The melody of Sarawak

The Kulleh Comrades.

The cultural band ‘Kulleh Comrade’ has returned from the 59th Venice Biennale festival with new experiences. The band also did not forget to create in impact on the international stage as they introduce Sarawak to the world.

Introducing Sarawak’s music to the world

THE earth is a melting pot of many cultures and ethnicities.

Each dates back to centuries ago, and the world’s diverse heritage is what gives rise to today’s world.

Every development and cultivation stems from the lives of their forefathers and ancestors. And among the countless discoveries were art and culture.

The 59th Venice Biennale has been dubbed the “Olympics of the Art World” as it includes performances from a variety of art mediums. The prestigious event, which takes place every two years, runs from April 23 through November 27 this year.

The contemporary art show held in Venice also caught the Sarawak wave, as the cultural band ‘Kulleh Comrades’ performed during the festival.

Kulleh Grasi, the band’s leader, said that by accepting the offer to perform at the festival, he and the other five members had also accepted the heavy responsibilities that they now shoulder.

The band during the 59th Vienna Biennale festival. The festival is also known to be the ‘Olympics of the art world’.

“It is not something that we can easily smile over as we’re a part of it. We are also using this chance to introduce Sarawak’s indigenous music, arts, and culture to the rest of the world. And this will necessitate hard work and a better knowledge of what we want to communicate to the international audience,” said the 38-year-old.

As each period goes, modernity takes a piece of tradition. It is a person’s culture and heritage that binds him to his roots. Thus, it is important to maintain one’s traditions in order to avoid losing sight of one’s roots.

Kulleh went on to say that living in the modern world had diminished the natives’ original sound.

“Why am I saying this? Because chasing after modernisation causes us to lose our sound. Hence, it is critical to understand our origins in order to pass this knowledge on to future generations.

“Even if we can’t accomplish everything, at least we’re doing something. We will lose the sound of our art that tells the next generation of its existence if we do not take action,” he added.

Meet the band members

Following their return from Venice, Italy, the band members shared their experiences with New Sarawak Tribune. According to Gabriel Fairuz Louis, they each learned more about diverse cultures throughout the world.

“We were able to observe and learn about other people’s cultures. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us.”

Gabriel

Gabriel, the band’s vocalist, has dabbled with music since an early age. “My desire to perform began when I was six years old.” The 37-year-old revealed that he began singing professionally in 2009. “I have produced two Iban albums which consist of solos. Prior to 2009, I competed in singing competitions and performed in bars and bistros in Kuching.”

Gabriel was also named the Transformasi Nasional for arts and culture’s Youth IKON 2018 and 2019.

Nelson Sabi is the band’s sape player. Since 2008, he has been playing several musical instruments.

Today, the 36-year-old works for the Dayak Cultural Foundation as a cultural artiste.

Stanny Benedict, 34, comes from a similar background and has been dabbling with music since the age of 13.

“I did several gigs around Kuching when I was in form four. Music has always been a source of fascination and passion for me,” said the ‘Kulleh Comrade’ guitarist.

Nelson

Matt Dalin, 26, the band’s youngest member, is a keyboardist and percussionist.

A student in Bachelor in Music, Matt’s passion for music has led him to learn a variety of instruments, including the guitar and bass, drums, and even the saxophone. “I love to explore different instruments,” added the music enthusiast.

Jenn Rossem is the oldest member of the band. She revealed that singing has always been a passion of hers, but that she had never had the chance to pursue it until ‘Kulleh Comrade.’

“I was always busy. But when I was asked to join the band, I saw it as an opportunity to put myself out there.”

Matt

Kulleh, on the other hand, had long been active in the local arts and culture scene. He is a multi-disciplinary artist who is also recognised for his poetry and previous involvement with Nading Rhapsody as a band member.

“My vocals are the instrument that I provide to the band. In 2010, I began my musical career. To keep myself challenged, I took on a few gigs here and there at first. However, after meeting Nading Rhapsody, I decided to delve deeper into the sector.”

Together as one — ‘Kulleh Comrade’ does not limit themselves to performing in Venice, Italy. They will continue to devote their time and attention to performing songs that promote Sarawak’s culture and heritage.

“Hopefully, we will be able to introduce our music to new countries, helping them to gain a better understanding of our culture. We may possibly produce an album in the near future,” said Matt.

Kulleh went on to say that he hopes the new generation of musicians continues to pursue their dreams in music.

“There is nothing impossible. What’s possible is breaking your barrier. Dreaming is free. Go and chase after it,” he said.

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