You know that friend who didn’t seem particularly interested in performing… until she went overseas and started appearing in every Malaysian Night production? This is what I would imagine how our diverse population of international students felt during our annual Monash Cultural Night. It’s hard not to amp up your patriotism when you’re overseas, and then you discover just how much you’re attached to your national identity. Those present were in for a treat as cultural exchange in its purest, most literal form took place at Four Points by Sheraton.
Unlike the usual set of ball gowns and sea of dark three-piece suits, attendants had the opportunity to show off their best traditional outfits. Drapes! Colours! Embellishments! When I wasn’t busy trying to figure out familiar faces who’ve swapped out mum jeans for sarees, glasses for contacts, my visual senses were very much overloaded by the colours and iterations of every wonderfully-styled garbs present. While curtains usually matched the drapes, the event decoration tried very well to one-up the attendants with floating nebulae across LED panels by the entrance, and twinkling lights were littered across the four walls of the hall — just like a stream of stars. And the only thing better than one photo booth was having two.
The night kicked off with a melodrama courtesy of MPAC, with the story about the trials and tribulations faced by an apathetic foreign student upon arriving at KL. Her existential crisis was swiftly aided by a trio of Monash Buddies who not only showed her around but basically helped her realise that the only way from rock bottom was up.
Catering during MCN was the celebrity-equivalent of Pitbull. Served in a dome, attendants got a truly Mr. Worldwide cuisine as dishes ranged from vegetarian curry, teriyaki salmon, roasted potatoes to good ol’ macaroni.
First up from the long list of international performances was India! India’s 20 minute set was an elaborate boy meets girl story, infused with intricate dance moves throughout. Another impressive part of their performance was definitely the dizzying outfit changes.
Team Indonesia took a rather stripped down, acoustic approach to their performance. Instead of relying on thumping background music, they capitalised on vocals, coordination, and a hand drum. All of these elements coming together landed them the Best Choreography Award for the night.
Bangladesh’s performance was pretty much a mixed bag of skittles that encapsulated different aspects of Bangladeshi pop culture. What started off as a soft, demure duet escalated quickly into full-on EDM set, then moving on to hip hop and some rock. Clearly, there was something for everyone.
After the first half of the performances, the audience was treated to a stand up session by fellow alumni Hamza, who waxed poetic about the struggles of being a South Asian comedian and having his nationality confused. Needless to say, his relatable, wink wink, nudge nudge humor definitely earned him plenty of chuckles that night.
Winners of the Most Versatile Performance, Team Pakistan emphasized a lot on their visual production, as they delivered a story about a tourist, his tour guide and their 360 degree experience of Pakistan. Their entire performance was delivered in perfect synchrony to their visual on the large display, and proved that there was no better way to end a performance than singing their national anthem.
If there’s one team that really made the entire hall roar with excitement, it would be Team Africa! Audiences had a taste of African traditional wear and streetstyle as they pranced along the stage. Their performance truly shined as each performer looked like they were having the time of their lives instead of trying to remember their parts, and how they showed that they didn’t need outfit changes to get the crowd rolling. This landed them their well-deserved People’s Choice Award.
Big winners of the night, Sri Lanka enlisted a rather wholesome approach to their entire set. By using an entire band with five vocalists and two instrumentalists, they delivered an energetic set that could easily challenge any youth camp ensemble. The choreographed parts that involved peacock costumes, yellow strobe lights, and thumping basse definitely earned them their Best Overall Performance Award.
Article by Ling Jie Tuang
Photos by Desmond Chin and Ryan Wee