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Drumming Up A Passion

“Persistence is the quality that will ultimately guarantee success,” she said. This quote has been in the depths of her mind, inspiring and motivating her to thrive in her journey of drumming.

Photo provided by Janet Lee

Janet Lee is a 19-year-old drummer who comes from a small town named Teluk Intan which is located in Perak, Malaysia. If you were wondering what kind of drum she plays, it’s the 24 Festive Drum. The 24 Festive Drum is a traditional art with a combination of dance, drama as well as martial arts, containing elements of Chinese culture. At the same time, it acts as a way to incorporate storytelling and music in the performances.

“It’s like telling a story when I was playing the drum,” she said.

Unlike Western drum kits where the sets of drums are usually played along with singing and dancing, 24 Festive Drums position drummers as the central focus on the stage. Not only as a performer but also as a storyteller and musician. Compared to other drums, the 24 festive drummers weave and present their story through the performance by channelling their emotion and power.

Photo provided by Janet Lee

“The passion grows in me”

Janet’s 24 Festive Drums journey began on the very first “Club Day” after enrolling in secondary school. The show performed by the 24 Festive Drum team happened to pique her interest and passion for it. “boom-bah-bah-boom”, she heard the raw sound produced from the drum-like thunder; “doom-tak-doom-doom”. To her, the sound resembles the pitter-patter of rain. The powerful beats inspired her to be such a cool drummer. After registering as a Drum Club member, Janet started her journey full of challenges and schedule-packed training. While many drummers gave up and quit the drums team halfway, Janet persisted and kept striving to become a professional drummer. Five years had passed, and eventually, she was elected as the captain during the last year in her secondary school.

“She is more than just a drummer, but a fighter”

It has never been easy to become a professional drummer from having zero basics in drumming, to mastering the drumming skills and finally becoming one of the performers on the stage. After months and months of training, Janet improved herself in terms of the rhythm, body movements as well as stamina. Other than drumming skills, she has realised the importance of teamwork in a group 𑁋as in the drums team. What makes 24 Festive Drum shows unique is that it works in group performance instead of an individual show. Each drummer has their own unique body movements and positions that are choreographed by the team leader. Only then a show can be performed flawlessly with cooperation among the team members.

Photo provided by Janet Lee

“We are not a team but a family,” she said.

It was tough initially, but Janet and her teammates managed to get through it all. The drum team spent most of their leisure time on a chain of activities such as daily training, demonstration, brainstorming session and discussion as well. A tight timetable was scheduled for them at the beginning of the year, and that’s what held them together, for nearly five years. It was extremely clear for them to not be individualistic in the team as they always work in a group. Throughout the journey, Janet and her teammates have learnt how to tolerate, assist and support each other when it comes to facing difficulties. They stayed beside each other, just the way a family does.

“Blood, sweat and tears. Those were happy tears”

In 2015, Janet and her team competed in the 24 Festive Drums Competition (Northern Malaysia). They ended up winning four prizes which were for The Best Creation, The Best Beating, The Best Composition and The Best Team Arrangement in the competition. Each of them felt grateful as all of their efforts eventually paid off by gaining recognition from the crowd. Behind the glory of receiving a round of applause, there were injuries like spraining of ankles, fingers and backbones, which is a nightmare for any athlete.

Photo provided by Janet Lee

“In a world full of cultures, don’t forget the culture we live in!”

The creation of 24 Festive Drums has created more awareness of Chinese culture among the public. Today, a new form of percussion and performance of 24 Festive Drums has been designed and widely practised all around the world. It consists of 24 drums whereby each of the drums represents one festival in the lunar calendar of the Chinese agricultural community. A team with 24 drums completes the cycle of 24 festivals present in the lunar calendar that has guided farmers in agriculture for thousands of years in China.

Joining 24 Festive Drums, Janet finds that it is essential to appreciate the hard work of our ancestors and inherit their assiduous spirit from generation to generation. As China was once an agricultural country a long time ago, our ancestors did their farming activities by observing the seasons. They utilise their intelligence and pay hard work in agriculture to earn a living. Thus, we should treat our ancestors like our role models to inspire us in dealing with all the difficulties in our lives.

By Shermine Ooi


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