small pieces of timber. State of the art light rig, a bunch of tech people racing around working out how to amplify the sound, the low rumble of the grindcore bands all merge in this ultramodern Malaysian complex.

Shh...diamStanding outside on the ramp looking across towards the centre of KL, we are in awe at the massive mega-mosques to the left and the right, gargantuan complexes that must hold thousands of people.

We are somewhat stunned!

The market and grindcore show finish and bodies come out to mingle in this space. The first band up is the four piece group Shhh….Diem, four women playing humourous and solid punk tunes.

chrissie changing roomNext up was a three-piece playing complex math tunes wandering into bluesy territory. We took off to prepare while they played but we could hear them from where we were getting ready, about 13 floors up in the complex in a super white and shiny bathroom (cheers Nani and Peter). We changed early as we did not want to miss Ciplak, a trio we played with five years ago.

Ciplak flame haloCiplak, the lineup is a moveable feast of guitars, loop, trumpet, drums, wok, angle grinder and onstage antics. They present themselves in what we are told is the traditional muslim school girl uniform, this is somewhat unconventional as the band is all male. Their music feels considered in its improvisation, there is a dialogue toward modern Malay/muslim culture going on in front of us that we know we miss much of the context and detail. It does however manage to offend some audience members – it might have been the appearance, the chaotic music, the rolling around the floor on rubber cows, and then assaulting each other with the afore-mention rubber cows, or the spectacular flame throwing at the end of the set, can’t quite put our finger on it.

mrsA MapKL2Then it’s our tune on stage and there are a few technical issues regarding the sound. But the equipment is nice, and the stage is large, and we play like there’s no tomorrow, and for us there is no tomorrow, in Malaysia, this is our last hurrah. And though we know that the sound is dodgy, the vocals are quite coming through, we still give our best. And coming off the stage what we have done seems to caught people imaginations, conversations ensue, pictures are taken, and it feels like a decent last effort.

Publika from aboveThen we ascend again 13 floors and change for the last time, our costumes now are spectacularly gross after two weeks touring. They have been washed a couple of times, but mostly by hand and swiftly. They have served us very well, we had them made for us especially for this trip, with some specific design requirements in mind such  as lightweight, quick to dry, good ventilation to deal with the heat, and importantly, visually engaging. Successful in every way, it was definitely worth the effort. Enormous!!! thanks to Leigh Malcolm, who was the key architect and seamstress.

We return to ground floor and recommence a few conversations. People are leaving and we need to get to the next part of the plan, getting to the airport. We imagine we will be awake until the flight, hours away. We had planned to get a taxi til Mat Noor says they will help us get to Sentral, but first…food. So what we thought was our last supper hours before was now relegated to the Second last supper. Remember, midnight is dinner time, and we are told this restaurant will be heaving by about 4am.

We weave our way to a different part of Publika and find a restaurant. Once settled in, we remain there till 3, talking about contemporary art in modern Malaysia, and the tension and aggression when modern art meets fundamental Muslim faith. We are told that even acts like ours may be banned in  a few years as, unbeknown to us, our costume looks a lot like the Malay representation of ghosts, from the pre-modern Muslim era(from the 1070’s on), and these animistic traditional representations are no longer acceptable or allowed.

Publika, we are told, is a complex that attempts to merge art, culture, consumer, and living environments all into one structure. And apparently the plan is that this merging of different facets of life will create opportunities for differing communities to meet and be exposed to other perceptions, creating new conversations, and work towards a more open and tolerant future. We are told by Nani, that a concept called Democratic Architecture has informed the development of this space.

There is so much to talk about, but time dissolves and eventually we realise that we must leave our friends here. Mat Noor and company pack us into a couple of cars and we’re off for the last time. A 20 minute drive to Sentral and in perfect sync we a bus is waiting and ready to go. Our farewells are warm and wonderful. We load our cases into the bus for the last time and we go.

thank you

Innumerable THANKS for all the spectacular help, organising, accommodation, assistance with transport, advice on where to stay, where to eat and how to get around, and everything else to the following (in no particular order):

Joe Kidd, I-Lann, Fendi, Mat Noor and mates, Nani, Peter, Dean, Kek, Rubois, Arjuna Studio, Anok Pakcik, Aiye, Hakim, The Pigeonhole, Cher & friends, Dharma, Vivian, Martin, Mark  from Ujikaji Records & the others in Singapore, Piping, Eva, Rizqi, Pepenk, Lestari, Stella and family, Indris, Putra, Edi and family, Simba, and all the other good men and women at Ni Kita Jibril, Menus, Ryllian and friends in Jogja, Doni, Toi, Mayzke, Sawi and friends of Bekasi. John, Lucy and Linda in NZ. And finally, thanks to our girls back home, who are cool enough to let there parents take off on such adventures, cheers.

We met many many more people, and unfortunately we do not remember every name we are told, but we value each and every meeting, and without these contacts and connects our trip would have been not as rich in experience.

We were told that no band has ever toured Southeast Asia three times, perhaps we will be the first. See you then.

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