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Singing Penang stories

OMBAK Ombak ARTStudio presents KO-TAI Penang (Penang’s Song Stage), a 40-minute musical drama that traces Penang’s journey from Merdeka and the founding of George Town to today. It features the stories of multiethnic Penang residents, some of whom have been displaced as a result of development and the repeal of the Rent Control Act.

Based on oral interviews with the people of George Town, Ko-Tai Penang tries to recover history not found in textbooks. What kinds of changes occurred in the residents’ lives following local government elections in the 1960s; the making of Penang as a silicon island from the 1970s; the building of Komtar in the 1980s and 1990s? Where are they headed with Penang’s Unesco World Heritage listing today?

Through song, drama and dance, Ko-Tai Penang also captures the rhythms and sounds of street life and the trades of Penang’s diverse communities. It highlights the changes in the state’s cultural scene through the eyes of ko-tai singers, ronggeng dancers, street storytellers, and performers in entertainment parks.

The performances will feature popular ko-tai and ronggeng songs and dances, with texts and dialogue created by the performers themselves, under the guidance of director Ho Sheau Fung, musical director Tan Sooi Beng, and choreographer Aida Redza.

In the Penang tradition of street performance, Ko-Tai Penang will be performed out in the open in three community spaces: Armenian Street on 27 Dec 2009, Esplanade-Padang Kota Lama on 2 Jan 2010, and Reservoir Gardens, Air Itam, on 3 Jan 2010. All shows begin at 8:15 pm. Admission is free. The 2 Jan show will kick off next year’s Esplanade in Action, organised by the Penang State Tourism Development and Culture Department.

For further information, e-mail [email protected], call 016-4721132, or visit the Ko-Tai Penang blog. All photos courtesy of Ombak-Ombak ARTStudio, with captions by Tan Sooi Beng.

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