The Husband

Most men genuinely believe that they are a perfect husband to their wife. Or the king of some sort. Unfortunately, the husbands that I’ve been observing over the years including my next of kin are the complete opposite.

Most of the irresponsible pieces of shit often think they are superior and try in any way possible to make their wives feel inferior. And to me, this is a classic case of low self-esteem. It’s also a classic domestic abuse which so many men get away with. You don’t see the scar on the skin, but they are eating them slowly from inside.

The traditionalistic school of thought believe that husbands have authority over their wives. It is a highly ingrained belief. Today, I personally do not think so. It’s a practice that should stay in the past. I find it downright ridiculous to ask for a husband’s permission to pay your family a visit or shave your armpit. Even if he forbids it in the most gentle way, it does not make any sense. It’s just domineering.

In my opinion, it only makes sense to ask for permission to buy a new car knowing maybe the husband will have to pay for the monthly instalment. But if you are forking out your own money to pay for it, by all means, go ahead and there is no need to ask for permission. It’s fine to discuss before making the decision, however, and if there is a budget, stick to it.

But if you got a job offer and you want to work, and you happen to have a husband who constantly makes a condescending remark or acts as though he is the smartest person in the universe, fucking grab the opportunity by the balls before you both (and your kids) starve to death. We all know that some men have a very bad track record when it comes to monetary and family management. Not trying to be sexist here; just stating a fact.

You see, marriage is founded on the principle of mutuality. It’s a partnership, not a private fiefdom for dominant husbands. I do however understand that men need to feel respected by their wives. Especially around their friends and extended family. They need their ego stroked.

Newsflash dickheads, the keyword here is RESPECT. And women need to feel respected and loved by their husbands too. Not to boss them around, humiliate them and mute them. There is only to a certain extent that a wife can give in and show admiration. And while they can still and want to do so, a good husband should know not to cross the line.

While I disagree with how other religion views this matter, I would like to share a quote. Believe me, I don’t want to use a quote from the Bible as a reference because it will look like I’m biased but it’s so good, I can’t resist.

Proverbs 31:23-26

23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.

26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

You see there will never be gender or marriage equality. But I do believe a change can be made if men (and women) just leave the old practice in the past. After all, behind every great man is a great woman. And in Proverbs 31, it’s stated that the support of the wife has helped to elevate her husband. He didn’t go up there by himself.

We have all heard jokes about “who wears the pants in the family.” Yet leadership in the home is no laughing matter. And one of the primary roles of a husband which I believe is to lead. That leadership simply means influence. A husband should not dictate or demands total obedience to his every wish and command.

But have I seen this leadership though? No, unfortunately, I haven’t. I’ve only seen pathetic submission and marriages on the verge of failing.

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A Chat With Music Producer Galvin Patrick

With the growth of home recording technology (made affordable to everybody), many homosapiens find themselves venturing into music production. While some eventually pull multiple duties as studio owners, sound engineers, and even vocal coaches, the rest went on to work as music producers, producing award-winning songs.

Galvin Patrick is a Simanggang-based music producer. His passion for music developed at a very early age, from watching his mother playing the keyboard and eventually learned from her. In his teen, he picked up the guitar and thereon mastered the art of playing the keytar.

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The 30-year-old is also part of a church choir as a singer and a keyboardist. In his college days back in 2007, he actively performed in the local music scene as the keyboardist for independent bands like ‘Lateral Faction’ and ‘Solemn’.

Over the years, he naturally gravitated to compositions and has come to specialise in producing music, which he does in his bedroom using mainly FL Studio 12.

Galvin does not want to have a signature sound. He wants to be viewed as a more versatile music producer. On that ground, he has collaborated with and produced for a number of local and international artists on different music genres. This includes Paulo Santos, a singer from Brazil, Masia One, a rapper from Singapore and Melissa Francis, an Iban songstress from Sri Aman, Sarawak.

The music business is a nasty, cutthroat environment that will chew up and spit out those who are not well-ordered. And Galvin’s journey is also a rocky one. However, he is not allowing anything to slow him down. In fact, through his music, the producer has helped made the world a little better.

In 2011, he contributed one of his songs called Try To Save The World to  help the victims of earthquake and tsunami in Japan through ‘Indie Aid Japan’, a compilation album of 28 digital tracks.

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Below is a little bit more about the producer:

So Galvin, name 5 songs in your playlist.
The Chainsmokers & Coldplay – Something Just Like This
Ed Sheeran – The Shape of You
Major Lazer – Run Up (ft. PARTYNEXTDOOR & Nicki Minaj)
Kygo – It Ain’t Me (with Selena Gomez)
The Weeknd – Starboy (ft. Daft Punk)

Do you have a guilty music or entertainment pleasure?
I do. Mostly boy band pop songs from the 90s. I listen to the Spice Girls, Aqua and Madonna as well.

You play the keys, you write and sing a little bit, and you produce. But you consider yourself more of a producer, correct?
Yeah. But I have trouble defining myself actually, including my genres. I also do a little bit of this and that. What I do love is, capturing ideas and turning them into songs.

A lot of people have the notion of producers as self-taught, bedroom musicians. Are you one of those and do you have a formal musical education?
I never took any professional training or classes. Most of the time, DIY or self-studied. Although I wish I had taken a formal musical education or any sound engineering courses. It was a tough call due to a tight budget. Most of the courses were in KL or overseas during that time.

I see. Shall we talk about your journey of becoming a self-taught producer then?
Sure. Let me begin with that time when I asked my uncle to get me a pirated software CD. I was looking for the best audio converter, for ringtones – the one that can chop the audio and have all the basic functions. Then I saw the ‘Magix Music Maker’ software in that CD, tried it out and was amazed by the functions. I thought to myself that ‘this is a hidden gem’. I started using it, and get to know the basics from the HELP file. There was no YouTube tutorial during that time. A few years later, I discovered Sony Acid Music, then shifted to Reason, Cubase, Ableton Live, and finally using FL Studio till now. It is the best DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) so far for me! I bought the original copy a few years back.

How did your family react to the idea of you producing music?
All parents want the best for their children. For me, it was quite tough. They were not keen on the idea. But so far, they have been showing great support and help to get my music going.

Tell us about your studio. What DAW and some of the plug-ins that you use?
I have a small bedroom studio with MSI GE 2PE Apache Pro, installed with FL Studio 12.4, M-Audio USB interface, A Samson CO3U mic, Kurzweil monitors. I use some hardware instruments like Korg Electribe Music Production, Korg Kross Workstation keyboard, Korg RK-100s keytar, alongside some midi controllers like Akai MPK mini and M-Audio Trigger Finger Pro. Most of the plug-ins I use are from FL Studio itself, with Airdrums, Hybrid3 and my favourite plugin, Harmor VST.

Do you prefer analogue or digital sound production?
Both. But it depends on what kind of music I want to produce. I did record some guitars on some of my tracks.

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Your musical style has been defined as pop, hip hop and electronic dance. However, you probably listen to all kinds of music, correct? So what influences you to create your beats?
I listen to all, I love universal music. I would Google a song and find out who the producer is. I like producers like Kanye West, RedOne, Norman Cook, Max Martin, Diplo, Afrojack, Zedd, etc. But, overall, I love a mix of genres and experimenting them. That is one of the reasons I love to collaborate with everybody.

I see. Now, you were actively performing in the local music scene in 2007. Could you tell me more about how that started and your experience working with other musicians/bands?
I shared a demo I recorded back home with a friend (Bernie) in college. He then introduced me to his sister (Carrie) and talked about auditioning at ‘Rentak Juara RTM’. I was thrilled after listening to her voice during our band practice but we did not make it through. It was probably because she was way too young during that time. She was 14! Amazing talent with a BIG voice! But later, we performed together in metal-synth-rock bands called ‘Lateral Faction’ and ‘Solemn’. It was a great experience. I got to expose my talents to many different audiences in Kuching back then.

Besides that, you also formed your own project band – The 14th Project – in 2008 and released a demo with singles like ‘Goodbye to You’ and ‘Kesempurnaan Cinta’. Could you tell me more about that?
It was actually my project band before I proceed as a solo artist. I used Sony Acid Music to produce our tracks at that time. There were a lot of versions and demos of our songs. Maybe you can Google them. It was my earliest works that sounded really bad. I was so noob while producing those songs during that time!

I think you have gotten better. You were nominated in several music categories – ‘Lagu Borneo Paling Popular’, ‘Artis Solo / Band Borneo Paling Popular’, ‘Artis Harapan Borneo’ in Anugerah Carta Borneo Era 2011 for the song ‘Sang Mentari’, and ‘Best Electronica/Dance Song’ in VIMA 2011 music awards. And won the Anugerah Carta Borneo Era FM Sarawak (Best Lyrics) in 2012 for the song ‘Harapan’, and a Silver Award in VIMA (Voice of International Music Award) in 2014 (Best Genre Bender) for the song ‘Lagu Ini Hanya Untukmu’. How do you feel about these accomplishments?
It took me a while to believe all the hard work had paid off. I don’t really like to be praised as I don’t feel like I have achieved enough. There is more work to go for, but I do appreciate the support from everyone who has been pushing me forward.

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After the many collaborations and the awards that you have won, you stumbled into mainstream prominence which led to you being signed under Warner/Chappell Music (Malaysia) to compose original songs for other artists, globally. Are you still doing that?
Yes. I recently continued my contract for 3 more years. I am hoping to work and collaborate with more talents from around Malaysia and worldwide. WCM (Warner Chappell Music) is actually my publisher, to copyright and protect my works. That means I can still work with whoever as long as they agree to split the royalty percentage. Sulu Sarawak, a brilliant songwriter was the one who helped me to get to WCM back then, after so much struggling to look for a publisher. See, I cannot hide the truth. I have been the victim in so many stories. It is probably because they wanted money more than music, and I was tricked so many times – my music was not getting paid, worst; stolen.

That is the ugly truth. But you managed. Now, that aside, I am sure you learned a thing or two from that, like revenue and royalty statements?
Let me put it like this; imagine your music is your property with some houses on it. The houses are the radio stations. The people in them are the listeners. Do you think the houses and people are staying there for free? They will pay the rent to you if they want to stay there, and more if for a longer period. That is how it works. People pay you for ‘renting’ your music on the radio. You will get the royalties for how many times the song got played on air.

Right. This is something many must take note, indeed. So, what is your philosophy concerning your own work?
I would like to create something that I love and make you fall in love with it too. Like buying a perfect gift.

 

Do you ever find yourself struggling as a creative? In the sense of music direction.
For me, I do stuff during late nights and early in the morning where inspiration would usually come. Sometimes, I have to take a break by watching movies and play games like Dota 2. Whenever an idea pops up, I usually record it on the audio recording app on my phone. Every idea is precious. Sometimes it takes 2 years to develop a song. I had to change and update the sound every now and then to make it more complete.

Do you think about the relevance of your music before you make it?
I like to update myself with sound designing properties. It is not about the trending genre but the sound you should develop to make it ‘yours’.

Right. You have been around for a while. A decade at least. How do you see the current state of the local music industry? (Mainstream and independent.)
So far, we are still left behind with ideas. For example, vocal sampling. I did vocal sampling in my song called ‘Mencuba Lagi’ 5 years ago. Now you can listen to top radio hits with lots and lots of vocals sampling. Though digital sampling has been in existence since the 1960s.

That is very interesting. How do you feel about the popularity of your music today? 
Average. (I think) I did some pretty good songs with B-Heart and YMY, mostly well received. I did a collaboration with international artist like Masia One, on a track called Local Girls. She is an international rapper from Singapore/Canada and had collaborated with big names like Pharrell Williams and Major Lazer. I am not that popular yet. That is not really a concern. But I will get more songs out!

Do you think that social media has impacted your standing and presence within music?
I do. With today’s technology and thanks to the many smartphone users. The free marketing in promoting is a good move. Most of my songs had been downloaded and shared among friends through social media.

Do you feel like there is a lack of brotherhood within the local and independent music community?
The connection within the people. Yes. It is lacking because of the negative values. People do support you, but not forever. People change from fashion to food according to their personal preferences. The community cannot cope up with their interest so they often break up into smaller groups. However, there is a lot of bias in favour of helping others throughout the music scene. The truth is yet to be told. Someday.

You have collaborated with quite a number of rappers from the East and West Malaysia. What was your first memory of hip-hop?
I fall in love with hip hop music from Dr Dre’s work in Eminem’s songs since I bought the cassettes. Later on, from Sarawak itself, when I get to know some rappers and get into their community. I had so much fun knowing their music movement and get to collaborate on some songs with them.

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To date, who did you work with the most and what is the most challenging collaboration – with who/what song?
I think to work with Paulo Santos a singer from Brazil. I had to learn some Portuguese to communicate with him and his producer. We swap files through emails and WhatsApp as usually but this time, in Brazilian Portuguese! Even foreign language can’t stop me from collaborating with anyone! There are 5 songs altogether in Portuguese. You can check them out here.

Who do you really want to work with; producer and/or artist?
I wish to work with anyone from Interscope Records, like RedOne, Zedd, The Chainsmokers, or anyone from Malaysia as well. Not just big names, but the local artist as well!

What is something you have been trying to do differently as a beat maker/producer so far?
I am trying to create a Sarawak’s style beat, as a genre originally created by me. Well, you can listen to Cantik or Local Girls to get the idea.

You were quiet for a year or two. I assume you were working on something different, something new. Mind sharing?
I isolated myself from everyone for the past 2 years and was heavily involved with church activities. The politic in the local music scene was getting a bit too much for me to handle. I went through depression, I was not getting much from my career, my songs were rejected for many times, and the local music community neglected me for being different, for looking too far ahead. I was criticised for suggesting the copyrighting of music, for collaborating with more artist from West Malaysia than the East and for focusing too much on the hip hop genre. What they do not know is, I was doing all sorts of genres, and even producing songs for Melissa Francis (a famous Iban songstress) and with other Iban bands as well. My music was also tagged as ‘western food’. Once a local producer said to me ‘People don’t eat spaghetti here in Malaysia’. It was because of my ideas of making clubby styles of genres in the Malay language that does not suit the local listeners here in Malaysia.

You had a pretty rocky journey. But the fast-paced music industry always tests the boldest of creatives. What are your music goals?
I wish to develop a dynamic platform for musicians to collaborate, from anywhere to anyone, globally.

While most musicians/producers opt for commercial names, why did you decided not to do the same and use your real name instead?
For me, finding my true identity is important. Attaching music to my name is another thing. I was impressed with so many individuals who have so many stories behind their names, from Isaac Newton, Leonardo Da Vinci, Elvis Presley to Michael Jackson. Being the person behind my own name is like standing up for what I believe in, that is my dream, my passion, the journey within every song I ever created.

Do you have advice for aspiring artists?
The more you are struggling, the more success you will find, later. Dream big and work hard!
“Cantik” OUT NOW
iTunes: https://goo.gl/p33hWI
Apple Music: https://goo.gl/OFvDvg
Spotify: https://goo.gl/hTzBbE
Google Play: https://goo.gl/H35sLJ
Amazon: https://goo.gl/ACzObV
Deezer: https://goo.gl/5vZyJ4
Tidal: https://goo.gl/nZbrkx
Microsoft Groove: https://goo.gl/II7UKW
BandCamp: https://goo.gl/UWpYRA
YouTube: https://goo.gl/U5h9LL
Website: https://goo.gl/Q9QczA

Follow Galvin Patrick:
Facebook: https://goo.gl/EMmcMj
Twitter: https://goo.gl/bgQzmZ
Instagram: https://goo.gl/Kn9J6W
Spotify: https://goo.gl/Tfeuyi
Email: gmvinster@gmail.com

 

Miyo – Kuching Street Heroine

“Graffiti is a life force in a city, that says to every citizen, I’m alive, the city is alive. A city without graffiti is like a field without flowers.” UC Berkeley’s Professor Greg Niemeyer.

Graffiti, regardless of its form, makes a statement. And any notion of meaning or interpretation towards the art which has existed since prehistoric times is left to the perception of the viewer. However, people often consider it as vandalism.

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Graffiti is a time-intensive craft explored by highly skilled artists. And this art form is dominated by men. Contributions by the women have been particularly overlooked in many parts of the world. Despite pursuing their art under dangerous and illegal conditions, they do not receive the same respect as their male counterparts.

In Kuching, women are underrepresented in this subculture. One, however, is pushing the limit and challenging the stereotype. Miyo – real name Dewi Emilia binti Iskandar – is Kuching’s first female graffiti artist. In fact, the only one on the radar. Leaving her marks within the masculine spaces of street art, she astounds the traditional gender notions.

During my interview with her, she spoke passionately about the art of graffiti and her devotion to it. While some best-known female street artist has gone to great lengths to preserve their anonymity, she who sometimes goes by the moniker ‘The Black Cat‘, through this interview is doing the opposite.

Check out the interview below:

 

Could you describe your journey into becoming the first female graffiti artist in Kuching?

I used to create weird block letters. I was 13 at that time, and I had zero knowledge about graffiti. I was introduced to the art of graffiti in college by my lecturer. I started painting in 2007 on a plywood for a competition. I was a solo project.

I took a break and got back to it again in 2012 when I met my junior Dhiya Roslan who shares the same interest. I was not a skilled graffiti artist back then so, I picked up a thing or two from him.

We then officially kick-started our journey at an event called ‘Youthnity for Charity’ with some friends under the name RUSK Crew. There were Saddiq (Twenty-Fifth), Razi and Moody. After a while, we got along well and got Shafiq Fauzi (Shaff) on board as well to ‘bomb’ Kuching city.

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In 2013, they left to further their studies in KL. And I was left alone here. Fortunately, I had an offer to work at a bank so I had to go for training in KL for a week before sitting for the exam. When I was there, I saw a post on Jin Hackman’s Facebook page about a graffiti jam in KL. I contacted the curator of the event and joined a whole bunch of strangers to ‘bomb’ the walls in Jelatek. I was the only female writer there and the rest were pretty surprised. It is almost impossible to find a female graffiti writer in Malaysia.

After some unfortunate events in life, I stayed away from the scene for a bit. And got back to graffiti in March 2014. During that time, I received a couple of offers to paint on walls. I saw a great spot at the Bishopsgate’s arch in Carpenter Street and started to paint on the ‘virgin’ wall. I few friends tagged along and soon, Kuching city was filled with more and more graffiti.

Later, I began receiving some serious warnings from the Kuching North City Council (DBKU). I would fly to Singapore, KL and Miri whenever I get caught. But it was a great turning point when DBKU called me while I was in Singapore telling me that they want me to paint for the city. I took the offer and worked with an art community group that was recently established by D2K and I called the 9Lives. Ever since then, the public slowly accepts street art in Kuching and now more painters are coming out to ‘bomb’ the walls.

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I travel quite frequently since 2014 to Singapore, Indonesia and KL to leave my mark. I also took part in most of the graffiti events in Indonesia. Through that, I got to meet more great, incredible talents around the world.

2015 was also a great year as me and the 9Lives art group was approached by Petronas to paint under a program called ‘TanahAirku’ which made a big hit for Kuching painters.

In 2016, I won fourth place for a graffiti competition in Brunei against all guys and a girl (who got eliminated in the first round), created the first ever official graffiti workshop in Kuching with my old friends and got a spot under TEDx, exhibited some of my artworks and had a mini graffiti workshop session.

I have mostly been doing commission jobs to paint on walls and participated in quite a number of exhibitions under 9Lives. Now I focus on my work as an independent artist.

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It has been a tough journey with a rollercoaster ride from the streets to fitting in with an art group but nonetheless an amazing one; especially the ones that I have experienced in Indonesia and Brunei. I learned a lot through some graffiti friends in Indonesia, had my first ‘spraycation’ (spray-vacation) in Java from Jakarta to Tangerang to Yogyakarta to Bandung and back to Jakarta before flying back home, all by myself.

Indonesia is like my second home and I went there just to travel and paint on my own, met strangers then became good friends with some Indonesian’s finest like Poetry, Zaner, Cloze, Mone, Yogyakarta boys, Bandung writers and more. They certainly opened up my eyes to the real graffiti life and how it works.

Currently, I am given the opportunity to use a studio space at ChinaHouse, Kuching on my own until further notice; as a creative space.

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That is a very inspiring story! As a female pioneer of street art in Kuching, who or what inspired you?

There are a few people. My mum is my great source of inspiration; I saw her doing batik ‘canting’ since I was small. My daughter as my motivation to be the mum she would be proud of. My late boyfriend Yuki who has mad love for creative street stuff and also this great graffiti writer named MAD C from Germany who is just great at what she is doing.

Have you come across any other aspiring female graffiti artists in/from Kuching?

Not even a single soul, but that is yet to change. I just need to work harder to create interest in them, I guess. Some approached me for a bit of guidance but then disappeared in a flash. Graffiti is always known as a ‘male’ thing and that explains how it is almost impossible to get females to have passion in graffiti.

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Right. So, in your opinion, how is street art different than more formal kinds of contemporary art? Is it more or less important? Why?

Graffiti is the only art that cannot be bought or sold. Unless if it is a commission job, then, of course, graffiti writers are getting paid but loses the real essence of graffiti as an expression that is priceless. Real graffiti artists do not expose themselves in the public eyes. They are mostly anonymous, always working discreetly with artwork that shouts their name and character.

Graffiti or street art is as important as contemporary art where messages are conveyed through arts whether it is based solely on imagination or sensitive topics like politics or religion to create awareness. Most people perceive graffiti as vandalising properties because it made the streets look dirty but graffiti writers think the opposite.

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I believe you come from an artistic background. And your dad is a musician. How would you say this influenced you to become an artist yourself?

Both of my parents are creative beings who came from creative fathers. My dad’s father was a great self-taught ‘architect’ who built our kampong house from scratch and always been building and fixing broken stuff at home on his own. He also played ukulele in an orchestra band in Kuching back then. He is a big fan of keroncong music and he loves to write. From there, my dad might have been influenced by him and he himself is a great keyboardist, a composer and a sound engineer who has also been through many ‘rollercoaster rides’.

My mum’s dad is also a good singer who loves dancing to keroncong music. And he has the most beautiful handwriting I have ever seen. My mum used to be a singer and she loves art as much as I do. I grew up watching her doing her batik ‘canting’ but unfortunately, she had to stop doing what she loves because of her health condition while raising me as a single mother.

My parents made me think that it is possible for me to do what I love to do and be successful as long as I put my heart to it with lots of patience for my passion. There will be ups and downs but the most important thing is to keep on moving forward and create more as time goes by and guide others in the long run to create professional art community.

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How do your family and friends feel about your artwork?

Initially, my mum was not too keen on me leaving a fixed day job to be a full-time artist but somehow, I managed to open up her eyes when I got paid a lot for my projects. Her main concern is my daughter’s future because I am a single mother also. But with time, she began to understand that money is not everything and for as long as I keep on doing what I love wholeheartedly, I will always get her support. The rest of my family was also very sceptical about it in the beginning but like my mum, they are slowly adjusting to the fact that I am rebellious and a born artist at heart. Nonetheless, I get supports from friends and families even though not everything I created impresses them.

How do you go about getting walls for yourself and other street artists?

I take walks around town or cruise at times and with my ‘cat’s eyes,’ I would spot a wall that screams ‘paint me’ or abandoned buildings, walls under the bridge that catches my eyes. When the time is right, I will ‘bomb’ the spot either by myself or with some friends.


What is challenging or difficult about street art in Kuching?

It used to be thrilling which makes it exciting because we need to avoid from getting caught by the city council. Now it does not feel as adventurous as before. The city council has now accepted street art and allowed it to be filled in Kuching city.

I can tell you miss the thrill! And what do you find surprising about doing street art in Kuching?

The public and the government bodies seem to have adapted to having graffiti all around town. And most painted walls have become an attraction where locals and tourists would take photos for different occasions, from weddings to projects, to just a mere selfie shot.

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What kinds of reactions do you get as a female practising street art in Kuching? Are you threatened or do you feel frightened? And are you lauded?

As a female graffiti writer, I get criticised a lot. Some from the professional graffiti writers, some from peers who thinks that my art is ‘ugly’. At times it gets to me, but far from threatened. I felt challenged which makes me want to be better and surprise myself by proving them wrong.

I admire the rebel in you and the positivity. So, spray cans or brush?

Spray cans are my boyfriends.

What brands of spray paint are you using?

Anchor and Pylox are the cheaper options. Most of us use that. The rather expensive one would be Montana. That one last longer.

Making art is expensive. How much do you spend on spray paints an average?

About RM300, I think.

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What inspires your writing style?

My writing style is inspired by Hiragana & Katakana, Sarawakian natives elements, and also the Egyptian hieroglyphics.

What are your techniques and what inspired you to use them?

Just basic graffiti skills actually.

Can you tell me more about the Petronas street art project?

9Lives was approached by Kaki Seni Malaysia; they were looking for artists from Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching to be in the second edition of street art under TanahAirku; TanahAirku 3.0 Street Art Kuching. For the Kuching side, 9Lives was given 3 walls; 6 artists, 3 males and 3 females.

I collaborated with Twenty-Fifth for this and our artwork is called the Tree Edge in which his piece was a hornbill and a hibiscus while mine is the word ‘harmony’ on a ‘terabai’. It was one of my favourite wall-painting experience as it was the first time we painted using sky lift. We were literally brought to a higher perspective to paint which also symbolises a positive vibe.

I am blessed to be given a great opportunity to expose myself the legal way. And to work on it with an old friend made it even more special. We are equally proud to represent Sarawak for the project. That painting, I dedicate to all Sarawakians. May all of us continue to live in harmony.

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Are you or any other street artists mentoring young street artists in Kuching?

No doubt. Some do it on the streets, some do it through workshops.

Is there a strong interest in visual arts, or its history, in Kuching?

I believe so. As you can see the rapid growth in the Kuching art scene. The only thing that we need now is a ‘Balai Seni’ to display the work of our local artists (young and old). Since most visual arts nowadays got exposed through the ‘back door’ (shortcut) unlike the fine artist that has got to go through a lot of tedious and difficult process, the interest somehow shifts at times to modern contemporary art even though fine art is still considered as more valuable. We have art collectors and art lovers coming from all around the world or the locals who would support the local art scene by purchasing our artworks or give us commission jobs.

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Please tell me about your involvement with the street art community in Kuching.

I was definitely the pusher, the so-called pioneer who started the ‘trend’ for the rest to follow. Currently creating and pulling the ‘chosen ones’ to guide because I choose quality over quantity.

Do you think that more people in Kuching are more aware of contemporary art because of the social media?

Through social media and based on what they found in their travels.

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Are artists using their art as a way to voice their political feelings? And are you?

Some who has the balls and a great knowledge of the law and political matters, most definitely give their shots every now and then. It is not my mission, so I stay out of it.

Would you use street art to highlight women’s rights in Kuching in the near future?

Why not? Since I am always being discriminated for being ‘the only female’ in the scene, therefore, I have to work harder to reach certain standards. It would be great to show the public what we can achieve.

Is contemporary art in Kuching important? Why?

It is, to suit the future; to move forward without forgetting our roots.

Do you have any plans for exchanges with artists from outside to come to Kuching?

I am looking forward to hosting my friends from Indonesia mostly and the rest of my friends from all around the world for collaborations in Kuching.

Is it important for Malaysian street artists to have international recognition and opportunities? How could they be better supported?

Yes, and some of us have made it far to Dubai for a massive wall art project where they get paid a great amount of money. Also, some other projects through connections that were built from time to time through travels, research and such. Street art is known internationally and every country got their own great artist. Most probably through collaborations and sponsored travels, and more exposure I believe.

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Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects?

I have established in 2013, a hip-hop community called Tha Project. Now I am focusing on building it from scratch; through 7 elements of hip hop – emcee, bboy, graffiti, DJ, beatbox, basic knowledge of hip hop, skateboarding and maybe basketball in the near future? Watch this space jam!

Do you have any plans to collaborate with street artists from other states/countries?

Well, of course. Hint: CATFISH (a collaboration with a Filipino female street artist, Beni Art).

Tell me about your ambitions for the future. Where would you like to be in, say, five years?

I would love to be living either in Japan or in France (with my daughter) as a harmonic poet, graffiti writer and a hip-hop enthusiast. Inshaa Allah.

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Constantly in evolution, artists who believe in making changes will surely pave the way for more aspiring artists. Miyo is no different. She is paving the way – and back alleys – for even more female artists making graffiti, not only in Kuching but also perhaps, Sarawak. And Tha Project will surely be the next big thing many would hear in the near future.

I am definitely stoked to see more strong, smart and talented women in the predominantly male subculture. And who knows, this exposure may help Kuching’s graffiti movement to become launched into the rest of the world.

PS: ‘terabai’ is an Iban war shield.

Just SWAIV It; Smoothly

In the music scene – independent and mainstream – there is a lot more that makes the musicians similar than different. Although many come with a style that is rare and unique, most musicians combine a lot of ingredients and elements in their music.

Refused to be pigeon-holed into any single category, they take the elements of things that they like without trying to sound like anybody else. This is a challenge. Although it allows the musicians to improvise and combine the best of everything, there are so many bands out there that sound almost the same.

Swaiv may not have been a band name you have heard before. But after this, perhaps, you may hear the name over and over again. Previously known as Pearl & Rendall, Swaiv started off as an acoustic duo in 2010. Driven by their passion for music and personal experiences, Swaiv now consists of five young musicians with years of experience in many musical styles.

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(from left) Adrian Meringai (bass), Doboson Elisha (guitar), Meryll Pearl (vocals), Brian Chia (keys) and Rendall Ngumbang (drums).

The band recently performed at The Wayang, a bar located in the heart of Kuching City. The barstools were worn out, and the crowd was pleased. In between rehearsals for their upcoming gigs, at almost midnight, members of the multi-element band – equally inspired by classic tunes and today’s hit music – sat down for an interview with me.

Among other things including the band’s origins and musical influences, we also talked about their experience sharing a stage with Yuna, their thoughts on the independent music scene in Kuching and what is in store for the rest of 2017.

Check out my interview with the humble musicians below:

 

A band usually started with like-minded musicians getting together. Tell us how you got together to form Swaiv?

Brian: From what I understand, the band started out as “Pearl & Rendall”, the duo – this married couple here. It started out in 2010. And then, the story between the rest, I am not too sure. But personally, I, Brian Chia who plays keys was invited by Adrian Meringai, the bassist. Fortunately enough, we sustain this long and played quite a few gigs together. I must admit, it has been fun.

Rendall: Yup, it started off with both of us, we took part in RockERA. It was supposed to be a band thing but there were just two of us. So the judge said, he likes what he hears but it would be better if we come with a band because it sounded like… So empty. So we thought since Adrian at that time has started to pick up bass again, the three of us would do something. Later, we decided to form a band and Adrian looped in Brian. Dobo was always around, playing the shaker, of all things.

Brian: At that time we had a different line-up. Before Dobo came, there was another guy, his name is Nathaniel. He was on drums and percussions. And due to other commitments, we reshuffled. Dobo was the blessing in disguise – now, playing the guitar.

Rendall: We are the original band members. There were six of us, including former drummer, Charles Arthur. Now we are down to five.

 

Could you tell me more about yourself?

Brian: See, that is a question I dread. Aaah.. I would like to start with this. I am actually a Sabahan and I have been staying here in Kuching for 14 years. Uhmm.. I started piano when I was 5 and I really like the guitar. I took on guitar when I was 13 and decided to do music when I was 15. Thank God I managed to pull through and sort of continuing with it. I met not only these guys here, good musicians, but also people from the community. Initially, I was playing keys for Swaiv. But for certain gigs, I will play the guitar. And just this year, I started back on the keys again. And really, thus far, I think the best show that we have done together as Swaiv was for Yuna’s homecoming. That is by far, I think, the highlight of Swaiv. And definitely, more to come, I believe.

Rendall: I was always keen on music and I have been playing music since I was 12. I started off with guitar and played mostly rock songs. After that, I met Pearl, and I loved her voice. I thought her voice was suitable for jazz, blues, R&B or something and… After that, from rock, I started playing jazz. And since then I have been playing a lot of jazz and anything that I would say, close to jazz. Before Swaiv, I played for a couple of bands, mostly as a sessionist. As a drummer and guitarist. But when Swaiv first started, I played the guitar. We shuffled and now in 2017, I am the official drummer.

Pearl: I never expected to become an official musician because I did not anticipate what would ever be the means to do it. But I started singing when I was 15. And I played the guitar and started making YouTube covers. And I tried to be in a band as a vocalist but I was rejected because of my voice. See, I cannot sing high notes. It was demotivating, I stopped singing and just focus on playing the bass for a while. I was in two bands at that time. I played Muse and post-hardcore songs. Later on, my voice was accepted by some people and Swaiv happened.

Dobo: I started playing music since I was 10. I took a piano lesson, guitar lesson. And in high school, I started to join my friends playing rock music, and grindcore. And then when I was in college, I played acoustic. Right now… I played bass, guitar, a little bit of keys… Sort of… Everything. Before Swaiv, there was no band at all. But I have always had the interest in music.

Adrian: I first became involved with music when I was 13. It was all because of a friend who is now a tattoo artist. He invited me to his house, picked up his dad’s Fender guitar and taught me how to play All The Small Things by Blink 182. That was a good grounding for me. At that time, I had no idea how to play the guitar, I never touched a guitar before. So it all started from there and eventually, we jammed almost every week. I ended up being really into it. In college, I lost the interest as I was focusing on other stuff. But slowly, I got back to it again. Now, I am in Swaiv, playing bass.1378594_649267011856182_3184267878387894644_nThis, I have to know. Why the name Swaiv?

Pearl: We had been through so many names trying to work out what we could call our band. One day it just came to us. It rhymes with ‘wave’. We wanted a name that represents soothing music, smooth and cool vibes. So, we thought of the waves. And later from ‘waves’ to ‘Swaiv’. The soothing sound of the waves will always remind us of where we come from and why we are here.

 

You are sort of a blues and jazzy multi-element indie-pop band. Could you tell me about the biggest influences and inspirations for your music?

Brian: This is a very interesting question, I think. Because like what you heard early on, everybody comes from a different background. I think that is where it is a good challenge for everyone because everybody will put on their idea from different genres and elements. And that is where it sort of pushes each other like ‘Oh, this is new for me. So, I am gonna have to change my, whatever it is, like my playlist, I gotta listen to more of this stuff, that stuff to help the band’. I think that goes for everyone. So, definitely, there are some tunes that we do not really link on to but, for the band sake, it not only pushes us, it also helps everyone in general. Basically in terms of making us sounding versatile. We are mainly jazz-pop-ish group but as instrumentalists, we all enjoy playing other stuff as well.

 

That is for the band. What about personally? Who inspires you?

Brian: Rendall would have a very interesting story to tell.

Rendall: Mine would be John Otto, the drummer, and founding member of the nu metal band Limp Bizkit. But for Swaiv, I am inspired mostly by Jamie Cullum and Jason Mraz.

Pearl: Uhmm… I love Julie London. She has the sexiest voice ever. And Michael Buble too.

Dobo: Me, I would say… Dewa and Death Row Records, to name a few.

Adrian: Music in general, I would say Limp Bizkit. That is how I met Rendall actually. So Limp Bizkit, to Korn, to Nirvana. I also look up to Sam Rivers. The way he plays bass is kind of different. And from there I discovered Incubus’ former bassist – I forgot his name. After that, I met a friend who told me about this one guy and from there I focus more or playing the bass. I started playing more fusion style.

 

Who in the current music scene do you most admire most and why?

Rendall: Bruno Mars. Yeah!

 

Bruno Mars? His new music or the previous one?

Rendall: All of his music.

 

You have a few songs out. And I find that they are all very different from each other. Are you planning to release a full album in the near future?

Rendall: An album at the moment is quite big of a project to work on. I would say EP. We are working on an EP. Our first EP consist of 7 songs. Now we are going to come out with our second EP. Probably this year or next year. We will see.

Brian: In the near future, yeah.

Dobo: Hopefully by this year, if everything goes well.

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What was the creative process like when developing all your songs – music then lyric of the other way round? And who usually composes the songs.

Rendall: Sometimes lyric first then the music.

Pearl: Most of the time, music first.

Rendall: When it comes to composing a song, I think everyone contributes. Sometimes we will call it ‘Brian Song’, or ‘Dobo Song’. We ourselves influence and push each other to try and produce something new, something different.

 

And how did the writing process work? Is there a formula you employed, like starting with a guitar riff or title?

Rendall: Somebody either has a riff, or tune or something and we’ll be work from there. Someone will say, ‘Hey guys, I have this thing going on, check this out’ and we’ll slowly build it up from there into a more proper and clean composition. And after all that, we will… ‘Swaiv it!’

Brian: Yeah. During rehearsals, we would try out new arrangements. Everyone will throw in their ideas and improvise. We basically feed off each other.

 

You have a very deep sultry voice. Kind of whistle-y too. Do you do anything special to keep your voice in shape?

Pearl: Not that I know of. Haha. But when I perform, I just sing passionately, I guess. And you know, it just comes out naturally.

 

Right. You have been performing every once a week somewhere, correct? How did you get the gigs?

Brian: Hmm… A lot of the gigs are from previous exposures. It could be from personal friends.

Dobo: Recently, mostly are from friends.

Brian: Yeah. But I have to highlight this, Kuching is a close-knit city. Everybody knows each other, especially the music scene. So, we sort of look out for each other in a way that, say, if we really are not able to take the gig, we would sort of pass it to another group or something like that. Or vice versa.

 

What has the fan/audience feedback been like so far?

Rendall: It has been good, we are thankful for that. I think the best compliment we received is from Germany. They sent us an email and asked about our new projects. That, and a band from Italy.

 

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That is awesome. So what was the response to that – what did you guys say to them?

Rendall: We told them we had a pause moment for a while. At one point we hardly did anything.

Brian: We took a break for almost two years. We kickstarted in mid-2016. And when we received that email, we were in awe actually. They discovered us from Twitter, I think.

Rendall: I think it was because of Bandcamp. The exposure. To have the opportunity to meet the community on the global scale would be pretty awesome.

Brian: Well there is a fine line between compliments and… Just because you are my friend, I can help you. Things like that. Sometimes you just got to take it with a pinch of salt.

Pearl: There was this one time during Shades of Arts. We have not been playing for a few years and suddenly someone approached us – ‘Oh, I am a fan, and I have been waiting for Swaiv to play’. We’re thankful that you know, someone recognises us.

 

What has been your favourite live performance to give?

Rendall: I must say that it would be that time we opened for Yuna. We were the opening act for her gig here.

Brian: Yeah. I have to second that. That is definitely by far the coolest life experience. This was in 2012. And we played all our original songs.

 

Nice! So what did Yuna say to you guys?

Pearl: We did not really get to talk to her after the show, unfortunately. Well, only the guys.

Brian: Yuna was the highlight but I guess the whole experience in terms of sharing the same stage, personally and I think I can say this on behalf of everyone, it felt surreal. ‘Wow! This is really happening. We are sharing a stage with Yuna.’ This happened in December 2012 and we found out the next year, she just got signed with David Foster. So we were like, wow, we were the last group of local act, I believe, to be performing with Yuna. That was quite an honour.

Cool! And now she is known worldwide – a superstar! And that actually, is a really good platform to put yourself out there.

 

So, most of the time, do you perform your own songs, or covers as well?

Rendall: Both, actually.

 

What is your favourite cover?

Rendall: I think it would be Feeling Good and L.O.V.E. I mean, besides Pearl, we have another singer in Swaiv. Brian sings as well. For Pearl, Feeling Good. For Brian, it would be Turn Your Lights Down Low.

Brian: Really?! Thank you for this interview, I am learning a lot of new things about my band members! Oh wow!

 

I know you have SoundCloud and YouTube. So, what other platforms are you using to promote Swaiv and your songs?

Pearl: We have Reverbnation as well.

 

What do you think about Spotify and other streaming services? Are you planning to use that platform as well?

Pearl: Yeah, we wanted to. We are going to but, we are not sure how to go about it.

Oh, we can talk to someone who can help you with that.

 

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So, you have performed with Yuna, you have a couple of songs out, you have been playing gigs here and there. You are doing pretty good, I think. What else do you plan to get up to in 2017, besides the coming EP?

Dobo: More new stuff, definitely.

Rendall: We were just talking about this recently and we hope to play in one of the big festivals here in Sarawak.

Brian: For the band in general, I think we all want to get more new stuff out there. Grow our repertoire. We want to avoid recycling the same thing over and over. And we are going to get our tunes legalised, in a way. Get them copyrighted. That is going to take extra funds, so we are trying to sort that out.

 

There are a lot of talented people here in Kuching. But not many are out there. Not many have the opportunities to do so. Do you have any advice for aspiring independent musicians who may feel disillusioned or discouraged at times?

Rendall: There is a saying that goes ‘quality over quantity’. For me, with time, I found out there is one more important thing. That is progress. Sometimes people would look at the quality or the quantity. But they forgot progress. And that is the most important thing. You must progress, never stop. You must keep going. Keep moving until people notice you, recognise you and acknowledge you. Eventually, they will see your quality and quantity. Just be positive and keep progressing.

 

What is your personal opinion on the music scene in Kuching?

Brian: That is a very fragile sensitive question. But I think it is growing. Slowly but surely. And it boils down to our mentality and attitude towards the art – both the clients and the musicians. The music business is fragile, you just have to keep an open mind, be positive and be truthful to yourself and to people. Perhaps avoid jealousy, envy, and general intrigue, all the negative vibes.

 

Do you think you have a competition out there?

Adrian: You see, we are not competing with anyone. We are just doing our stuff. We constantly grow and we want to improve.

Brian: I really like the question. Damn. Uhmm.. I think the competition is really within ourselves. Our competition is our achievement. If the benchmark for 1026 is this, then 2017 has to be higher. It’s part of the progress for the band.

 

So who have you been collaborating with, here in and from Kuching?

Pearl: rhymebo0k, Saufi, Nutty Slicc…

Rendall: Soon, there will be a surprise. Wait for it.

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Now, to enlighten you, check out my favourite song from the band HERE! This was from 3 years ago, but I still love it! RED is one of my go-to jam in my smoke-filled, dimly lit room.

PS: Photos were taken from the band’s Facebook page. I do not own the credit. This was an audio/video interview.

Being Sarawakian: The Reserved Tribe

All the while I was in the Peninsula, I have had the chance to mingle with people of different culture, mindset, attitudes and characteristics. This was through my college years and employment at two different companies.

Quite embarrassed to say, I feel like I know the people of the Peninsula more than I know my own people back home. Even more embarrassed when they ask me questions about my own state, I could not answer them confidently; worried that I would be the butt of or their jokes if they happen to know more that I do.

Here is the thing, I left Kuching before I turn 21 and basically grew up in the Peninsula as I was there for almost a decade. I was a loner in my teenage years and I was deep in my own world of imagination and worry. I was busy writing and making music.

Leaving the Peninsula meant leaving my life, my friends, and my career. During my time there, I was not surrounded by any Borneans (relatives not included). Even when I come across a few, there was a degree of uncomfortableness that made me distance myself from them. The main reason would be their mindset. However, I do have two close friends that I met in college, though – Sharon Bentley (Kelabit + Chinese) and Clarribel Sayong (Iban). And they are an exception.

While they claim to be much more open-minded and liberal, they are to a certain degree, the opposite. Excluding my close friends, the majority of the people in Peninsula are downright racist and judgemental. I was lucky to have the one-of-a-kinds as my friends and confidant. They are the reason why I stayed there that long apart from it being the land of opportunities.

However, I am not discussing their attitude and characteristics to cause unnecessary chaos. Abiding by the series Being Sarawakian, this post is about my opinion on the progress of my own people.

The Attitude and Characteristics of the Bidayuhs

As mentioned in my previous post, the Bidayuhs are generally soft-spoken people. We are quite reserved and do not open up to strangers very easily.

Many articles/books written by the Europeans in the 19th century portray the Bidayuhs as people who suffered oppression before the arrival of Rajah James Brooke in 1841.

Malaysian-based New Zealand travel photojournalist, author and photographer Peter Anderson stated in his book Discover Borneo – Sarawak (page 58) that the Bidayuhs almost became extinct in the early 1800s due to their mild, inoffensiveness, and tolerant nature. The Brunei Malay rulers of Sarawak enslaved the surviving Bidayuhs from the Iban attacks, which the Brunei Malays encouraged. The Rajahs brought peace to Sarawak and the Bidayuh have prospered since that time.

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However, one of the White Rajahs did not hold the Bidayuhs in high regard, as stated in Dato Peter Minos’ book; The Future Of The Dayak Bidayuhs In Malaysia (page 15).

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“Charles Brooke did not think very much or very high of the Bidayuhs and thus he described them as having customs and appearance which do not encourage so great an interest in a traveller’s breast as the Sea Dayaks (Ibans). His words implied that the Bidayuhs lacked self-confidence and gregariousness.”

Yup, that… may be true, to a certain extent.

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The following are more excerpts from Minos’ book under the subtopic Attitudes and Characteristics:

“Morality is of a higher standard (than others), their gratitude is undoubted, and their hospitality to strangers well ascertained.” – Hugh Low

“The Land Dayaks (Bidayuhs) have not the bold and arrogant look which distinguishes the Sea Dayaks (Ibans). They are quieter and milder in their habits, and more modest in their dress.” – Odoardo Beccari

“The expression of all classes and of both sexes of these people is that of a subdued melancholy.” – Spenser St. John

Spenser is attributing this to the Bidayuhs past experience of oppression and suppression during the Brunei Sultanate.

“Bidayuh is mild and tractable, hospitable when he is well used, grateful for the kindness, industrious, honest and simple; neither treacherous nor cunning and so truthful that the word of one of them might safely be taken before the oath of half a dozen Borneans (Brunians). In their dealing, they are very straightforward and correct, and so trustworthy that they rarely attempt, even after a lapse of years, evade payment of a just debt. On the reverse of this picture, there is little unfavourable to be said, and the wonder is that they have learned so little deceit and falsehood where the examples before them have been so rife.” – Henry Keppel

“The Bidayuhs, to W.R Geddes, believed in true personal freedom and liberty and were highly independent-minded people who did not like to be controlled or dominated by others or by their own kind, so much so that they were often perceived as obstinate, recalcitrant, and uncooperative”, said Minos in the book.

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W.R. Geddes’ opinion is a slap on my face as that is what I think of myself majority of the time.

“Land Dayaks did not get much attention and encouragement from the Administration (Government) for many years. This neglect was mainly due to competition by other, more numerous and sometimes more troublesome ethnic groups. The Land Dayaks, used to being treated badly by outsiders, tacitly accepted this inferior position, which in turn contributed to the still popular idea that they are a conservative and less energetic
people.” – B. G. Grijpstra

The Bidayuhs today, are they still the same as their ancestors?

Here’s what Dato Peter Minos stated in his book:

“The Bidayuhs regard talking too loudly in public, airing one’s views too openly, pushing oneself and trying to order others around as marks of rudeness and arrogance. To be regarded or said or even perceived to be rude and arrogant in the Bidayuh community is undesirable and demeaning. To the Bidayuhs, a good and respected person is one who talks the least, who does push himself or herself around and who does not annoy or disturb anyone. Being natural adherents of extreme personal freedom and independence, the Bidayuhs tend to avoid those who order them around or who control too much of their lives or who tell them what to do or what not to do.”

In short, we are still reserved, but we definitely are moving forward. At least I think I and some people I know are. The youngsters are definitely pushing the envelopes.

I am hopeful.

And here are the notable Bidayuhs so far:

  1. Anding Indrawani Zaini, an Akademi Fantasia star, model, actor and singer. He is of mixed Melanau-Bidayuh parentage.
  2. Dewi Liana Seriestha, Miss World 2014 Top 25 and Miss Talent for Miss World Beauty Pageant.
  3. Pandelela Rinong, Malaysian national diving athlete.
  4. Tony Eusoff, actor and model.
  5. Venice Elphi, Malaysian football player, played for ATM FA.
  6. Richard Riot Jaem, Malaysian cabinet minister.
  7. Temenggong Salau, Bidayuh community leader during the formation of Malaysia.

PS: While doing my research (for my own intellectual satisfaction), I noticed that other writers who have written about the same thing also used the same quotes. While this is just a random post, I still want it to be worth referring to by some people some day for some reason.

PS: Dato Peter Minos, a modern and highly educated Bidayuh businessman is now the Chairman of Kota Samarahan Municipal Council

 

Her Vision In Infrared

This is an incident that happened many years ago. I can’t precisely remember the day it occurred. But I was 13 and I had a hard time understanding the turn of events for quite a while. But in some weird way, I am glad that it happened and I witnessed it.

We exist in an environment that is filled with malicious negative energies and evil spirits. And there is no indisputable proof that can end the debate on whether ghosts are real. You either believe it or you don’t. And we all have our fair share of encounters with dark shadows, lost souls and angry spirits. We experience paranormal phenomena, hauntings and ghostly occurrences, almost everywhere we go, if not at a specific place.

While that is common, it is a known practice in some parts of the world that people indulge in all sorts of dark arts for property, money and sometimes even plain jealousy. This is synonymous with Borneo and the Southern Philippines. It still is a tradition – practised today, in broad daylight. After all, it is a land filled with legends of headhunters and dense steamy forests.

While beheading is their traditional way of killing their enemies, people back then and now have no qualms stooping as low as they can to hurt people and get a piece of anything that is not even rightfully theirs. And watching their victims in pain is an entertainment. The most notable part of this practice is that it often brings about death. And why do so many people in our society enjoy intentionally do bad things to others?

Dark arts; I have witnessed many of this. And I am somehow conditioned not to ever question this practice, especially its effectiveness. I accepted it but am silently against it. It is still very bizarre to me how dark arts somehow give some people hope and the answers they had been looking for. It may be for some cases, the best of self-defence.

I am far from religious and was always a skeptic about the paranormal, dark arts and shamanic healing. But this particular one proved to be effective. My sister, just a few days old at that time fell sick, it was worrying. My parents were really devastated. They had to resort to the shamanic healing. And fortunately for us, the shamanic healer delivered what was expected of him. And my sister, turning 18 in April this year is alive and kicking. Thanks to – let’s not give it a negative name for this case – the grandmother of all medicine.

Apparently, the house that we live in 17 years ago was located not far from a haunted tree, despite it being in the city. The house was not in a secluded, undeveloped area, and that was quite a strange notion. As hard as I try to imagine the opposite, I did find the tree to be rather spooky.

Stood tall and motionless among the grasses, its branches twisted like distorted limbs extending out into the sky like skeletal hands and partly reaching out towards our house that is probably 3 minutes away. It had that force that gnawed us with unfiltered horror. Looking at it at night especially, sort of felt like it would rape me in my sleep. It was a sight nobody in their stupid mind would dare to capture. And when it comes to a haunted tree, even merely saying offensive things around it would provoke its wrath.

According to the shamanic healer, the haunted tree – I don’t remember what it was called – was stocked with evil spirits and curses. It was hungrily trying to absorb the soul of my newborn sister. And a newborn baby, who happened to have the ability to connect with the other side, saw something that perhaps even us adults cannot handle. She stared and cried at nothing. It went on for days. The sleeping troubles troubled the family.

My parents were cynical in the beginning and went to the doctor but came back with no solution. They panicked. Of course, they were! Something was not right with that precious new bundle of joy. They were desperate. Thus, the shamanism, despite the fact that at the same time, the shamanic healer also practices dark arts that lead to death.

So on that very night, while believing in God, we put all our faith in shamanism. With his impressive toolkit and assistants, the shamanic healer, suited up in all-black clothes, used all the cleansing techniques in his arsenal. I had goosebumps, of course, and I could not take the strong smell. But I was enchanted by his shamanic healing steps. He looked like he was in a wrestling ring, beating the hell out of his opponent. And I began to imagine a wicked-looking, black creature hovering above my sister. Staring at her with its big red eyes, almost popping out of the sockets, screaming its lung out!

Not too long after that, he stopped and fell flat. He looked pale and weak as if he had not been eating for days; as if he had been carrying a heavy load across the city for hours. But he did his job, as promised. His shamanic healing saved my sister. And yes, that incident did shatter my belief system and drove me to question my perceived reality; dark arts and the role shamanism plays in our lives.

Dark forces roam independently in the universe. And the ongoing battle between good and evil in the unseen worlds constantly shapes our experience of reality. Some people do bad things not because they were born bad, but because of the negative energy from outside that penetrated their body which they can’t control. If we choose to not pay attention, we will not be able to recognise between dark and light forces.

And in my sister’s case, several paranormal experts believe ghosts like to hang out in the UV and infrared ranges – so-called the spirit world – which we adults cannot detect. Also, at some point along the way, we have decided and believe that our experiences weren’t real. DENIAL, we call it. But unfortunately, babies are the opposite. While seeing spirit guides and angels are beautiful and magical, seeing something else, as per my imagination, is beyond spooky.

Without doubting the power of God – our creator, we are grateful that the shamanic healing worked. It is, after all, a gift from the Higher Power for the selected few. And we are glad that my sister survived the battle. She survived that and she will survive any battles coming her way.

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