First of its kind, community-led performance from Sarawak to debut at DPAC

During rehearsal - Photo credit: Mosesparen Production & Indigo Studios

KUCHING, Aug 31: Kelunan, a multidisciplinary performance deeply rooted in the tradition of the Kenyah, Kayan communities of Tubau and Baram, is set to debut at the Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC) on Sept 6.

Featuring cross-generational practitioners aged between 21 and 73, the stage show is part of a music showcase called Spectrum.

According to the show’s production, The Tuyang Initiative, this ambitious joint showcase of Kayan and Kenyah people and culture, which explores the themes of love and war, is conceptualised and brought to life by Mathew Ngau Jau, Malaysia’s living national heritage, together with Adrian Jo Milang, the youngest practitioner of the oral tradition Parap and Takna’.

The talented duo will be supported by a strong ensemble of community practitioners — Salomon Gau, Marlyn Lengan, Rose Belare, Lian Balan, Ngau Bilong, Anye Emut, Hulo Laing, Grace Saban, and Eleanor Simon.

Behind the scenes during rehearsal – Photo credit: Mosesparen Production & Indigo Studios

The Tuyang Initiative focused on the development of Dayak cultural heritage in creating opportunities for its communities in earning sustainable income, the show provides a distinctive and accessible way for those unfamiliar with the communities to connect to the history and early lifestyle and culture of the Kayan and Kenyah people.

Kelunan is crafted to provide a 50-minute glimpse from the time of war, to finding love, to times of celebration. It is delivered through poetic-singing storytelling traditions of both communities, dances, stage-acting and live music from traditional instruments.

“We are honoured to be independently producing this first time format of storytelling stage performance about our communities.

“It is very different for us because what people see as art forms, are just aspects of our way of life and translating that for a large stage was quite a challenging experience,” Juvita Tatan Wan, co-founder of The Tuyang Initiative, said in a statement.

Relating her experience in preparation for the showcase, the former audiovisual producer, marketeer, music and entertainment professional added that working closely with a dedicated cross-generational team from point of conceptualisation, to musical and artistic direction, as well as the practice and rehearsals, has made this meaningful.

“We believe that this truly is one of the best ways for people to take a step into our communities and shake off the notion that ‘traditional is old and dying’, and instead looking at it as a story well told by its own people in a high quality stage show,” she continued.

The Tuyang Initiative recently collaborated and co-produced an immersive live music piece called Song To The Earth, which featured the Kayan oral tradition, Parap.

It was an original composition by Australian composer, Dr Corrina Bonshek and reimagined together with Adrian and his elders through delivery of rarely heard Parap which laments the loss of ancestral knowledge.

It was supported by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, Juvita said.

Rehearsing for the showcase.

“Our hope is that audiences and the key bodies supporting the arts in Sarawak and Malaysia will take notice of opportunities to work closely with community practitioners in forms such as performing arts that provides depth to authentically showcase the people, traditions and cultures, which are either hidden or oversimplified for tourism purposes.

“We are already in the midst of planning for opportunities to share this developed piece in venues and festivals within the region, particularly Singapore, and eventually in other parts of the world”, she continued.

Kelunan is produced by The Tuyang Initiative in collaboration with DPAC. The show will take place at 8pm, Sept 6 and 8, at the performing arts centre in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

Ticketing info are available at — DayakDaily