Festival of Diversity: How Culture Leads to Art

Every year, Cardiff’s Malaysian Students Society puts on an extravaganza of a show, called Festival of Diversity. Malaysoc’s FOD director Xue Ying Tan tells us how this meaningful occasion comes to be.

Cr: Shermin.T Photography

Malaysia, Truly Asia – that’s what they said about this kaleidoscopic country. This is the land of paradise – a heartwarming country with the perfect tropical climate and abundance of sunshine, dazzling skyscrapers in the capital of Kuala Lumpur, historic cities, beautiful islands, as well as ecologically diverse rainforests. Yet, while most of us associate these characteristics with the country, there is in actuality so much more to see and to experience. Fundamentally, what makes Malaysia an exquisite country is none other than the harmonious blend of its people with different shades of skin and religious beliefs.

Blessed with an abundance of cultural diversity, Malaysians enjoy the great advantage of being multilingual – most of them are able to speak at least two to three languages and many other dialects. Growing up in a multicultural society allows Malaysians to enjoy a myriad of cultures from other ethnicities despite belonging to a particular race. Alongside the three main ethnic groups – Malays, Chinese and Indians, there are other indigenous ethnicities such as the Iban, Kadazandusun, Bajau, Dayak, Melanau and plenty more residing mainly in the East of Malaysia. Hence, Malaysia is known for its rich national heritage that gave rise to its remarkable art forms since the Malay kingdoms. Ask any Malaysian and they should know wayang kulit (shadow puppetry), banghra dance, 24 season drums, kuda kepang (totemic horse dance) or even tarian ngajat (victory dance).

The simplest way to understand this unique cultural mosaic that has enriched Malaysia is none other than to truly experience them live before your eyes.

Cr: Shermin.T Photography

For this, Cardiff’s Malaysian Students Society presents Festival of Diversity (FOD) as it embarks on a shining new decade for its 11th installment on the 8th of February at St. David’s Hall. This year, to create a one-of-a-kind experience, MSSCF presents FOD XI – Takdir: Love and Desire – a heartrending tale of forbidden love following the twisted fate of a man as he rises from a lowly pauper to a position of power. Each year, more than one hundred and thirty students from MalaySoc come together to mesh the diverse cultures of Malaysia – notably Malay, Indian and Chinese traditional cultures as well as Western pop culture to mount a full-length musical aimed at showcasing the beauty of Malaysia. The award-winning Festival of Diversity is unlike any other musical, from vibrant traditional apparel to classic dance moves originating from the time of the Malay Kingdoms, to songs from the modern Malaysian music industry, as well as the dynamic performance of Dikir Barat.

Dikir Barat, to those who are unfamiliar, is a traditional art form native to Malaysia, which involves singing and rhythmic body movements accompanied by traditional percussion and acoustic instruments. It is not an ordinary dance, nor is it an average singing performance – it is an ingenious mixture of traditional elements performed with perfect synchronization by a group of no less than fifty people. The play itself and the traditional dances are all written, directed and choreographed with utmost attention to uphold the values of Malaysian culture.

It sounds like another cliché, but it is evidently true that Malaysia is a country unlike any other. Given its cultural diversity, however, despite all the divergent customs, religious beliefs, skin tones and ethnicities, its people are truly unified in its diversity.

Festival of Diversity XI – Takdir: Love and Desire will be performed on Saturday 8th February 2014 at 8PM, at St. David’s Hall. Tickets can be bought for £11 each at the box office or on the St. David’s Hall’s website.

You can watch the trailer for the musical below:


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