By Pang Khee Teik
Controversy No.1: How could you hold the awards on the night of Cleo’s Bachelor Bash?
The only serious competition to the 3rd Annual BOH Cameronian Arts Awards 2004 on the evening of April 22, 2005, was Cleo’s Bachelor Bash at Zouk. It is a culmination of their annual 50 Most Eligible Bachelors issue, a veritable chorus line of straight men pretending to be gay chic and gay men pretending to be breeders. Now say after me, “Please!” At the arts awards, on the other hand, the irrepressible Jit Murad frankly welcomed us to “an evening of sissy men and bad couture.”
You want candour, we give you candour. Jit and Izlyn Ramli sang about cronyism in our theme song (composed by Shanon Shah), Zahim staged an excerpt of the bitchiest comments on Kakiseni (compiled by Niki Cheong), Pat Ibrahim strapped the hottest Malaysian male dancers into cargo pants and singlet for us who like our men macho yet limber (music by Jason Voo, produced by Roslan Aziz), and then, most brazenly of all, we get the editor of the organising website to give a glowing report of the event. Who remembers those pretty faces in Cleo a year from now? I bet you, however, that our list of over 50 nominees, some of whom are proudly not eligible to be Cleo bachelors, will be remembered as monuments in our cultural landscape decades from now. (Here is a list of the eligible cronies who performed in the above sketch and dance: Niki Cheong, Farah Ashikin, Ida Nerina, Reza Zainal Abidin, Chin Li Ling, Lennard Gui, Nell Ng, Edwin Sumun, Khir Rahman, Rudy De Luna Jr, Mohd Zulfarqar bin Awaluddin, Mohd Firdaus B. Mustapha Kamal, Syed Mustapha Syed Yasin, Loh Wei Jun and Ismalee Bin Ariffin.)
Controversy No.2: No Food! I am leaving!
In the future, artists may no longer starve. Then they will stop complaining (or maybe they will stop being artists too). Meanwhile, please be patient as we eat out of the hands of our sponsors and try our best not to sell our souls (and yours) to them. What could we have done if a sponsor who promised food and beverage pulled out on us at the 11th hour? We are sorry lah. Aiyah, get free ticket, some more complain no food. Next time get food, will you complain the lighting no good?
Controversy No.3: Some people didn’t observe the ‘Drama-nya’ dress code!
Dress codes are essentially for folks who are not born stylish. Fashion diva Shegar threw a few pieces of cloths on the Kakiseni directors and sprayed some chemicals on their hair and – wallah! – they looked ready to win some awards themselves. I, on the other hand, had to wear a maroon shirt, unbuttoned to reveal chest hair, and a Tanjung Jara ladies’ sarong wrapped around pert butt, to compensate for my subdued personality. The natural drama queens in our midst came as themselves: Edwin Sumun in harem master black, Suzan Manen was Cruella deVille, and the Petronas Performing Arts Group looked like a Star Trek convention taking over the Mandarin Oriental.
Controversy No.4: Rhythm in Bronze wins for Best Group Performance for Voice??
Let me repost musical director Jillian Ooi’s response to accusations that Rhythm in Bronze is not a vocal group: “Rhythm in Bronze is of course a gamelan ensemble. However, our repertoire has incorporated voice (group singing) quite a bit, lately. In the last concert we did, Wujud Antara, which was the concert we won the award for, there was almost as much group singing and solo voice performance as there was gamelan-playing. We did gripe here and there about having to sing so much whilst playing (not easy-lah!) and that’s the reason we were tickled at our win – because we often kid around about how we are turning into a vocal group instead!”
Let me add: I like the earthy beauty in Rhythm In Bronze’s sublime vocal harmonies; it defies synchronicity and your usual SATB (Soprano Alto Tenor Bass) technicalities. I am not speaking on behalf of the judges, but what makes them special to me is the way their singing, like their gamelan playing, becomes an extension of their search for a contemporary voice in our traditional music.
Controversy No.5: Mac Chan. Mac Chan. Mac Chan. Mac Chan. Mac Chan.
Mac Chan, accepting his award for Best Lighting for Five Letters From An Eastern Empire, said, “This is not my fault.” Then he also mentioned that it is quite sad that this is happening. I know that Mac Chan, along with Ming Jin of The Actors Studio, Ken Takiguchi of Japan Foundation, Lee Jia Ping, Alvin Tan, Kennedy John Michael, Bayu Utomo Rajikin, have set up the Malaysian Alliance of Technical Theatre to train technicians for the stage, and maybe even to have the balls to demand artistic control from control freak directors. Folks, if you want to support a good cause, you know where to send your money.
It is not just in the lighting field that we have a shortage. Look at our pool of actors and directors. Why is it always the same names? Why do so few directors hold open auditions? Where are the safe (and cheap) spaces for young directors to discover themselves? And more importantly, can they afford Mac Chan?
Controversy No.6: Somebody give the Deputy Minister an award!
Deputy Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage Datuk Wong Kam Hoong couldn’t stop monologuing. He stole the night with his jokes on Boh Tea-soaked flies and Damaging Directors. Is he using the awards to audition for a part in Life Sdn Bhd 4?
Controversy No.7: Finally it’s Faridah’s turn!
Folks, please let’s not start about who deserved it before who. We wish we could gather all our veterans and build shrines in their names. Faridah said, ‘Thank you for remembering, I thought nobody remembered.” Faridah dearest, how could we not remember? Where would we be without you? Where would we be without ALL of you?
It is an unfortunate nature of the awards that we could only have one recipient per award per year. Obviously there are more than one deserving individual at any given time for the Lifetime, Cross-culture Champion and Most Promising awards, not to mention the other categories. We hope to get to every last one of our heroes eventually, bringing attention to their tireless efforts. But we know also the reason our heroes are heroic: They have put their life into their art before any old silly awards came along, and they will go on doing it with or without the awards. We salute them.
Controversy No. 8: Kakiseni is for cronies!
I am really tired of being accused of being a crony. Why am I still struggling to pay my rent and car instalments if indeed I am receiving favours from giving awards to these artist friends of mine? None of them are giving me money, sexual favours or lead roles in their productions. Oh, wait, I do get free programme books sometimes.
Controversy No.9: There is no Controversy No.9!
Kakiseni has kept this controversy to ourselves and has siphoned the bad vibes for our next bitchy review.
Controversy No.10: Kakiseni is going ahead with the Arts Awards for next year!
Yes, we are afraid so. Let’s hope we have an even richer, bolder, and more controversial year in the performing arts. See you next year, cronies and all!
First Published: 06.05.2005 on Kakiseni