From left: Chuah Guat Eng, Suzanne Joinson, Alfian Sa’at, A Samad Said, Bernice Chauy. Photo: British Council.

Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference: A National Literature

Saturday 22 June, 3.30pm

“National literature is now a rather unmeaning term; the epoch of world literature is at hand, and everyone must strive to hasten its approach.” Goethe’s famous prediction, made in 1827, is even more relevant now in these days of globalisation.

For one of the panels of the Edinburgh World Writer’s Conference, “A National Literature”, writers  A. Samad Said, Suzanne Joinson, Chuah Guat Eng, and Alfian Sa’at spoke at length on the impact of national and cultural identity on literature, with Bernice Chauly moderating.

Topics such as cultural proximity, belonging, and even self-exoticization for an international audience were discussed.

“I am a national writer, as my concerns are national ones. I care about the nation, but I do not feel that just because I have a Chinese name, I have to write about ‘Chinese things’,” Chuah said, asked if writers had a responsibility to write about issues concerning their identities.

“What is important in literature is what we write. We can write in other languages: English, Chinese. But the crucial thing is that we create it for humanity. What language you use is just circumstantial,” A. Samad Said said. Samad also read his poem “Ballad of the Lost Map”.


Saturday 22 June, 5.30pm

“I was born a traveller,” poet Elaine Foster proclaimed. “I was conceived in a desert, carried across many seasons, times, tales, lands, myths, mythologies.”

Behind her, her fellow poets Abby Latif, Ilya Sumanto and Khairani Barokka adopted stoic poses, while music played. Dramatic images flickered on a screen in the background.

This was Seronok!, a spoken word performance in Paradiso Lounge. The event was a multinational collaboration (Malaysia and Indonesia) featuring themes of gender, culture, language and identity, and explored through music, visuals and performance art.

The production was inspired by the differing meanings of the word seronok: in Malay, the word means fun or joy, but in Indonesian, the word has sexual connotations.

Seronok! was energetically and passionately performed, from the first poem (Intro, a tribute to shared values, which featured all four performers donning  sarong) all the way to the end.

The highlight of the show however, was Khairani Barokka’s segment, which explored themes of gender stereotypes and shaming.

The performance also featured traditional music played on the gambus and accordion by Freddy and Dolah, as well as other poems such as “Butoh”, “Pengembara” and “A Tale of Two Lands”.

Panel: The Development of the Local Indie Music Scene, curated by JUICE

Saturday 22 June, 10pm

The Malaysian indie music scene has grown over the decades. Artistes like Pesawat, Butterfingers, Yuna and Zee Avi, just to name a few, have reached high levels of acclaim and won countless fans. But can we take local indie music to a higher level?

Music reporter Daryl Goh, Wknd Sessions founder Fikri Fadzil and musician Azmyl Yunor gathered for a panel on this subject at Black Box on Saturday night, with JUICE editor Ben Liew moderating. What resulted was an absorbing discussion (which was occasionally quite heated) as well as a nostalgic recollection of many of the greatest music-makers of Malaysian history.

Topics discussed included the current prevalence of singing in Malay, music festivals, and the effects of government regulation on music broadcasting.

“We used to have a local radio station which only played local indie music,” Azmyl said. “But it went bust. Why? Because the songs weren’t good. You have to respect your audience.”

“Don’t support something just because its local,” Liew emphasised, to applause. “Support it because it’s good.”

Azmyl also performed covers of landmark independent homegrown tunes, such as Butterfingers’ “Nicc O Tynne”,OAG’s “60s TV”, Nice Stupid Playground’s “Bedroom Window”, Carburetor Dung’s “Boo Hoo Clapping Song”, and ended the panel with Spunky Funggy’s “Happier”.

Panel: Stand-up Comedy, curated by Time Out KL

Saturday 22 June, 8.30pm

Three comedians walk into a bar. No, this is not a setup for a joke: this was Time Out KL’s Stand Up Comedy Panel at Paradiso Lounge, which featured funnymen Kuah JenHan, Phoon Chi Ho, and Dr. Jason Leong.

The comedians shared what inspired them to go into stand-up, things comedians shouldn’t joke about, and the current abundance of Malaysian comedy shows.

“As a comedian, there’s no way to rehearse,” Jenhan said. “The only way is to perform. You can’t do your stuff in front of the mirror and laugh.”

“Sometimes I do think of material and laugh. But that’s dangerous, because it could mean two things. Either it is damn funny, or it is only funny to you.”

The panel was filled with rib-tickling moments, such as an audience member attempting to cure Jenhan’s hiccups, despite Dr. Jason “I am a qualified doctor!” Leong insisting there was no cure for them.

The comedic trio also shared anecdotes about stand-up, with Chi Ho telling how he got criticised for  a “masturbating baby” joke, and Jenhan sharing about a “zero audience” show he did with Douglas Lim.

Bump in the Night

Saturday 22 June, 11.50pm

Two conmen fool a woman into believing she is being haunted, only to have the tables turned.  A man seeking knowledge is given a study tip that leads to disaster.

These were some of the spine-chilling stories told during Bump In the Night, a spooky storytelling and screening session taking place at Black Box on Saturday night.

Bump in the Night’s atmosphere was effectively chilly, with patrons invited into a darkened Black Box to the sinister tunes of The Exorcist soundtrack. The theatre was packed, with audiences even sitting on the floor to fill up space.

The night started with veteran radio host and actor Patrick Teoh, who told a tale of romance wrought by dark magic. While the story took a while to build up, it was worth it for a creepy twist toward the end.

Actor and writer Jo Kukathas stepped up as the next storyteller, telling an original story of a Malaysian politician who creates a nightmare creature for his own ends. Told entirely in the second person, Kukathas’s tale was particularly interesting due to its elements of Malay folklore. It was however, a bit too long.

The stories were followed by a screening of five horror-themed shorts curated by Filemmakers Anonymous, with highlights being The Shaman and Sayang Papa.

Read Part 1 of our festival review here.

Disclosure: The Cooler Lumpur Festival was produced by PopDigital. The same company published