Punk Rave

At the raffia string barrier to the rave party, one guy asked what ‘house music’ do I like. A question that was to serve as a secret handshake for admission. I told him the DJ is playing techno, not house. (I like techno too, though).

Reminiscing a bit: I spent a year, almost every night, at the decadent and legendary Backroom KL , the clubbing venue that was famous globally, in its relatively short lifetime.

It was finally busted for opening past 9 am daily and for clubbers possessing every known designer and recreational stimulant.

The dance floor was divided into straight and gay people on each side. On the center, dancing on top of a podium, was a shirtless local celebrity chef who is now a grandpa. Haha.

What memories. It was there that local club music transitioned from techno to house and its many sub-genres and beats.

Back to present. That kind of street cred is of little value here with the Burmese youths.

Bouncer: Quick, what kind of house?

Me: Percussion Tech House? (To sample, google/youtube: ‘Percussion Tech House DJ Mix by Dani Tejedor’)

Bouncer: Huh? Never mind, go in.

I like this unique youth subculture with members proclaiming to be punks and gothic rockers (cybergoths actually) and a liking for techno music.

These youths, like many here, have little access to formal education or a chance to break out of a vicious cycle.

Many were born here, grew up in the ghetto and got sucked into poverty, as their parents before them because of their unofficial and semi-official migrant status.

Call it youthful rebellion against the longhi sarongs their parents wear or the betelnut the older folk still chew. The teens are, at heart, polite gangs with tattooed scalp and dyed spiky hair. They are surprisingly tolerant and respectful of my presence as the only outsider here.

I met many punk gangs while in England and Europe during the 90s. The encounters weren’t always as peaceful.

Picture processed with grunge filter.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 100, f4, 1/60 sec.

Something Big Is Coming Down

Continuing my series on festival day in the ghetto. A little Burmese Muslim girl is dressed in her Hari Raya best.

She’s sitting on a squashed box by the roadside. Those red spots on the pavement are not colour run from her brand new dress. They are betelnut spit spat out by the many chewers here.

The girl has grabbed a front row seat, behind the raffia strings cordoning off the area. People are milling around, looking serious, waiting for something.

I asked her mother standing behind and she jabbed the guy next to her. The young man with a punk hairstyle quickly chimed in to say there’s gonna be a rave.

A rave party on the streets, in a migrant-only neighbourhood? A dance party with DJs, crowd swinging their arms like car windscreen wipers and EDM??? Wonderful!

It is my lucky day but I must first get pass the bouncers to get better pictures. I hope they are not as dour-looking as the waiting crowd.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 160, f4, 1/60 sec.

The Backstreet Boys Sepak Takraw Championship

Behind the wall of spectators, is an exciting game of sepak takraw. The community organises some informal events for the special day of Eid.

Fittingly, one of the events is Sepak Takraw, a favourite sport played here on Sundays. Sepak takraw is a kind of foot volleyball played with a woven rattan ball.

Some historians believe the Burmese ‘Chinlone’ artform (single-player takraw-style kicking) was derived from Cuju (catch ball), a form of military exercise from ancient China circa 3rd century BC.

Given that it is a public holiday today, many of the migrant workers are not just here to support their teams but also to catch up with fellow villagers from home. It is serious competition for the teams and just as serious socialising for the supporters.

Public holiday breaks are fewer for them as not all holidays are recognised by their employers. Many workers may also opt to work overtime for additional wages.

This ‘village’ consists of 90 percent Muslim migrants from Myanmar and because it is Eid-ul-Fitr, there is a festive and cheerful atmosphere all round.

Back to the game; Tekong Karin passes the ball to Obai who scored with a tumbling somersault. The third (hidden) player is Tun Tun Min.

Seeing the crowd’s enthusiasm and the thunderous cheers form both sides, I asked some of the spectators who’s playing who? They replied “Sama Kampung” or “from the same village”.

Having witnessed their skills and passion for the game, I am not surprised their countrymen back home are moving beyond village championships. Myanmar won the Gold for men’s doubles in the recent SEA Games.

Next: How I was inducted into a Rohingya Rave Party.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 1600, f9, 1/400 sec.

The Wall

He made another turn into yet another dodgy back lane and I can hear a roar this time. Around the corner, was a wall of people, several in traditional Burmese longyi sarong. They were watching something.

Hameed turned to look at me before assimilating into the crowd. As we both panted and try to catch our breath, he shouted: You go ahead and enjoy watching. Don’t go asking strange questions again, OK?

I gave him a silent thumbs-up sign and pushed my way gently through the crowd. Everyone allowed me through, with some urging those in front to make way. Maybe because I was the only outsider or they understood my curiosity.

Strangely, and probably by co-incidence, the men were mostly dressed in red, blue and white: the tri-colours of the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma flag used from 1974 to 2010. I have questions.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 1250, f9, 1/250 sec.


I spent a weird but wonderful Hari Raya with the Burmese Muslim community in KL. It started with me visiting my Rohingya friend Hameed for Eid.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t home when I went calling. His housemate suggested I take a walk in the neighborhood, and I should find him.

So off I went walking and ran into this old cock by the kerb. When I asked whose chicken is this, people became nervous, agitated, turned away or bolted. Strange, right?

Finally, one brave guy whispered from my back: What are you doing???

It turned out to be my friend Hameed. Haha.

Hameed: You are late. We gave your food to the cats.

Me: Is this your cock?

Hameed: No. This is a fighting cock.

Me: Cock fighting is illegal in this country, you do know?

Hameed: Why do you think that guy is cracking his knuckles?

Me: I noticed.

Hameed: I think this cock is retired. So chill, man.

Me: Ok. At least, you guys didn’t eat him.

Hameed: Maybe, we’ll eat only one of its drumsticks later.

Me: Wow. You are appreciative of the cockerel winning a few fights?

Since I am outnumbered, like 1000 to 1 here, I decided not to pursue the matter further.

Abruptly, Hameed said he has a championship game to go to. Before I finished saying the non-abbreviated WTF, he ran off. I followed him. More mind blowing stuff ahead.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 5000, f9, 1/400 sec.