Esplanade’s Malay Festival of Arts to feature shadow puppets, music, dance performances from May 18 to 21

Pesta Raya – Malay Festival of Arts is into its 22nd edition this year.

Maisy Phua

Self-proclaimed fashion icon, pomeranian mom and Paris Hilton fan.

Published: 15 May 2023, 3:52 PM

Pesta Raya – Malay Festival of Arts will return to the Esplanade from May 18 to 21 presenting a lineup of engaging programmes from the Malay community. 

The yearly event celebrates Malay arts, heritage and culture, spotlighting contemporary and traditional theatre, dance and music from the Nusantara (Malay Archipelago).

This year, the festival will celebrate and explore stories that keep its rich culture alive. It will feature traditional storytelling forms such as wayang kulit (puppet-shadow play), bangsawan (a form of Malay operatic theatre), and awang batil (a form of musical storytelling). 

The storytelling will also continue online with a presentation of specially commissioned short films by Malaysian film directors Yusry Abd Halim, Sharifah Amani and Junad M. Nor.

Throughout the festival, audiences can look forward to Rasa Cinta, a musical performance inspired by the customs and traditions practised by the Malay community in Singapore by Nadi Singapura, a traditional Malay ensemble formed in 2011.


Led by rebana artist Yaziz Hassan and prominent drummer and percussionist Riduan Zalani, the ensemble features traditional Malay instruments accompanied by dancing and singing. PHOTO CREDIT: ESPLANADE – THEATRES ON THE BAY


Rasa Cinta will take place daily from May 18 to 21 at 6.45pm at the Esplanade Forecourt Garden and tickets are free.

Participants can also look forward to Malaysian R&B star Dayang Nurfaizah’s return to Singapore at Esplanade Concert Hall. This will be her first appearance since her sold-out show in 2018.


Backed by an 11-piece concert band, Dayang will perform timeless hits such as Tudung Periuk, Nak Dara Rindu and Umpan Jinak Di Air Tenang. PHOTO CREDIT: ESPLANADE – THEATRES ON THE BAY


Her performance will take place on May 20 from 8pm till 9.30pm at Esplanade Concert Hall, with ticket prices ranging from $40 to $125.

Although tickets are sold out as of May 15, limited tickets may be released 24 hours before the show. Interested participants are advised to join the waitlist to be contacted if tickets become available.

For those interested in more traditional performances, Singaporean-Malay wayang kulit group, Sri Setia Pulau Singa and Malaysian ambient soundscape artist duo, Kicau-Bilau, will present a wayang kulit (traditional puppet-shadow play) story, Sirat Maharaja Buka Negeri, with a modern music twist. 

The performance follows the tale of a king who faces innumerable trials and tribulations as he attempts to build his own nation, until things take a turn for the better after the mysterious appearance of a beautiful princess.


Singa Sri Setia Pulau Singa was formed by a group of youths from Singapore on Mar 26, 2012. PHOTO CREDIT: ESPLANADE – THEATRES ON THE BAY


The show will take place every day from May 19 to 21 at 8pm at Esplanade Forecourt Garden, with a second show at 9pm on May 20. Tickets are free.

From May 19 to 21, participants can also enjoy a traditional storytelling performance by Pak Romli Mahamud, the last awang batil of Perlis. 

Awang batil is a solo performer who narrates his stories as he beats the batil, a brass bowl or belanga pot commonly used to store water. 

The storyteller also plays other instruments such as the violin, serunai (wind musical instrument) and gendang terinai (traditional drum). 

During the narration, the storyteller uses two masks, the Hulubalang (traditional warrior) mask and the Wak Nujum (royal soothsayer) mask, when suitable characters appear in the stories to attract the audience’s attention.


Pak Romli Mahamud comes from a lineage of awang batil storytellers. His late father, Mahmud Awang bin Wahid was the most famous storyteller from Kampung Pokok Sena in Chuping, Perlis. PHOTO CREDIT: ESPLANADE – THEATRES ON THE BAY


The performance will take place every day from May 19 to 21 from 7.45pm till 8.15pm at Esplanade Lawn, outside Singtel Waterfront Theatre at Esplanade. Tickets are free.

More information on the festival’s programmes can be found on Esplanade’s website.

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