I still remember when I was in my 20s, I’ve been to 3 huge concerts by Taiwanese singer A-mei and Hong Kong singers Leslie Cheung & Jacky Cheung respectively. The concerts were spectacular and by looking at the stage setup, you knew huge budget were spent to create ambience that excites and engages audience. Entertaining the audience was the only objective of the concert for organizer to sustain profitably.
Growing up in small fishing village in Batu Pahat, Johor, those huge concerts were definitely not the only ones I’ve been to. I first experienced concert at SJKC Cheng Siu in my hometown. Back then, the school hall can only accommodate up to a maximum of maybe 150 pax. It was really hot (no air-conditioner) and crowded where many stalls were setup outside selling cold drinks, food and even balloons. I still remember clearly that I went with my sister and good friends at a very affordable price. Despite having to stand and sweat among the crowd, we enjoyed the performance very much. Again, this concert was organized solely for entertaining purpose. It was until the recent trip to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah that changed my perception of what a concert can do other than entertaining its crowd.
Last week, I was invited by a good friend Albert Bingkasan, to a concert namely “Piuludan Komulakan” organized by United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (UPKO) at Dewan Tun Hamdan, Tamparuli, Sabah. My friend Bingkasan is a Kadazan (an ethnic group indegenous) in Sabah who is extremely friendly despite holding a high position in his organization. Since I have early morning meeting in Kota Kinabalu the day after the concert, therefore I decided to accept his invitation rather that staying the night in the hotel doing nothing.
Despite busy preparing for the concert, I was lucky that the organizing chairman Rayner Ebi still arranged a car to pick me up from the hotel. It took me 1 hour to reach the venue due to traffic jam. I was seriously late! Being a workaholic, I actually arranged a meeting with my innovator at the concert too as I thought this concert may just be another entertainment I’ve been to – the workaholic me was so wrong!
For those who never heard of Tamparuli, it is a small town and a sub-district of Tuaran on the west coast of Sabah, Malaysia. It is populated mainly by native Dusuns, while a sizeable Chinese community, mostly Hakka runs most of the shops in the town proper. As with many other small towns in Sabah and indeed Malaysia as a whole, the town itself consists of both newer concrete shoplots as well as old wooden ones. The most famous landmark in Tamparuli is a long hanging bridge which is immortalised in the song Jambatan Tamparuli, a popular Kadazandusun song. Others include the ‘Upside Down House’ or Rumah Terbalik and a popular whitewater rafting destination along the way to Kiulu Tuaran.
As I walked into the hall, I saw Datuk Seri Panglima Madius Tangau, the Minister of Science, Technology & Innovation cum Member of Parliament Tuaran playing some music instrument on stage. I knew I was late big time! I quietly sneaked in and grab a seat immediately. The hall was crowded with people from various ethnicity and it reminded me of the first concert I went at my hometown where the ambience was almost the same.
I couldn’t understand even a single song performed during the concert because it was all in alien language. And I don’t recognize any singer at all. Luckily, the innovator Selvestone Junit, a Rungus Dusun ethnic whom I planned to meet earlier were able to give me good explanation. According to him, Rungus Dusun is one of the largest ethnic in Northern Sabah (Kudat, Kota Marudu, Pitas and Beluran Sandakan). Then I was told the performers were all past winners of “Sodop Rombituon Kamaatan UPKO“, a competition held annually during UPKO Kaamatan Festival who sang in Kadazan language.
Being the first concert ever held here, it was really special to local community. Sitting among them, I felt how united the community are and the pride in them seeing their ethnic singers on stage. People were so friendly that I’ve been approached a few times by stranger offering their help. One stranger actually turn around and ask me “am I blocking your view” – so considerate. I seldom experience this in the city where I lived in. Who will ever bother to ask this in the busy metropolitan?
The support and echoing given to local idol was no lesser than those given to international idols. I can feel how united and patriotic they are. Community concert is indeed not as lavish or as posh compared those in the city but it indeed brought everyone closer. Can you imagine that? A mere simple concert can bring so much happiness to the community in Tamparuli.
Throughout the concert, I constantly hear people cheering for UPKO. Deep down inside my heart, I wondered what drives them to do this. Is this a “wayang” or they are really impacted by the contribution of UPKO? I have doubts despite hearing from students of SMK Tun Fuad Stephens, Kiulu earlier this year that their Parliament representative YB Datuk Seri Madius Tangau contributed significantly towards local education – and they love him! Being curious and busybody as usual, I asked around during the concert and it was positive again. The indigenous community once again debunked my doubt for UPKO and this leader who is also the Chairman of the organization I work for. At least now I am 100% sure, I am following the right leader.
It was indeed a great experience for me even though this concert cannot be compared with those in the city. Not only did I had an amazing night, I also had the chance to feel the friendliness and kind hospitality of Sabahan and the unity they hold strongly to. I really hope the world can emulate the kindness and unity like Sabahan so our generations to come are able to have a better world to live in. Thanks Bingkasan for inviting me to this wonderful concert!
(photos from UPKO FB page)