The Star/Asia News Network
Senyawa, steeped in improvisational techniques and known for its visceral live performances, is a name to watch at AMF with its music that combines Javanese folk/ritual tradition with metal and psychedelic influences. (Asian Meeting Festival/File)
How far is Malaysia from hosting an event like the CTM Festival in Berlin, which is one of the world’s most cutting-edge, multi-disciplinary festivals? It may take some years yet, but the KL arrival of the Asian Meeting Festival (AMF), a project by acclaimed Japanese musician and composer Otomo Yoshihide, in collaboration with Asian Music Network (AMN), is a sign of bigger things to come in the experimental arts arena here.
The AMF takes place at Live Fact in Kuala Lumpur on Dec 10. It is presented by Live Fact and the Kuala Lumpur Experimental Film, Video & Music Festival (KLEX). The AMF in KL, which is themed “Crossing Over”, boasts a line-up of 16 musicians from Japan and South-East Asia playing in ever-shifting constellations of solos, duos and ensembles.
The line-up is sparked up by Indonesian duo Senyawa, featuring Rully Shabara and Wukir Suryadi. Both have had a busy year, appearing at CTM Festival and taking on shows in Europe and New York. Senyawa, steeped in improvisational techniques and known for its visceral live performances, is a name to watch at AMF with its music that combines Javanese folk/ritual tradition with metal and psychedelic influences.
Other names include Japanese experimental artistes like Otomo Yoshihide, Atsusi Arakawa, Junji Hirose, Jojo Hiroshige, Takashi Makino and An Murazato, while the Malaysian cast features Sudarshan Chandra Kumar, Yong Yandsen and Kok Siew Wai. Singaporean artistes on board are Dharma Shan, Vivian Wang and Yuen Chee Wai. The list is completed by Tara Transitory (Thailand) and C. Spencer Yeh (United States).
Is this AMF festival a sign that KL has a larger part to play in the experimental music community in Asia?
(Read also: Senyawa’s plan for world domination)
“Definitely! AMF’s main focus is on building an experimental/improvised music scene in Asia. It is led by Otomo (Yoshihide) and his curatorial AMN team, together with Yuen Chee Wai (Singapore) and DJ Sniff (aka Takuro Mizuta Lippit, Japan),” says Kok Siew Wai, who is also KLEX co-curator.
The AMF bandwagon, in collaboration with the creative platform Playfreely, will first be in Singapore on Dec 8-9.
In essence, KL will get a no lesser version of the AMF line-up – despite the festival being a one-day affair here.
Azzief Khaliq, editor of online portal The Wknd Sessions and musician, agrees that the experimental scene in KL will be encouraged by AMF.
“It’s probably the best line-up of experimental and fringe musicians to ever hit KL. Hopefully, this bodes well for the future, and it means that KL will be a more regular stopping-over point for experimental musicians touring the region,” says Azzief.
For music fans, some of the names at AMF will not be too unfamiliar.
“Last year, Otomo and Sachiko M came to Malaysia to check out the scene. Sachiko M curated a multi-disciplinary exhibition called ‘Open Gate’ featuring Japanese and local artists/musicians at Hin Bus Art Depot in Penang. In KL, KLEX hosted both Otomo and Sachiko M as they performed in our Serious Play Improv Lab series. So our relationship started from there, and we’re very honoured to host the Malaysia leg of AMF this year,” says Kok.
In the last two years, AMF has also presented numerous collaborations between Asian musicians in many cities in Japan. With the support of The Japan Foundation’s Asia Centre, the AMF is now actively pursuing a new collaborative network – among musicians and organizers – in this region.
“To some musicians in this year’s fest, the AMF is a rare opportunity to play in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur this time. For Junji Hirose, a unique Japanese saxophonist, who has started to play improvised music since 1980s, this is his first time playing outside Japan in close to a decade. Jojo Hiroshige, An Murazato, C. Spencer Yeh, Arakawa Atsugi all play in South-East Asia for the very first time, too. And for Indonesian duo Senyawa, this marks its first appearance in Kuala Lumpur,” concludes Kok.