KUDOS to Mamat Khalid! The well-known entertainment personality has undertaken another assignment that could very well earn him new respect. Not to mention fans.
In a town where the shops close early, and the nightlife consists of the weekly pasar malam and a few fast-food outlets, Mamat is certainly triggering what could potentially be a game changer for the town and its people.
In fact, things are already happening. I’m talking about Sarang Art Hub, a unique diner-cum-entertainment outlet in Tanjung Malim that has a cause tied to it.
Mamat — movie director, screenwriter and musician — is committed to giving this cause all the support and push that it needs. To me, having been to the venue many times in the past couple of months, it’s a cause that is worth supporting.
What is the cause, you may ask. There are several, actually. But, the main one is to create and provide a platform where performing artistes can display — and test — their talents.
Test may be too strong a word. Let Mamat explain: “It has always been a dream of mine. To celebrate the arts. To share. I meet talent all the time. Some talent are just waiting to burst onto the scene, some are raw and still developing.
“I’ve had the opportunity to interact with these talent and I feel they should be encouraged all the way to be all that they can be.
“So, I went hunting for a place where I could set up a small stage, where these new talent can perform. Add a kitchen that can give a variety of local and Western dishes. Provide an ambience in which the young and old can lepak.
“It’s happening in stages. I have student-musicians from the nearby Universiti Perguruan Sultan Idris taking to the stage to show their stuff. And, some of them are just so talented and good!”
There are also budding singers from nearby villages and towns taking to the stage. Anyone who can sing or play a musical instrument is welcomed at Sarang Art Hub. Spontaneity is welcomed here.
I sat with Mamat for almost three hours, prodding and listening. He went on: “I came across this resthouse in Tanjung Malim. Full of cobwebs everywhere. Unused. I submitted my application to Majlis Daerah Tanjung Malim.
“After several meetings and discussions, I was given approval to convert the resthouse to be what it is now. The name ‘Sarang’ was derived from the cobwebs. It is now a sarang (nest) for artistes.
“I’m an old hippie. Really, my soul is here. I told my staff and colleagues working here to look at things differently. I want to see people who come here, either to eat or listen to music, staying as long as they want.
“Sarang Art Hub is your place, too. You can do many things here. You can hold meetings, do your work, do group studies, chit-chat and chill. There are two surau for your convenience. Do come and be part of Sarang Art Hub.
“One thing I’ve seen since we opened early this year; there are plenty of talent in our midst. They are good. Period. With some guidance and support, and as they gain self-confidence, these musicians will do well, Insyaallah.”
There are paintings on display, too. Work done by local artists. They are displayed in a small gallery that doubles up as a meeting and reading room. There are all sorts of books and reading materials for you to read, if that’s your interest.
Mamat renovated the resthouse in such a manner that it creates a kind of free and easy feeling. There are tables and chairs in and outside the resthouse. The stage is the central attraction. You get the feeling that you are returning home when you step into Sarang Art Hub. Slippers and shoes off when you enter Sarang proper.
Paintings of legendary film stars and entertainment icons adorn the walls. The dining tables are not numbered, but identified by names in the movie industry of years gone by.
If you are within a certain age group, you may get a little nostalgic. But, listening to Pau, Pak Usof, Mamat and lecturer-musicians sharing the stage with student-musicians brings you back to the present.
In between Bengawan Solo, Sejati and a wide repertoire of songs, old and contemporary, it can be an entertaining night, actually. Try the lamb chop while you’re here.
The writer, Ahmad A Talib, is chairman of Yayasan Salam Malaysia. Twitter: @aatpahitmanis