Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Heidi Vogel in Malaysia

Landing in Kuala Lumpur at sunrise, my heart filled with excitement as I looked out to see the water and the lush land below. The great many facets of Malaysia induced much curiousity, wonder and emotion. An announcement in flight, of a warning of The Capitol Punishment for drug traffickers, prompted me to have a look in my bags and pockets to be sure I hadn't been used en route. Also a final scare in the line to immigration, wondering if the stamp in my passport, showing that I had once visited Israel, would prohibit my entry, as I know, holders of Israeli passports, may not enter. I was entering a new world. The train to KL Sentral - 35 Ringet (about £6) was a very modern, comfortable express train, 30 minutes to the centre of KL. The train ride was beautiful, getting a feel of the land itself there, being Jungle. Immense green. Having grown up in the U.K with a best friend who is half Malay and half English, I have heard many wonderful tales of Malaysia and my friends love of the cultural mix, the land, her passion for the political and religious issues and the FOOD. Years of expectations and imaginings, made me feel a little at home My friend Joanna, met me at KL sentral. She is a well known TV personality and theatre actress now in Malaysia, being of mixed origin, Malay and white and very talented has been a working combination. We drove to a small suburban area of KL and she told me of her new travel show she has presented for the BBC, heading deep into the jungles of Malaysia to discover its land, natural resources, the dangers to the environment from logging and lost rainforest and the lives of the indigenous people. We arrived at her beautiful family home, where I was thrilled to hear birds singing in a very unusual way, these were exotic birds of yellow and other colours and unlike birds I had heard or seen before, the trees in her garden, the jungle trail near her home, all wonderful for the senses. My first meal on a banana leaf also kick started the pleasures of my Malaysian experience. "why are you talking to the waiters in Malay?" I asked Joanna. Because they are newly arrived from India, they don't speak English. Her being so fluent in Malay in her adult years spent in Malaysia, was beautiful to me. Over my next days, we prepared for my concert. Joanna also wanted to take me to meet several of her friends. She prepared me; " I want you to meet my Malaysian friends, many of them are mixed like myself, we tend to gravitate toward each other" . As we sat down at a Lovely western style cafe, we ordered English tea and scones. Her friends arrived. "What mix is he?" she asked pointing to one of her close friends. I looked closely at his face, all eyes on me, afraid to get it wrong. I stared at him some more, "Chinese and white" I said. They all smiled, "well done". They sat and talked about the racial and religious dynamics of Malaysian society, as we sat with Chinese, Indian, Malay and all mixes of their "rainbow" society. The accents-American, British, Malay, threw me a bit. My show would be at a well known Jazz Club in Kuala Lumpur. Playing Jazz with Malaysian musicians was a new experience as we rehearsed they were warm and loving toward me and extremely supportive. During rehearsal Joanna brought me Lime water with syrup to drink from a plastic bag with a straw, refreshing! Before the concert, we ate at an indian street cafe. My brother and his girlfriend joined us before the show. His girlfriend is an indonesian Malaysian. We have family ties to Malaysia. My half brother himself being of Indian Singaporian origin. And we have a new baby half sister, her mother being of Indian Malaysian origin. As we all met there in KL, I started to feel as if I was "coming home to my roots". Strange as I am from a different part of the world completely. Listening to my brother get by in Malay, was very charming also. He had taken me to eat Durian on the street (a very smelly Malaysian fruit, whose texture is gooey and almost dairy-like) and for a foot massage for which his girlfriend haggled the price down. Shopping in Malls and on the street, chinese dresses, indian saris. In the evening I received a very warm reception from a lovely audience in KL, all passionate about Jazz and the music that I love. I was joined for the show, by a well know Brazilian percussionist, who happened to be in town. The audience loved hearing this music on Malaysian soil, the Percussionist played a 6/8 african groove on Djembe for an intro to "Afro Blue" and as I sang the first lyric "dream of a land, my soul is from", I felt the audience felt what I was feeling. In my moment to speak, I thanked the audience, Joanna and my brother and family for being there as I expressed my story there "I feel as if I have come home".

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