If you’re in KL throughout July, you’re in luck, because at no other time during the year is the city so alive with arts and culture. A host of enthralling events, celebrating the melting pot of rich cultural heritage that defines this country, roll out day by day, turning the city into a veritable hub of creativity and enlightenment. These events are all part and parcel of the KL Festival, a vibrant month-long celebration that has become one of Malaysia’s signature tourism events since its inception in 2006.
So what can you expect in the course of the month? The events are split into seven categories – performing arts; visual arts; traditional games; heritage; traditional foods; linguistics and literature; and tourism, recreation and others – exposing visitors, both local and international, to all aspects of this diverse nation. It’s the best time of the year to get a true feel for the heart and soul of the country and it’s a guarantee that you’ll come away with a deeper appreciation and profound awareness of Malaysia.
Keeping the arts alive
In the music scene, the KL Music Festival at Istana Budaya is where you’ll be able to catch contemporary and evergreen local performers, such as Ziana Zain, Awie, Alif Satar, Jamal Abdillah, Wakaka Crew and Noraniza Idris, bringing to life the age-old community singing art form of the dikir barat.
If you’re after something a little more classical, then head on over to the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas, home to the Malaysia Philharmonic Orchestra. They’ll be drawing on Beethoven’s Violin Concertos at the beginning of the month and dealing with aliens, in Orchestra from Planet X, at the end of it.
For lovers of dance, The Temple of Fine Arts brings you a Kathak Dance originating from India’s Uttar Pradesh and a Bharata Natyam Performance hailing from Tamil Nadu, while a variety of traditional dances, including the country’s various ethnicities, those of Borneo and the zapin, will be held at Kasturi Walk adjacent to the Central Market. The stage is also set for the Traditional Theatre Series from the Department of National Culture and Arts, specifically Chinese Opera, Wayang Kulit and Jikey, while in the comedy arena there is the multi-racial Indian Lawyers! Saints or Serpents? at the KL Performing Arts Centre.
In the arena of visual arts, the Islamic Arts Museum weighs in with the Calligraphy Exhibition, while the three month-long 1Malaysia Contemporary Arts Tourism Festival will give you an overview of the creative scene with works from both established and up-and-coming artists.
Over at the National Visual Arts Gallery, the fine arts are represented to the fullest by works from renowned poet and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore titled The Last Harvest, as well as the fun Original Cartoons Malaysia Exhibition.
Of tradition and heritage
The KL Festival also brings to the fore Malaysia’s age-old traditions. For example, the much-loved sport of top-spinning (gasing) and kite flying, especially of East Coast icon the Wau Bulan, can be seen in all their glory at the Gasing & Wau Exhibition at Central Market. Meanwhile, the KL Tower is set for an explosion of traditional tastes, thanks to the Bubur Lambuk Cooking Competition, where cooks try to impress judges with the best version of this Ramadhan staple of porridge with meat and vegetables, and the Durian Festival that dares you to eat all you can of this King of Fruits. You’ll love it or hate it, but you’ve got to give this sweet-smelling (or pungent, depending on your view) delicacy a try.
The country’s heritage is also on display throughout July, with the Islamic Arts Museum’s Ann Dunham’s Legacy: A Collection of Indonesian Batik showcasing a selection of pieces from the private collection of US President Barack Obama’s late mother.
You can also delve into the world of Malay weddings at the Kuala Lumpur Craft Complex’s Wedding Promotion, while the Borneo Hornbill Festival creates a world of Sarawakian culture and wonders at the Malaysia Tourism Centre (MaTiC).
A tourist’s dream
This month is definitely sweet for visitors, as the whole country celebrates the wonders of shopping with the 1Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival. Running straight through to 2 September and encompassing Hari Raya Aidilfitri, the bargains and promotions mean more bang for your buck, whether you’re looking for items for the festive season or things to bring back home for loved ones.
As for souvenirs, do drop by Kasturi Walk for a plethora of items that will keep your holiday in Malaysia fresh in your mind, while at the KL Craft Complex, you can delve into the world of handicrafts, from basket weaving and woodcarving to painting and drawing batik designs, including trying your hand at them, via the Let’s Hang Out at the Craft Complex initiative.
And of course, July means the start of Ramadhan, when Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. If you think it’s going to be all sombre and dull, you’ll definitely have a change of heart when you hit the scene, especially at the Ramadhan Bazaars. Featuring a wealth of dishes and titbits from all the states of Malaysia, this occasion is when you can eat your way around the country, without actually leaving the city.
Buffets are also a big part of the fasting month, including for the pre-dawn and sunset meals, such as the Ramadhan Sahur and Breaking of Fast at KL Tower promotion.
Are you excited yet? We certainly are, as we can’t wait to stomp all around the city and be enthralled by this arts and culture extravaganza that comes around only once a year. There are more events than are mentioned here, of course, so do browse through the accompanying KL Fest Booklet for all the details. Have an exciting July!
Click here for more events details!
KL Festival 2012
Where: Various venues
When: 1-31 July
Tel: 03 2052 3600