[By Alena Nadia]
The jingle of the bells embellished on their dancewear, accompanied with flawless makeup and charming megawatt smiles, the dancers of TRADISI are no less a showstopper in their skills as performers. Commanding on stage and nothing but honey-sweet in real life, this club has turned heads on not only campus level, but international attention as well.
TRADISI—or professionally, Taylor’s Cultural Arts Performers Student Body—is a student-run society which aims to celebrate the richness and diversity of Malaysian culture and identity, primarily through the performing arts such as dance. The student organisation was invited by the Haikou University of Economics and the ASEAN Studies Institute to participate in one of the biggest cultural exchange platforms in the region. The China-ASEAN University Students’ Culture Week was held in November last year, running annually as a part of the largest arts festival in the Hainan province—that is, the Hainan Carnival Festival.
It is hard to even imagine being flown abroad by Taylor’s to represent Malaysia on an international platform. Yet, this was every performer’s dream and for them, it was made into reality. TRADISI President Chalani Ganeson explained that it was an honour for the club to receive the invitation to join the cultural exchange as it was the student body’s first trip abroad to showcase Malaysia’s rich and vivacious cultural identity. According to Taylor’s, the festival’s main purpose of “exchanging cultural appreciation” and “promoting the traditional culture of every ethnic group” was a vision TRADISI aligned with. To TRADISI, it was also a significant trip to build the club’s reputation on campus. Although incorporating a gamut of cultural identities into a cohesive performance on an international stage can be a tricky task, it was a task they wanted to execute.
On the prospect of club values, TRADISI prides themselves in being a club that is approachable and warm.
“We want to serve as an avenue to unite people from different walks of life, different races and religions. You put differences outside and you enter as a family. Here, you learn together and you grow together,” added Chalani.
The student body is trying to redefine and challenge the meaning of a cultural student society. They want to promote the idea that studying in a private and urban university is in no way synonymous with forgetting one’s cultural roots. If anything, it’s an even bigger reason to trace back one’s roots and rediscover hidden gems in one’s cultural identity.
“We can make [tradition] funky and street. One of the stereotypes is that cultural clubs are not so diverse. [Some may say] ‘Oh, it’s just a Malay club or it’s just a Chinese club or an Indian club’. But, we can rediscover our cultural roots while making it fun at the same time,” challenged Shamsima Suhana Alia, treasurer of TRADISI.
In many ways, this trip undertaken by the student body can be seen as a turning point for not only TRADISI but for the future of all student-led societies on campus. In terms of the scale of the trip and the global reach that TRADISI can now claim for themselves, the trip appears to be an absolute hit. Alia commented that not only was Taylor’s University “the first Malaysian university to be invited onto this exchange” but the student organisation was also Malaysia’s sole representative during the cultural exchange. This prestigious liaison on the university’s behalf could signal a shift towards more autonomously led student societies being given opportunities to take on more ambitious initiatives. Ultimately, this can gain recognition for their respective club causes, especially with partnering universities in the region, sparking inspiration and hope for Taylorians everywhere.
In what feels like an increasingly divisive world, their inclusive values of accepting everyone and anyone into their club is what they want all other student societies to carry out as well.
“It doesn’t matter whether you are Malay, Chinese, or Indian—we welcome all races. A few semesters back, we even had international students joining us! They want to learn about Malaysian culture, they want to know more about the performing arts and that’s why they joined TRADISI,” explained Alia with passion in her eyes.
With their strong determination to make waves with both Taylorians and non-Taylorians, it is clear that in the semesters to come, they will surely be a force to be reckoned with. Having mentioned that the word ‘culture’ makes young urbanite look away, we are sure that no one can take their eyes off TRADISI. Making waves sounds just about right and for this talented group, this is only their beginning.