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5 Reasons Why We Love URBANSCAPES 2012

Braving rain, sunshine, and each other’s annoying quirks, Travel 3Sixty digital monkees Irvin and Ari spent a lively weekend at Urbanscapes 2012.

Words & Photos: Irvin Hanni & Ari Fajar

Pretty clouds over baby blue sky, hipster boys jamming on top of a pimped-up bus, fashionistas braving their iPanema sandals over muddy spots, wait a minute… were we really in Padang Astaka? The whole scenery looked like we could be at a summer festival in Australia.

     It was touted as the nation’s biggest creative arts and music festival, and rightly so. After 10 years in the scene, Urbanscapes has managed to create a big bang during the weekend of 25-26 Nov 2012. While the obvious draw was the much anticipated Icelandic band Sigur Rόs, there were plenty of other stuff happening as well, and it’s the random agendas that actually made the weekend all the more memorable for us. 

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1)  WE ARE HERE!

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WE ARE HERE! At The Green Stage with the non-functional windmill as the background.

Irvin:  Colourful would be an understatement to describe the festival. From afar, a guy in a Batman/Superman costume traipsed across the field, with a girl superhero by his side. And that is just the tip of the delightfully eye-catching characters that were present at the event. What’s interesting here is the mix of people, equal numbers of sun-streaked travellers in fisherman pants, couples in colour-coded outfits, Oakley sunglasses-clad guys in Supreme t-shirts, hijabsters in brightly-hued ensembles, and a throng of eccentrically fashionable people clad in Phua Chu Kang boots. Awesome!

Ari:  Isn’t that wonderful that foreigners from lands far away actually crowd over to a humble event here in Malaysia? But I actually felt a little disappointed. I did hear some Singaporean accents here and there, but other than that, I find the attention from youngsters in the Southeast Asian region severely lacking. The only Indonesians I met were some of the performers. Even though I hear a lot of Tagalog every day as I commute to work, I didn’t really hear any at the Urbanscapes. Perhaps I needed to fully explore the event to see the full extent of its ASEAN crowd, but for now, I see a whole lot more foreigners than our own peeps.

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If you can’t go to the beach, let the beach come to you.

2)  Gastronomy heaven

Irvin:  So much food all around I couldn’t even decide what to munch on. Ari went missing for a minute and came back with vegetable tempura. Oh my goodness, are you for real? Can’t you just consume the fattening pizzas, sandwiches or even tacos like any normal human being? There were so many other good (meaty AND fulfilling) food to be offered, and you’re eating leaves? Oh well, I had better savour my truly delicious piece of chicken wing. Yummm…

Ari:  Shush, Irvin! I need to get my groove on and I need my vegetarian chi to conquer this event! I have to say that the stalls selling food had very apt choices. For instance, since it was very hot, there was the perfect amount of ice stalls (and the right amount of vendors with British accent offering you a “ba-nah-na popsicle”). Whilst admiring the hired help behind the stalls, I even purchased some of their products. I mean, who’d even think about buying cookies under the merciless tropical sun of Malaysia?

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Many things for you to chew, gulp, or lick!


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Come rain or shine, we shall continue stuffing our faces. (Photo credit: Jeremy Choy)

3)  One with the people

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“Oh look at Ari trying to earn his ‘man card’ with his prowess in carpentry. Isn’t that cute.“- Irvin

Irvin:  Other than the recorder lessons at school when I was twelve and the occasional air guitar that pops out whenever I got way too carried away by the music, it’s safe to say that I’m quite musically-challenged. Which was why I panicked when the guy from the 1Drum.org suddenly pulled me from the crowd and gave me the little instrument to play with! One by one, startled festival-goers were pulled in and pretty soon the group reached at least 50 people or so, each with all sorts of instruments. The session lasted for about 20 minutes and has now inspired me to join a full-fledged drum circle group…for real!

Ari:  Ahh… Drum circle. An easy way for people to actually fool themselves into thinking that they could actually play music when in reality, they really couldn’t *stares at Irvin* I was more interested in visiting Epic Home’s booth. I didn’t know what got into me, but I signed up to make a cabinet and a bench which will be used for the Orang Asli’s (indigenous Malaysians) housings. Dealing with carpentry was never something I’m used to, so just after a few minutes of sawing logs, my fingers were numb and my arms were aching. Still, it was amazing that our team was able to finish one bench (with the wrong measurements) and a cabinet (with loose ends). I felt bad for the Orang Asli family who will receive them in their newly built house later on.

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“Crazy cat lady got all worked up thinking she could make music” – Ari

4)  Now that’s what you call music!

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A hybrid of Pink Floyd and Arcade Fire with Malaysian touch, Pitahati was definitely one of the bands to look out for.

Irvin:  There were three stage areas (The Main Stage, The Next Stage and The Green Stage) just for music alone! And not forgetting the DJ deck over at the Heineken area, the Puma pimped-out bus with a stage on the rooftop, plus other music stuff happening here and there. One does not simply decide where to chill. My favourite was The Green Stage though, as it was the one with the up and coming acts, including my new favourite band Pitahati as well as the sweetly harmonious The Impatient Sisters.

Ari:  Now this was a pleasant surprise! For me (and admittedly most Indonesians), Malaysian music is synonymous with Malay slow rock which existed since the 1990’s and stubbornly persisted until these days (not my cup of tea). Urbanscapes opened my eyes as I saw many acts which swept me off my feet. Well actually, it was the fans who tackled my feet as they shoved me aside to get nearer to the stages… but you know what I mean. Young musicians from both mainstream and experimental music genres got me hopping from stage to stage. From the sweet-sounding Narmi to the eccentric +2dB and even Sheila Majid whom we all love and adore, all of them shone with positive vibes, and towards the bright future of the Malaysian music industry.

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Rain didn’t deter the spirit of the poncho-clad crowd who sang and danced along to Sheila Majid’s old classics like Sinaran and Warna.

5)      Art Attack

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A light of hope for humanity.

Irvin:  Foolishly, I withdrew a little bit of ‘moolah’ just before I boarded the LRT to here. There were so many stalls selling super cool stuff, of which the little money on me could not afford! Window shopping time! Vintage dresses, chunky necklaces, colourful eco-friendly mugs, handmade notebooks, badges and postcards – all beautifully made and eccentric in their very own way! “Ari, please keep my purse safe and away from me.” With my monies safe (I hope?!), I wandered around some more to check out the crafty exhibitions.

Ari:  For me, what’s amazing about all these creative pieces is that they are not mere l’art pour l’art, but each actually served a certain cause. For example, this particular installation was empty at first, but as each person donates one light bulb (or more) until all 3,000 light bulbs are on, it lit up the evening like a bright glimmer of hope. The proceeds go to Epic Homes’ efforts to help Orang Asli (indigenous Malaysians) with their housing. I am sure they were thankful for the couple of bulbs I bought (with Irvin’s money).

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What’s love to you?

Two days too short

Urbanscapes has been great. We went for the music, but we came back home with so much more! The event brought so many people of different backgrounds together and inspired them to do more even after it’s all over – the youth of our generation needs more events like this. Yes, Urbanscapes 2012 was more than just Sigur Rόs. It was a two-day celebration of Malaysian art beyond music. We will definitely go for next year’s Urbanscapes and the following years (unless we suddenly decided that it’s not cool anymore).

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A beautiful performance to cap a flippin’ awesome festival – Sigur Rόs!