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Hands artistic director Bernard Goh pays tribute to his loved ones in Souls In Love, writes Dennis Chua
AWARD-winning percussion team Hands celebrates the many facets of love from Aug 9 to 12 at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPaC) in Sentul Park, Jalan Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur.
Its new production, Souls In Love, is a message close to the heart of artistic director Bernard Goh.
He says: “Love is part of us.”
Part of Hands’ year-long 15th anniversary celebrations, Souls In Love celebrates family values and the labour of love our elders bequeath us.
“We’ll have 15 drummers aged 20 to 32. While we drum, we play more of the gamelan. Even better, Susan Sarah John, who has done a lot of work with Rhythm In Bronze, is our music director,” says Goh.
The drummers will sing and act more than usual, and every piece will be more theatrical than orchestral.
Goh has a surprise in store: His mother and aunts will tell stories of his childhood and sing their favourite songs, both in Malay and Chinese.
His mother, Ong Siew Hua, 66 and her sisters, Siew Eng, Siew Geck, Siew Choo, Siew Lan, Siew Moi and Siew Keng, aged 49 to 72, have been rehearsing with the troupe twice a week for four hours since April.
“It will be a spontaneous and honest celebration of my growing up. The songs they sang to me as a child and our fond memories of visiting Kuala Pilah’s Ulu Bendul Waterfall will be part of the show,” says Goh, who grew up in Kuala Pilah and Seremban.
He admits that he seldom visits his hometown these days, but cherishes his memories of Kuala Pilah.
“I have such fond memories of my pre-teen days with them (mother and aunts), which I want to preserve for posterity,” he says.
Goh has three reputable guest artistes in Souls In Love, including Fung Chern Hwei who learnt the violin at 8 and graduated from the Aaron Copland School Of Music in New York, the United States. He plays classical, jazz, world music, tango, rock and hip hop. Fung recently released his debut album From The Heart.
Goh says Fung will have three presentations, the first of which is Zero Distance, about how music brings people closer together.
“This is a collaboration with Hands’ principal Jimmy Ch’ng,” he says.
Fung will back up Hands in Memories, Goh’s tribute to his mother, aunts and childhood.
“He will also back us in To Father, a tribute to my paternal side that is a Buto-style collaboration with troupe member Boyz Chew.”
The second guest artiste, Taiwan-based Wong Jyh Shyong, studied choreography at the Taipei National University Of The Arts in Taiwan and danced with Cloud Gate Dance Theatre from 2005 to 2009. He won Best Performer in the ninth Boh Cameronian Arts Awards 2012 for his dance piece Fragile.
“Wong has a piece titled Without You, about support and unconditional love. He will be backed by our gong players and regular Hands collaborator Aluba Khan Chen on the guitar,” he says. adding that Wong is marking his first collaboration with Hands.
Also marking his first team-up with Hands is the third guest artiste, The Netherlands-based Ng Teck Voon, who arted dancing at 7 the tutelage of his aunt, Ng Siew Fong. He continued his dance training at the Central School Of Ballet, London, the United Kingdom.
After graduating in 1990, he performed at the Eurocontempo Festival in Chicago (USA), CaDance Festival in The Hague (Netherlands) and Edinburgh Fringe Festival (UK).
“Ng’s piece is titled Hatred and is about resentment and how blood is thicker than water,” says Goh. Guitarist Chen will also play the Mongolian string instrument, ma to qin, in Hate, Without You and a piece titled Taste Of Past created by Goh and John. “Taste is based on an old Chinese folk song,” says Goh.
Last but not least, Hands will pay tribute to a departed friend in the a cappella piece, Ode To Ow Yong.
“It’s a personal tribute to a good man who has supported us from day one. Hands and I will be joined by the music director and singers Xiu Xiu and Debbie Tee,” says Goh.
There will be a bonus performance by the troupe titled Do You See Me which is an empowering tribute to two of Goh’s students.
“They are our dear friends who are determined to tell Malaysians that everybody is different, and beautiful in his or her own way,” he says, adding that the duo will be part of the performance.
Hands’ next major showcase, The Next, will be at KLPaC from Nov 1 to 11. It will brings the troupe back to its drumming roots.
“The year-long celebration ends with the Hands Carnival at KLPaC from Dec 15 to 18,” says Goh. “It will be a trip down memory lane.”
Souls In Love is at 8.30pm (Aug 9-12) and 3pm (Aug 11-12). Tickets from RM58 to RM88. Call 03-4047 9000 (KLPaC) /6141 4480 (Hands)/016-381 9112/014-715 8323.