by Shazwan Zulkiffli
Ever since the cancellation of the epic electronic music festival FMFA, the Malaysian concert scene has never been quite the same. The authorities have taken more interest in concerts, particularly EDM parties, to avoid the deadly, ‘drug-related’ incident from happening again. Even when it has been proven that the unfortunate deaths on the festival grounds were caused by heat, the mainstream media seemed happy not to thoroughly follow up on the issue, or at least help soften the blow by taking the blame off the organisers. With small time politicians (+ wannabes) and their kaum kerabat on the far right making too much unnecessary noise on the most irrelevant of issues, which even includes the length of Selena Gomez’s skirt, one would ask, is there hope for the festival scene to bloom? Are we heading towards our impending doom?
The Association of the Arts, Live Festivals and Events or ALIFE was formed to address these questions and a week ago, the association called upon their strongest allies and the media to attend a press conference that was given the name ‘Enough is Enough’ to discuss further on the strategies to overcome these existing problems, while at the same time, make unsatisfied parties aware that Malaysian organisers will not bow down to threats.
The press conference is the first few baby steps in improving the music festival sphere by putting efforts in halting discriminatory treatments that Malaysian organisers and promoters have received in the past few years. In doing so, the members, comprising of Para Rajagonal (PR Worldwide), Iqbal Ameer (Livescape), Ben Law (Future Sound) and a few others, suggested that the standard operating procedures involving events should be reviewed and streamlined to ensure that the hard work of everyone involved will not go to waste.
The urgency of the event came after two EDM concerts for Tiesto and Armin Van Buuren received flak from the far right, notably from Eddy Casmady, an activist from Bangkit, who’s also notorious for bringing down the KL Music and Urban Festival. Unfortunately, another event was shut down at the final minute last weekend. Trance party Transtellar, with the likes of Ferry Corsten, Standerwick Live, and John O’Callaghan as headliners, was forced to move to Fuze KL (which was the after-party venue) after putting a sweet audio and visual setup at MITEC, just a few days after The xx wowed the Kuala Lumpur crowd with their hits. According to the organisers, the authorities decided to cancel their license at the eleventh hour upon receiving a report lodge by an ‘unsatisfied party’ (NGO), which many predicted to be the same group who has caused trouble before. Here’s the official statement from the organisers:
Sunday, 28 January 2018: The organisers of Transtellar 2018 are saddened for the cancellation of the event which was…
The latest incident shows that this problem, rooted from negative perceptions toward the industry is real and physical. Organisers cannot afford to cancel a grand scale event at the final hour and refund the tickets a few weeks after. If 3-4 more events go through the same fate, what will happen to our beloved events industry, who has entertained us for the past few decades?
This is no longer just a problem faced by organisers. If this continues, top artistes and managements will think twice to include Malaysia as part of their tour stops. As tax-paying companies run by tax-paying individuals, these organisations have the right to organise events that has been approved by all relevant parties without last minute interference. At this point, the government should urgently look into this before it becomes a critical tourism problem.