Yep. I said it. Malaysia is a beautiful country. We have the best food in the world, beautiful people and amazing beaches. We are proud of our culture, our home-grown brands like Pestle & Mortar and Wanderlust + Co, and not forgetting our National Football team Harimau Malaya (who beat our Indonesian rivals 3-2!)
But do we support them? Like really, really support them? I think not. When was the last time you actually took a picture of your holiday in Redang Island instead of Bali? When was the last time you walked into a local home-grown clothing store to buy some threads instead of looking for fake Supreme or Louis Vuitton gear?
When was the last time you bought tickets and went for a local football match? Or watch it on television? (Gone were the days where we glued ourselves to the TV watching Rashid Sidek represent Malaysia during our badminton glory days.) I shame myself too on this one: I watch the English Premier League religiously but local football matches are never a priority to me.
When it comes to live events - I'm not just ranting about the fact that Malaysians simply don't want to buy a ticket for a show; it saddens me to see promoters that work really hard to either promote fresh local talent or even book great international artists, yet they have no choice but to give out free tickets so they can fill the room. What irks me, even more, is when other promoters don't support, but spread negativity that the promoter didn't do well.
It doesn't only end there. When there's an event cancellation? Throngs of keyboard warriors take to social media, vent their frustrations on "How could this happen?", "Such an irresponsible promoter - I don't care I want my refund", "Are you going to pay for my flights? I'm coming all the way from Subang for the show who is going to refund me now?", "I knew it! @tagfriend @tagfriend".
What does this all do? It creates a spiral of the destruction of the scene.
Private corporations become weary of giving desperately needed sponsorship dollars, media laps this up as news and continue to spread, other promoters don't want to take risks anymore and the snowball continues until there are no live events in Malaysia.
What happens next? "Why does Singapore always have the good concerts?", "Malaysia is sooo boring got no good shows" or "#bringbacktherave".
But what we don't realise is that we are truly the problem here. We aren't lining up to buy Malaysian-curated events; instead, we are flying off to other parts of the world for our next Instastory.
We have local brands that started with the best intentions but are closing because the main market they are catering to is more interested in foreign expensive brands instead.
We jam the WhatsApp group chats of our local promoter begging for free passes, convincing how our social media presence will help promote their brand/event instead. NGOs like ALIFE that are pushing for change with the government and are asking for the support of the people. There's a petition up banging for 100,000 signatures so it can be presented to our prime minister Tun M.
And where is it now? 75% short of our target at 15,000 signatures. There's even a video going around explaining how difficult it is for approvals and I don't see that being shared around at all.
And don't get me started about local talent. Just look at Yuna - amazing performer that has gone global and is loved all around the world. Instead, we Malaysians criticize her for being "western" and not adhering to "true Malaysian culture". What is "True Malaysian Culture" exactly?
Sitting at home eating nasi lemak and giving your thoughts on why Yuna is not Malaysian enough to represent Malaysia? Come on, everyone - look up and see what's around us - we have the power to change things, make the industry better. Support your local promoter. Go buy tickets for LOL's comedy shows, go support FSA's Marlo show happening in KL Live. Breakbot is playing at Kyo this Thursday, courtesy of Collective Minds. Let's not even stop there! Urbanscapes is happening this November! Go support ALIFE's petition!
And what am I going to get on my next text from an old friend? "Hey bro, long time no see - I was wondering if there was a cabin available for Its The Ship..." Buy la. Need a link for that too?
The writer is Iqbal Ameer, founder of The Livescape Group and music festival It's The Ship.
(Photo courtesy: 123RF)