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Ipoh: The Next Arts Hub?

Cover Story

By lli Aqilah and Khaleeja Suhaimi

The city of good food, the place with unique charms and a host of other epithets, but calling Ipoh the city of the arts might sound a bit odd to some. However, did you know that we have one of the best arts scenes in the country? From classical ensembles to one-of-a-kind arts festivals, the arena of Ipoh’s arts and culture is slowly gaining the attention not only from locals but also from domestic and local tourists, showing how big the potential is for Ipoh to become Malaysia’s next arts hub city. But how can we be without having new talents coming in? Exclusive for this issue, we listed the places to go for Ipohites (and anyone) who are interested to be part of the arts family and perhaps may one day join Michelle Yeoh on the international stage as one of the talented people of Ipoh!

Ipoh Teems with Art Resources: to Explore, Ogle or Participate

Perak Department of Arts and Culture (JKKN)

The Perak Department for Arts and Culture (JKKN Perak), one of the agencies under Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia, is a platform for implementing and instilling appreciation towards arts and culture in today’s society. Some of the programmes that are highlighted this year include the arts and culture classes they are conducting for free to the public.

Focusing on traditional music, theatre and dance, they welcome anyone who is seven years old and above who are interested in learning to join their classes every Saturday at 9am. “We also have clubs for primary and secondary students who are excellent and passionate about what they do and maybe plan to hone their talent. Here is the opportunity where they can develop and polish their artistic gifts,” said Mohd Rafi Jafranee, in charge of the counselling unit.

Without much procedure, anyone interested can just walk in to register for classes of their choice. Here they will learn the basics, before deciding to continue in-depth. “Being part of JKKN, we don’t only focus on Malay traditional dances, in fact, we’re offering multiracial cultural dances to show that we appreciate each culture as a whole,” Rafi continued.

JKKN also sends coaches to 14 selected schools, where students are taught traditional dance, theatre, traditional music like kompang, silat, traditional games and literature. Fahmi Radzi, a member of Deklamasi Lakon Perak (PEDEL), an NGO under JKKN Perak, has been active in theatre shows for almost a year now. PEDEL conducts theatre workshops for anyone who is interested in acting and wishes to continue for the long term.

Projek Rabak

It started with two friends talking about bringing back the glory of Ipoh’s arts scene. Projek Rabak has become the place to go for those who want to explore and indulge themselves in the world of arts.

“Ipoh used to be the place where new bands perform various genre of music. I remembered at the age of 14 or 15, my band performed at the St John’s hall in front of hundreds of people. We never get that in KL, where crowds are less than a hundred,” said co-founder of Projek Rabak, Mohd Jayzuan or known to many as Jay.

Projek Rabak began in January 2011 with six friends, Jay, Seyn Jukey, Riduan A Dullah, Adam Jalaludin, Sara Khalid and Abdul Azim, the year where underground music and the arts was starting to slow down. But that didn’t slow them down and neither was the crowd who craved for something out of the box.

“One of our first event, was the showing of several short films held at a learning centre that belonged to Riduan. The event was on a Saturday evening so we weren’t expecting a crowd. But boy, how wrong we were!,” said Jay as the short-film premier attracted more than a hundred people who weren’t just Ipohites but also people from Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bharu.

Soon, Projek Rabak started curating and organising other arts events such as Ipoh Kreative and was also invited to perform. A few years later, the team decided that it was time to have an arts space of their own, hence the establishment of Khizanat, an arts cafe located at Jalan Dato Onn Jaafar, Ipoh.

“We welcome everyone who wants to be part of us. Come to Khizanat, grab the microphone and perform. You can sing, recite poetry or even dance. Just do what feels natural to you,” said Jay to those who are interested to join Projek Rabak.

Aside from Khizanat, Projek Rabak also publishes books under two of its subsidiary companies, Rabak-Lit and Doku Pustaka. Among Projek Rabak’s artistes are Fynn Jamal, Anwar Hadi, Takahara Suiko, Tajrin Faruqi and many more.

Readers who are interested in Projek Rabak, can visit their website or facebook page or drop by at Khizanat at 57A, Jalan Dato Onn Jaafar or simply visit their facebook page at

Perak Society of Performing Arts (PSPA)

Started in 1996, PSPA began as a group of like-minded performing arts lovers who wanted to share their passion for their friends and the community.

“Under the leadership of the late Dato’ KK Lim, the founder and the first president, PSPA is open to all forms of performing arts although the promotion of western art forms seems more prevalent because of its English speaking nature,” said Datin Rosalina the current president of PSPA.

Its Royal Patron was the late DYMM Sultan Azlan Shah and now, His Royal Highness Sultan Nazrin Shah.

Among PSPA’s long list of amazing shows are Shiny Black Gold (2011), Nova Concerta from Philippines (2006) and PSPA International Ensemble (since 2007 until now).

Why should people join PSPA? It keeps them updated on events. Not just PSPA’s but other interesting events of interest. PSPA offer the opportunities to participate, perform and experience the performing arts first hand.

PSPA welcomes everyone who wants to join the family however you will need to be recommended by a member of PSPA and seconded by another. For more information on PSPA, readers can visit their website at or Facebook page at

Rumah Ipoh

Filled with books by writers from all over the world and a cosy atmosphere in an old house with character, Rumah Ipoh by Wani Ardy which started operating in May has now become the latest attraction of Ipoh.

“We moved here around a month ago and because we have two extra rooms, we decided to turn it into a bed-and-breakfast,” explained Wani.

“I love Ipoh for the 90s vibe it gives but the nonchalant environment is just too overwhelming for me. Rumah Titi in KL and Rumah Sanur in Bali which are managed by my good friends in the art scene, Zulhabri Supian and Farhan Azahan in Frinjan are two big inspirations for Rumah Ipoh,” she continued.

Aside from bed-and-breakfast, Rumah Ipoh is also open to anyone who would like to drop by for a read on weekdays from 11.30am till 4.30pm. Books and black wear are sold here too.

Inspired by the late Yasmin Ahmad’s film, Sepet, Rumah Ipoh consists of two rooms called Jason and Orked. Jason is a mixed dormitory, priced at RM20 per person while Orked is a private room at RM50. And that includes breakfast. Prices are slightly higher during the weekends.

Located at Jalan Khoo Cheng Cheow, you can easily Waze your way there. Landmarks: Econsave, Jalan Kampar. Bookings can be done through Whatsapp or text at 017 602 1336 or at

Since 2008, Wani has also been involving herself in Pasar Boco, an intimate market celebrating books and arts and crafts. If you’re wondering what ‘boco’ is, it means read in Javanese.

Boco is held four times a year and this time they are back with their 18th edition in Ipoh! Set in August this time around, it will take place in O’oi & Comrades Mansion.“From Shah Alam to Kuala Lumpur, we’ve had 200 and also up to 2000 people supporting,” said Wani.

Any vendors interested to be part of Boco’s Ipoh family, including volunteers or poets and singer-songwriters, feel free to head on to Brace yourselves, Ipohites! August is going to be a great month of celebrating Malaysia and the arts.

Ipoh Fine Arts Society

Ipoh Fine Arts Society (IFAS) was formed in 1989, solely to appreciate the beauty and richness of performing arts in all cultures. “We’ve had talented artists from The Temple of Fine Arts Kuala Lumpur to perform dances like Odissi, Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam. We’ve also had foreign artists all the way from India performing in Ipoh for a production called Sharanagati,” said Shanti Kumar, President of IFAS.

Sharanagati consisted of 20 musicians and dancers performing Odissi and Bharatanatyam at the same time on stage. The idea of the programme was mainly to raise funds for children with an interest in the performing arts.

IFAS also encourages local artists to showcase their hidden talents by organising events for them. They have had the 30-piece Perak Woodwind Orchestra to perform contemporary western classics and the 4-piece Chinese symphony orchestra performing traditional Chinese music.

“Apart from that, we’re also looking out for youngsters to join us. They should begin understanding and appreciating cultures from a very young age. We believe creativity is the currency of the future,” continued Shanti.

One of the programmes they organised was a talent search for school children, where they have to come up with an idea of any song, dance, poetry or drama on Earth. The idea must then be performed.

Other programmes include workshops on theatre skills for children. Anyone above the age of 18 are welcome to join IFAS to learn about appreciating art. For further details, contact 016 532 1087.

Without ‘Art’ the earth is just ‘Eh’

With the dedication, hard work and determination from all these associations, Ipoh definitely has the potential to be Malaysia’s very own art hub. We hope that this will inspire our readers to join the art and cultural community of Ipoh and make us proud!

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