Monthly Archives: December 2008

The Man Behind Sri Budaya Bintulu



>>>Quick chat with Tuah Jili

FEW people in Bintulu know that Sri Budaya Bin-tulu has been around for almost 10 years.

The dance troupe, previously known as Sri Wawa-san Bintulu, was set up in the Division in 1998 and had its name changed a year later.

Managed by the Social Development and Urbanis-ation Ministry office (Bintulu branch), the troupe stages cultural performances at official functions and hotel receptions and has even represented Sa-rawak in cultural dance competitions.

Comprising mostly the younger generation, and even though its members keep changing every year, Sri Budaya Bintulu is still strongly committed to preserving local cultures through dances.

After almost a decade, the group remains unchan-ged basically under its 38-year-old founder, Tuah Jili. The members are looking as sharp as ever, having made the state proud with their positive results in national-level performances and compe-titions over the years,

Tuah Jili, also known as TJ, is a well-known local choreographer dedicated to putting Bintulu on the map through his creative ideas in arranging dance repertoires.

thesundaypost talked with him recently to find out more about his profession and the impact of Sri Budaya Bintulu on a town moving towards be-coming a city by 2020.

Q: Can you tell us a little of yourself?

A: I’m from Kampung Kudei, Kuching. I’ve spent almost nine years in Bintulu as a choreographer under the Social Development and Urbanisation Ministry. I’ve been associated with cultural dances and the performing arts since 1985 when I was 15. A few years ago, I also recorded a few albums of Iban songs.

Q: Am I right to say you are more into dancing than singing?

A: Precisely. But both are equally close to my heart although presently, I’m more inclined to dance than sing.

Q : Why so?

A: Dancing gives me more freedom and opportu-nity to express my ideas and creativity – there
is greater space to use my imagination in planning
dance programmes.

In singing, if you are not the lyrist and composer, then you are just a singer who sings the other peo-ple’s songs. Totally different from dancing. I can dance and create the steps for my dancers at the same time. Creativity is the one thing that spurs my passion in this field.

Q: You formed Sri Budaya Bintulu in 1999 even though it was already set up in 1998 under a dif-ferent name. What changes do you see then and now?

A: Time is moving so fast and now we are 10 years old. Of course, a lot of things has change, and over the years, we have gained more experience and the troupe is now more matured in its perfor-mance. Of course, I have also changed in some ways.

Q: What’s the feedback to your work, especially from the younger generation?

A: The new generation have shown interests in dancing — if not, you might now find all our dan-cers from the older generation … grandmas and grandpas. (laughter)

Q: How do you keep the troupe constantly reple-nished with new dancers?

A: Apart from performing at official functions, we are committed to carrying out our objective of promoting and preserving local cultural dances.

Since the troupe is under a government ministry, I open dancing classes for the public, government agencies and the private sector.

Some come to us and show an interest to be in our troupe. Actually, most of our dancers are govern-ment employees and from the private sector.

Q: What is the response from the public?

A: When I first started the group, the people in Bintulu viewed us as something strange. During that time, most of the public were not exposed and educated enough to know and understand the meaning of our dance movements. But now, they know they represent the ethnic groups in Sarawak — their cultures are illustrated through dances and this something precious that needs to be apprecia-ted.

Q: What do you do to introduce a dance to the youths in particular?

A: Apart from my dancing classes, I move from school to school and collaborate with their dance clubs or associations in organising dance work-shops and giving them information on the latest developments and changes in dancing — its pro-spects and how it can boost self-esteem and con-fidence. As dancers, we emphasise discipline, and in a way, dancing can also strengthen relationships and promote teamwork.

Q: In what way can dancing help youths?

A: It’s a form of exercise that’s good for health. Most importantly, it helps promote self-discipline. Learning new movements demands high disci-pline. Moreover, through dancing, youths can use their time wisely and avoid social ills.

Q: When it comes to dancing, some people give negative comments, particularly on men who dance?

A: Okay — I don’t blame them for thinking like that.
But you can’t look at dancers with just one eye. Most have good profession and come from good family. We should not simply judge a book by its cover. We have to look deeper before making any judgement.

Q: Some people think men who dance are soft?
Is it true?

A: No. We dance because we love this art and its aesthetical values. It’s not just about work but also interest in being an entertainer. If men prohibited to dance because some people think they are soft, then who is going to dance on behalf of the male gender? Cultural dances are part of our tradition and cannot be solely referred to as a gender pro-blem or anything bad. We cannot give a negative conclusion just like that.

Q: How do you envisage the growth of cultural dance troupes in Bintulu?

A: In a positive manner, I’m glad schools coope-rate closely with us as a backbone of cultural dan-ce performances in the Division. Most of my dan-cers today used to perform in their school dancing clubs.

We provide them with a platform to advance their interests in dancing after they graduate – even just as a hobby. Even tertiary institutions have their own dancing clubs or associations. I also conduct dancing classes for these students — for example in Universiti Putra Malaysia Bintulu Campus.

Q: What’s the best thing that has ever happened to you as a choreographer?

A: Recognition and trust to take part in either a state or national dance performance or compe-tition.

Q: What is the worst?

A: Not winning any awards in a dance competi-tion.

Q: What is your planning in the future? Do you still want to be a choreographer for Sri Budaya Bintulu?

A: I can’t say I won’t go anywhere because I be-lieve the farther you go, the more knowledge and experience you get. But honestly, I still love my troupe and it’s hard for me to go just like that. I’ve been through a lot — good and bad times — with my dancers over the past decade. But you never know if it’s fated that I should move next year. Be-fore that, I will make sure the troupe is in good hands … that my successor can bring Sri Budaya Bintulu to even greater heights.

Q: Do you have dreams for your own career?

A: What else I can do – I was born to be in this field. I wish to have my own dance academy some-day, if possible, an academy for Sarawakians. So pray for my wish to come true. We also plan to set up a junior Sri Budaya troupe in the future.

Q: Any last word?

A: I hope Sri Budaya Bintulu will be given full su-pport by the people in the Division, particularly in terms of promoting local cultures through dances. For my dancers, I wish them all the best — I know they have sacrificed a lot for the group. To their parents, I thank them for their support, trust and permission to let their children join us in many performances and competitions through the years both locally and nationally. Lastly, I hope Sri Buda-ya Bintulu dancers will find more success and make a name for themselves as the best dance troupe in the state even without me around.

The numbers in the group:

1998-20 persons
2001-35 persons
2003-40 persons
2005-50 persons
2008- Present-60 persons

The group’s committee members:

Chairman/ choreographer-Tuah Jili
Secretary-Shariff Brahim
Treasurer-Azizi Nawawi
Clothes-Faizal Abd Rahman/ Gloria Jimbai
Props-Nicholas Salang

Sri Budaya Bintulu’s achievement at a glance

1998
– Represent Bintulu Division to ‘Festival Tari Negeri Sarawak’ (FTNS)

1999
– Emerged the overall champions in FTNS
– The Best group
– The Best Creative Dance
– The Best Choreographer for Creative Dance

2000
The Best Performer for Dramatari Santubung in FTNS

2001
– Represent Sarawak to ‘Festival Tari Kebangsaan’ in Selangor
– Performing at ‘Citrawarna Malaysia’ in Kuala Lumpur

2002
The Best Performance for Creative Dance in FTNS
– Performing at ‘Citrawarna Malaysia’ in KL

2003
The Best Performance for Creative Dance in FTNS
– Performing during ‘Jubli Delima 40th Sarawak Independence within Malaysia in Kuching

2004
– Tuah Jili (as a choreographer/concept- Performing during the TYT 83rd birthday anniversary in Bintulu

2005
– The Best Performance for Creative Dance in FTNS
– The Best Choreographer for Creative Dance

2006
– The Best Ethnic Dance in FTNS
– The Best Choreographer for Creative Dance

2007
– The Best Ethnic Dance in FTNS
– The Best Choreographer for Melanau dance
– The Best Cultural Performance in Pontianak, Kalimantan Indonesia

2008
– The champion in ‘Festival Tari Malaysia’ (FTM) Zone 4 in Miri
– Represent Zone 4 to FTM state-level
Won six awards: Overall Champions award, the Best Costume award, the Best Music Arrangement award, the Best Choreographer award, the Best Traditional Dance award and the Best Contemporary Dance award

2009
– Will represents Sarawak in the National-level Dance Festival 2009 in Kuala Lumpur

Bintulu Promenade


GLORIOUS: Beautiful sunset from the promenade.
SERENE: The Parkcity Everly Hotel as a background to the promenade.

FAMILY GATHERING: Some residents bring the families for outing at the promenade during the weekend.

ANGLING SPOT: Quiet place for fishing and relaxing.

RECREATION: A youth skateboarding at the promenade.

Bintulu’s longest walkway by the sea


MODERN TRADEMARK: Beautiful landscaping at the Bintulu Promenade, said to be the longest waterfront in the state.

THE Bintulu Promenade, sprawled on a 120-acre site, is presently the longest waterfront to be built in the state.

Developed by Sarawak Land (Kemena Park) Sdn Bhd, it is a commercial and recreational park rolled into and strategically located near the delta of Kemena River and close to the Parkcity Everly Hotel.

It is also the latest popular spot for Bintulu residents to visit and relax with friends and the family members.

Most people go there during the weekends to watch the beautiful sunset and enjoy the evening breeze.

Derosita Chok Mung Na, 26, who visited Bintulu recently, said: “Personally, I think tourists, rather than locals, will find the promenade a nice place to visit — especially those from countries like the America or Europe staying at nearby hotels. But for pensioners, local or foreign, they will certainly enjoy the scenery and the serenity.”

Asked further for her views of the promenade as a Sarawakian who resides outside Bintulu, she said it looked bare most of the time and there were no tourist attractions such as stalls, road shows or events during the festive seasons — only the view.

“Unlike the Kuching Waterfront, opposite Main Bazaar where there are stalls and programmes most of the year, this place is so quiet,” she noted.

While agreeing that this might be due to the “newness” of the promenade, she suggested the authority concerned try emulating the Kuching Waterfront by setting up food, drink, and souvenir stalls, stages or halls for social events, proper parking, special fishing spots, benches and even chairs under canopies.

She also observed that the street lightings in the area were not bright enough to highlight the beautiful features of the landscaping at night.

“Maybe in the future, benches and a mini playground for kids will be provided to make the place more lively during the weekends.”

Since the town is facing the sea, she added, it could be developed into one of the best tourist destinations in the state and also a place for pensioners to make their second home.

“I think if there are universities here, the tourism industry will benefit because international students will come over for tertiary education,” Chor said, adding that Bintulu has the potential to be known as an exciting city.

Mulyadi Hasbullah, 25, a human resource development executive in a private company in Bintulu, believes the promenade is a good place for families and friends to hang out and unwind.

Asked if the standard of place had met his expectation, he said not quite yet because a lot of areas still needed improvement.

“I have been here twice with my friends and colleagues. The promenade provides a peaceful environment — we can hear the waves lapping on the shore and feel breeze and see the sunset in the late afternoon,” Mulyadi said.

However, he thinks the place can be further spruced up, and for visits, he feels a good time is between afternoon and midnight.

He also suggests more lightings be installed and socialprogrammes planned to attract tourists.

The Bintulu Promenade might need time to be on par or even better than the Kuching Waterfront, according to Mulyadi who feels confident this can be achieved if the promenade is properly maintained.

“The major concerns are loafing and loitering (lepak) and vandalism which can spoil popularity and beauty of the place if there are no long-term efforts to prevent them,” he stressed.

Mulyadi said social problems in the Division would increase with development, adding that while they could not be avoided, they could be minimised.

“This is where the authority has to act,” he said, referring to incidents like fighting and even killing at the Kuching Waterfront recently.

“There is no doubt that Bintulu can be a strategic place for the tourism industry if we can highlight to the world our uniqueness and what we can offer.

“But the most important thing is that we must be able to manage our resources well. Resources can be anything from the environment, the people to law enforcement.

“If these resources are well-managed, Bintulu can become a popular tourist destination,” he said.

Mulyadi hopes Bintulu could become an industrial centre in state, referring especially to economic opportunities created the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) which he believes will promote growth and provide jobsin surrounding areas and the state.

A man in his 30s who did not want to be named when met while fishing with his two sons near the promenade, said the authorities should organise water sports to attract not only locals but also international tourists.

“We have annual events like the Bintulu Regatta but why don’t we organise small events, especially during the weekend, at this beautiful promenade. For sure, they will attract a lot of local spectators.”

He also suggested drink and food stalls be set up for the benefit of the public, especially those taking part in recreational events or competitions organised at the promenade.

On littering and vandalism, he said the people who managed the promenade should have their own enforcement personnel
to tackle such problems.

On the ‘no fishing’ restriction, he pointed out that if people couldn’t cast a line, then there was no point building the promenade in the first place.

An angler himself, he feels the Bintulu Promenade is ideal for sport fishing with nice scenery and a beautiful backdrop.

“Angling can attract visitors who may be curious to see what’s the biggest catch for the day — if it also not allowed, then the place will remain quiet with nobody coming.”

He is confused as why fishing is not allowed at the promenade, saying if the authority does not want the place to smell of fish, it could set aside a special zone for the anglers.

But overall, he said the promenade is a beautiful and comfortable place to go for an outing, especially during weekends – apart from the Tanjung Batu beach, and hoped better facilities could be provided in the future.

Helmi Farudin, 28, a government servant when met while skateboarding with his friends at the promenade, said he was impressed with the place, adding that the people in Bintulu should be proud as it is the longest waterfront ever built in Sarawak.

He commended the Bintulu Development Authority (BDA) for its foresight in building the promenade, saying it was the best thing to do since Bintulu would someday become an industrial city and need a place like the promenade for its residents to relax.

“Every project has its pros and cons. As long it has proper planning, taking into account the short and long term results, it should be fine,” he said.