One of the biggest student-run productions in NUS is back, and this time it promises something different. The Ridge presents to you its exclusive coverage of NUANSA Dasawarsa: Rhapsody in Chorus, by writers Ignatius Albert and Akankshita Dash.
Nostalgia. This one word summarizes the entire NUANSA: Rhapsody in Chorus concert, held at University Town last Sunday, 9 October 2016. Unlike past few editions (which were full-length musicals), the 2016 concert paid tribute to the history of NUANSA (an acronym for NUS and Indonesia, which also means ‘subtle difference’ in Bahasa Indonesia) and commemorated their 10-year anniversary by treating viewers to 10 original songs from past NUANSA productions.
The introductory video at the start of the concert recounted past musicals; from its first edition in 2007 “When I Was In Indonesia,” until its last in 2015 “Flowers of Asmat”. It served as an introduction to first time viewers and as reminiscence for veteran watchers, reminding them about the incredible journey of NUANSA over the past 10 years.
The concert was kick-started by a jazzy track “Kalijodo” from the 2011 concert, “Ca Bau Kan”. For non-Indo/new NUANSA viewers, what seemed to be an innocent song inviting people to love and experience passion at the enticing “Kalijodo” took a surprising turn when Kalijodo was revealed to be a famous red-light district.
The second song, “Better Than Here”, was from the recently held “Flowers of Asmat”. The performance had a certain Disney vibe to it; it started on a cheery enough note by detailing the life of two sisters living in a village, but it quickly became sombre when it touched upon how life would be beyond their tiny village, with one sister wondering if it would be ‘better than here’.
The next song, “A Woman’s Haven”, from the 2012 production “Canting”, had strong feminist overtones to it. Easily the most powerful song of the evening, it described how women have long been living under the shadow of men when, in fact, they are the primary drivers of the thriving marketplace meant for everybody’s livelihoods. It urges women to ‘not stay behind the curtain anymore’.
The fourth and the fifth songs, “Once” and “A Voyage for Two” were a solo and duet respectively, and both were from the wildly popular “The Priyayi” held in 2014. A beautiful lute piece accompanied “Once”, wherein the Priyayi mourns his lost love, a woman he left behind in his village. His ‘love’ joins him in “A Voyage for Two”, confused about whether they will be able to make it work, while he, despite the odds stacked overwhelmingly against them, convinces her to stay.
A brief break came in the form of an interview with four NUANSA alumni, who had returned as performers and crew of the 2016 concert. Although it clearly was an attempt to lengthen the duration of the concert, it was a good move by the organizers to emphasize the link between alumni and the upcoming grand concert in 2017.
The sixth song of the evening, “Welcome to Canting” was again from the 2012 musical “Canting”. The song was dedicated to the Batik industry and emphasising the importance of preserving this ancient craft by homegrown artisans. It also had performers wearing Batik clothes to emphasize the significance of the lyrics.
“Sob Story”, from 2013 “Dance of the Earth”, contrary to its title, was a delightfully upbeat song. It told us the tale of a girl who uses the misfortune she has faced in her life to extract free things from sympathisers by making people feel sorry for her.
The next two songs, “The World I Want” and “Redemption”, were from 2015 “Flowers of Asmat” and 2011 “Ca Bau Kan”. “Redemption”, an audience requested song (through prior voting) was undoubtedly the most popular and loved song of the evening. The two singers acted out the emotions of the two characters, and combined their vocal smarts to belt out a powerful romantic ballad. The song received the longest applause of the evening.
The tenth and final song of the concert, “This Earth of Mankind”, was the titular track from the 2010 musical “This Earth of Mankind”. Accompanied by a haunting violin solo, the number talked about the atrocities faced by the Javanese people during Dutch colonialism and how the people banded together to protest against it.
To conclude the show, all the performers came together for a repeat performance of “Better Than Here”.
Although it was a pity that songs and performers from the first three editions of NUANSA from 2007, 2008 and 2009 were absent, the performers and the songs from the 2010 – 2015 editions are a testament to the strong family bond created by the ten-year history of NUANSA.
For the uninitiated, this NUANSA concert was a welcome reverie from NUS life; bathed in colours, culture, and beautiful music. The awkward yet adorable hosts strung the whole evening together with their cheerful banter and their brief introductions for each piece. However, for those familiar with NUANSA history, the 2016 concert certainly felt like a homecoming.
This was certainly true for one of these writers, who served as a scriptwriter for the 2014 musical “The Priyayi”. The list of the 2016 performers included the “who’s who” of past NUANSA musicals. The alumni who returned for this concert included artistic directors, music directors as well as actors. Although most of these alumni are now busy working adults, they still took out time to return to NUANSA and contribute to the concert in their own way to “show support to this family”. Indeed, support it they did.
NUANSA: Rhapsody in Chorus was a fitting prelude to the upcoming full-length musical to be held in March 2017.
A minute long video at the end of the concert provided a sneak-peek into the 2017 production, and promised to tell a story from a part of Indonesia that NUANSA had never explored before, leaving the audience guessing and excited.
So what is the answer?
Check out the video yourself below!
All photo credits: VIILevent Photography
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