Arts Preview Singapore

Preview: Pesta Raya 2021 by Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

Marking a milestone 20th edition, the 2021 Pesta Raya – Malay Festival of Arts is set to be a celebratory event as they reflect on how the festival has grown over the years, welcoming both local and regional art from the Nusantara.

Taking place from 10th to 27th June, the festival will bring the same indomitable spirit and energy of past editions to the Esplanade, even as we continue to ride out the pandemic. Putting safety first, this year’s festival will be a hybrid one, featuring both digital and live performances and workshops, as the myriad of programmes add a spark of joy to audiences’ Hari Raya season.

Headlining this year’s programme is the iconic Sanisah Huri, who will be performing her first ever solo concert in the Esplanade Concert Hall. Marking five decades in the music scene, Sanisah started her career at the tender age of 15, when she was selected by Kassim Masdor, one of Singapore’s greatest music composers, during a singing audition for the Shaw Brothers’ A-Go-Go ’67 (1967). From there, she has gone on to record over 120 songs, and plenty of hits among them; come celebrate this milestone year for the local star, and hear her powerful and sultry voice which made her one of the region’s  most popular vocalists in pop music. 

On the music front, the Esplanade-commissioned Tempoh by OrkeStar Trio from Singapore and Djangat from Pekanbaru, Indonesia, presents a collaborative concert, with an array of original compositions and songs that depict the values, spirit and flavour of the people of the Nusantara. The performance will be directed by Irfan Kasban, and even features interactive elements to make this a concert like no other.

The Esplanade has also commissioned Teater Ekamatra’s Pulang Balik, a theatrical double-bill that revives two works from the company’s acclaimed Projek Suitcase series. Using the poor theatre format, where only a single actor and a suitcase’s worth of props are used to create a work, this double bill features Aidli Mosbit’s Mama Lekas Pulang, about how dementia affects the relationship between a mother and child, and Balik, where a woman in her late thirties deals with issues of abandonment and her struggle to make meaning of her life.

This year’s festival has also commissioned a special dance film, Sarung, by acclaimed Indonesian film auteur Garin Nugroho, while the Esplanade will also be featuring three special short films by established Singapore directors, Faisal Ishak, M. Raihan Halim and Sanif Olek, which will be free-to-access on Esplanade Offstage on 10th June.

Younger audience members also have options to enjoy at the festival – interactive dance performance GARAP Garage gives children and their caregivers an opportunity to contribute to the creative process through a call-and-response process, creating sounds and actions that become stimulus for the performers to embody. Interwoven with traditional Malay choreography and dance vocabulary, this performance excavates cultural notions of dance and movement through the exploration of Malay culture.

Worlds collides as oud master Azrin Abdullah and sound designer Safuan Johari of Syndicate and NADA bring together two completely different instruments with gambus electronica. Similarly, Gema Serumpun sees the Indonesian gamelan and Malay folk music come together in a collaboration between Gendang Akustika and Gamelan Asmarada, showcasing new compositions and new arrangements of folk standards.

Beyond these, expect plenty of workshops, from Batik painting to percussion and vocals, to storytelling and free music performances across the Esplanade and online. Come together to celebrate 20 incredible years of Pesta Raya, and the continued innovation and culture that reinvents itself time and time again in Malay performing arts.

Pesta Raya 2021 runs from 10th to 27th June 2021 at the Esplanade. Full programme and tickets available here

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