The Performance

A musical drama featuring Penang’s journey to Merdeka. Ronggeng Merdeka features the sung stories of Penang residents from the 1930s, through the Japanese Occupation, up to the period of Merdeka. It captures the rhythms and sounds of school, street life and the trades of the diverse communities of Penang through song,dance & drama

Community Tour

Following Penang’s tradition of street performances such as Chinese opera, Dondang Sayang, Boria, and Ronggeng which has been enjoyed by various ethnic communities Ronggeng Merdeka will perform in community spaces, in the open air, in 5 locations in Penang: { Teluk Bahang - 4 June 07 - 8PM } { Seberang Jaya - 7 June 07 - 3PM } { Balik Pulau - 9 June 07 - 9.30AM } { Air Itam, Reservoir Garden - 10 June 07 - 8PM } { Lebuh Armenian, George Town - 16 June 07 - 8PM }

Cross Cultural Exchange

This production promotes pluralism & border crossings. The adult artists & young performers are multiethnic. The musical ensemble mixes the Malay gamelan & wayang kulit instruments with the Chinese erhu & shigu as well as everyday objects & body percussion. The ronggeng ensemble which combines the western violin & flute with the Malay gong and rebana is a mainstay. Multiculturalism is also portrayed in the mixture of Malay, Hokkien & English lyrics which reflect typical multilingual conversations at the Penang coffeeshop, home or school. By projecting multiculturalism the show makes a point about the inter-textuality of Penang’s multiethnic society & the spirit of goodwill among its people. It provides an interactive site for a new way of being Malaysian

Recreating Tradition

The text is based on oral interviews with the people of Penang and historical incidences from the period. Inspiration for movement comes from observations of the movements made by hawkers and traders in coffee shops. Dances are adapted from bangsawan extra turns in the 1930s & 1940s which include the joget, rumba, inang & zapin. The music features sounds from the streets, boria & ronggeng songs & dances & songs staged at Penang’s Wembley and Great World Park

The Creative Team

Musical Director & Composer TAN SOOI BENG is an Ethnomusicologist at Universiti Sains Malaysia. Her music is unique for the way in which traditional rhythms and sounds are reconstructed and transformed into contemporary compositions with topical themes. Drama Director HO SHEAU FUNG is a new director and experienced actress in the Mandarin theatre scene and an emerging new media artist in Penang Choreographer AIDA REDZA is known as a controversial performer who breaks tradition. She has invented the ‘New Dance Intervention’, a performance strategy for healing, educating, ritualizing and entertaining in practice and appreciation. Artistic Director JANET PILLAI is a pioneer in the field of children’s theatre, and specializes in program development and training for young people, with a research focus on non-formal arts education and learning theories.

The Cast

30 most promising Young Performers aged 10-20 from diverse ethnic communities who went through an intensive 3-month research and performing arts training program with 4 prominent & professional artistes of Penang

The Young Actors

The Young Musicians

The Ronggeng Girls

The Production Team - Ombak Ombak ARTStudio

Ombak Ombak ARTStudio, previously known as Young Theatre Penang is a non-formal collective promoting arts and culture to the public through productions of arts performances, festivals, exhibitions and arts training workshops. It is a non-profit organization that provides support and expertise to artists and performers. This collective has produced performances such as Red and Gold Shoe (2001) & Hen or Rooster? (2005) e-mail:

The Performance Group - Anak Anak Kota

Anak-Anak Kota (AAK) or ‘Children of the City’ is a heritage education program for young people The AAK heritage education program creates awareness and educates young people on the importance of conserving their living and built heritage through the arts. In the programs young people explore their cultural and historical identities through creative arts programs conducted in the real environment. Using visual arts, music, dance and drama, they examine inherited architecture, ecology, human settlement, trade, craftsmanship, language, custom, food and the environment and learn how their identities are rooted in this inherited environment. Past Performances by Anak Anak Kota- Uncle Aunty Stories ( 2001 ), Heritage Heboh Street Festival ( 2006 ) e-mail: