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Cultural arts stand the test of time


A GROUP of pupils from a Tamil vernacular school in Muar recently got together to learn the South Korean Gangnam-style dance after-school hours.

The children did it by following the steps from a video recording for three months.

I applaud their effort and passion -- but just what is so fascinating about this imaginary horse-riding frenzy dance routine that has endeared a South Korean rapper named Psy to the world?

I agree the moves provide a good workout for the dancers.

Perhaps, it even tones muscles and builds stamina.

In this day and age, where too many people are turning into couch potatoes or tech nerds, perhaps this dance was invented to get people off the couch.

The gangnam-style dance, reminiscent of horse riding was introduced by Psy, whose real name is Park Jae-sang. It shot the South Korean to international fame last year.

Without a doubt, the rhythm of the song is catchy and the steps are fun to follow.

But do not overdo it as a 46-year-old man from Northern England reportedly collapsed and died from a heart attack after dancing at his office Christmas party last December.

Besides Psy, Indian film actor Dhanush also sang a song entitled Why This Kolaveri Di which became an instant hit in India and around the world.

Though it was slammed by some for its violent lyrics, the video recording on YouTube had 3.5 million views within a week after it was uploaded.

Why This Kolaveri Di was among the top 10 trending Indian topics on Twitter on Nov 21, 2011, and had received more than a million shares on Facebook.

It went on to become the first Tamil song to be featured on MTV and also received the "Recently Most Popular" gold medal award and "Trending" silver medal award from YouTube.

Why This Kolaveri Di, which means "Why this murderous rage?" is a question posed by the film's hero towards his girlfriend who has dumped him.

The hero was lamenting about his misery after the break-up, and how she had moved on.

Many found the song addictive.

Why This Kolaveri Di and Oppa Gangnam Style may have taken the world by storm, but these are just fads.

Youths should also embrace the cultural arts and the classical and traditional dances which have stood the test of time.

Zapin dances, Chinese and Indian cultural dances, for instance, may take many years to master the basic steps and to build a foundation from there.

According to an Indian classical dance teacher in Johor Baru, it takes a student about six to seven years to learn the basic steps, and that she, being a teacher, is still learning new ways to express the routines differently over the years.

"I can understand why youths love the Gangnam-style dance and I will not stop my students from learning it.

"But classical dances have its values. One must have passion for classical dance if they want to excel in it," she said.

The Johor Baru Teochew Eight District Association did not deny the lure of the Gangnam-style dance, but are proud that Johor has its own brand of dance -- the 24 Festival Drums which was founded in Johor Baru in 1988 by two cultural activists, Tan Chai Puan, who is the association's director; and the late Tan Hooi Song.

In 2009, the Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry listed the performance as a "national cultural heritage" and Hooi Song was bestowed the Wawasan Orang Hidup award.

The 24 Festive Drums has garnered recognition and acclaim both locally and internationally in Singapore, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and United States.

The inspiration for the 24 drums was based on the 24 seasons in the Chinese lunar calendar.

The music and choreography of the drum performance are arranged to harmonise and depict the cycles of the 24 seasons in music, calligraphy and the rhythm of life.

The catchy Oppa-Gangnam-Style hit routine shot Psy to international fame.

An Indian classical dance which may take longer to learn, but is a timeless gem once mastered. Pix by Peggy Loh

The 24 Festive Drums troupe has won both national and international acclaim.

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