31 Oct 2007

A focus on performing arts in KK - Pt 2

The formation of Society of Performing Arts Kota Kinabalu Sabah (SPArKS)

Time ripe for performing arts body

by Mary Chin (Daily Express 28 Oct)

THE time was ripe for the formation of a performing arts association. To name a few, we have the KK Music Society, KK Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonic Choral Group, Jesselton Philharmonic Orchestra, Double Take, The L'espressivo Trio, Jazzelton Quintet, ballroom dancing associations and what have you.

Dama Orchestra shows, among others, dominated the music scene some years ago, drawing capacity crowds. Equally packed was the Yellow River Cantata organised by L'espressivo Music Lab, founded and led by well-known soprano Phoon Sook Peng as Organising Chairperson. Annual dancesport championships organised by ballroom dancing schools are a hit with veterans, novices and beginners alike.

In the State capital, charity concerts in aid of schools, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and less fortunate groups are a regular affair, sometimes featuring international artistes. Last year, the presence of a 3,000-strong audience at the charity concert featuring veteran Taiwanese singer Yu Ya, 55, demonstrated clearly that Sabahans, young and old alike, have ears for music, be it classical, modern or contemporary.

Protem President of the newly-registered Society of Performing Arts Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (SPArKS), Datuk Adeline Leong observed that many young people are coming forward uninhibitedly to exhibit their talents in the form of music, dance and drama. SPArKS was registered on September 1st this year.

"These young people need encouragement and support, and most importantly, a platform to build on these talents. We (SPArKS) are here to provide that platform. It is also motivating to see that parents nowadays are liberal in allowing their children to choose careers in the field of performing arts in fulfillment of their dreams.

"This changing performing arts scene in Kota Kinabalu warrants the setting up of a performing arts body to unify music, dance and drama enthusiasts and promote their cause as a common interest group (CIG), as well as to showcase their talents. That's how SPArKS was conceived and born," she told Daily Express.

When told that only a few artistes make it to the international scene, Leong, who is the former President of Sandakan Municipal Council, said this situation was not an issue. "The majority are very happy doing what they like and giving joy to many."

The idea of forming a performing arts association was mooted by the Director of Sutera Harbour Resort, Encik Foo Kia Inn, two years ago. Last year, Foo, popular acoustic guitarist Roger Wang and Leong got together to plan the formation of SPArKS.

The first protem committee meeting, attended by 14 members, was held at the Sutera Marina Club on Oct 4, 2006. During those first few meetings, the committee planned to organise the lst Kota Kinabalu Jazz Festival.

"We wanted to enliven the music scene in the city by introducing Sabahan musicians and music enthusiasts to the world of international jazz music.

But since SPArKS was not a registered body yet, it had to find a partner to co-organise the event and to look for sponsorship as well. We found the perfect partner in the Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu which became the main organiser with Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK) and Suria Group also in the Organising Committee," Leong explained.

Judging from the overwhelming response, the inaugural KK Jazz Festival at the Jesselton Point was a resounding success. Over 1,000 people turned up to enjoy the charity concert, a musical extravaganza featuring more than 20 local, national and international musicians (in five performing groups) and offering a wide variety of jazz music.

Said Leong : "We have, in a sense, succeeded in creating appreciation of this genre of music among a segment of the local populace. KK folks are receptive to jazz. On top of it, the Rotary Club of KK managed to raise some funds for its community projects in rural areas."

This has prompted SPArKS to consider a 2nd KK Jazz Festival. "We will be organising it next year."

What does the future hold for SPArKS?

Leong said its vision is for Kota Kinabalu to have a performing arts centre eventually.

"We are aware that the Federal Culture, Arts and Heritage Department is building a centre of this nature. When that is completed in a few years' time, it will provide many opportunities for our young people to showcase their talents in the fields of music, dance and drama.

"We are also happy to learn that Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK) is also planning to build a performing arts centre at the urging of the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment.

"When the centre becomes a reality, it will be an additional venue for performances not only by local but also internationally-acclaimed artistes," she said.

Leong concurred with Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun who said there is little doubt that the State indeed has an abundance of talents among its young people.

"We really need a centre for performing arts in the city because in many major cities in the world, art and culture symbolise modernisation.

"And with Kota Kinabalu becoming a big city, I feel there is a missing link in our city as we become more prosperousÉwe should look into other areas that we might have neglected," Masidi was quoted as saying last week.

"Having such centre will definitely enrich the quality of life of people, particularly those who are living in the city."

On other plans, Leong said SPArKS is keen to organise a KK Arts Festival with music, dance and drama events happening all in one week.

However, she was quick to point out that all these events need sponsorship.

"When the time comes, we hope major corporations will come forward to sponsor the events in the Festival as part of their corporate social responsibility and community service. In fact, ordinary citizens can also chip in to fulfil their individual social responsibility if they wish to lend a helping hand."

Even ballet dancers also complaining