Wednesday, June 13, 2012

For the love of hip hop (and cultural diplomacy)

The New Straits Times reports on the American Voices YES Academy Kota Kinabalu hip hop program:

A hip hop lover from Sarawak took a 12-hour bus ride from Miri to attend Youth Excellence on Stage (YES) Academy Hip Hop Kota Kinabalu programme, here.Sim Yian Haw, 24, was among 35 chosen to participate in America's foremost training programme in hip hop held at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) from June 1-5.
The insurance agent had earlier submitted his dance routine for an online audition as he could not afford the expensive air tickets.
"I knew about the programme from a friend who encouraged me to go for it. So instead of flying over to Kota Kinabalu and Labuan for my audition, I did an online audition.
"They liked my hip hop dance skill video and I was accepted," said Sim, who has learnt hip hop since he was 15.
The programme, sponsored by US Embassy Kuala Lumpur and American Voices Association were recruiting Sabah and Sarawak's best young dancers and hip-hop talents to further expose them to the hip hop artistic subcluture.
During the one-week intensive programme, the students aged between 14 and 31 had the opportunity to learn hip hop skills and history from HaviKoro Crew, one of United State's most well known Hip Hop teams.
For Sim, the programme was a platform for hip hop lovers to gather and share similar interest, apart from educating themselves.
Established since 2008, American Voices Association executive director John Ferguson said the programme aimed to expose talents across the globe to a wide variety of dance, music and community leadership.
"Similar programmes have been conducted in Thailand, Iraq, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Venezuela, Lebanon and Kuwait, among other countries," said Ferguson.
"In Sabah, hip hop is a growing trend and we want them to be able to understand hip hop context and how they can use their talent to achieve something of benefit.
"So, for this programme we have focussed on small cities like here and in Penang because we believe these states have so many unexposed talents."
Apart from dancing, YES Academy Hip Hop Kinabalu students also learnt graphic design and how to be disc jockeys from experts.
Ferguson said YES Hip Hop and Broadway Penang would be held in George Town from June 7 -- 17 and those interested should visit
He said students would be chosen for the YES Academy programme based on talent, motivation and a commitment to leadership through teaching and via community outreach.
HaviKoro's choreographer Mario Jaramillo believes Malaysians have much potential in bringing their talents to the next level.
"Hip hop is not just about the skill, it's about loving what you are doing.
"Malaysian's are good but what they need is support and a platform for them to showcase their talent.
"Creating public awareness is also important because not many understand the history of hip hop besides the dancing skills."
Upon completing their intensive programme, all 35 young talents will showcase their hip hop performances to the public at the UMS Recital Hall here today.

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