Manila was next on our agenda, and we were pumped to be working with Green Papaya, who've been around since 2000. They've got some amazing things planned for the coming years so if you're in Manila and need a hit of contemporary arts, look them up! They work with all art forms, put on exhibitions and concerts, host meetings, have a massive network worldwide and are genuinely awesome people. They'll be wrapping up their activities in 2020 though so you'd better get on it quick!
Our schedule was packed with nights out to see local bands, market trips and meetings. Especially interesting was a trip to the musicology department of the University of the Philippines. They have a huge selection of traditional instruments that are available for the students to play and they're encouraged to make use of them. The department is actively preserving and recording sounds from across the Philippines and they have a massive archive of recordings of traditional music. They're also excited to keep the traditions alive and many musicians write contemporary works for the instruments, or incorporate them into more experimental and electronic music. With the sounds being used so widely they're very much a part of the psyche of the sound artists there which was amazing to see.
We were also taken to explore the city and learnt more about the history of Manila and saw the different areas. We ate too much Chinese food, watched creepy videos and checked out some local art.
Obviously food was well and truly on the agenda as well and we tried our best to eat every Filipino treat we could find. We also tested out Manila's colourful public transport network.
In our concert we performed alongside a bunch of local artists and even put together a cool collaboration. We worked with Teresa Barrozo, a local composer and sound artist who made some cool sounds manipulating a radio and Joee Mejias who provided some awesome live visuals for our performance. The whole concert was documented so we'll be sharing more details soon!
We had so much fun that we've already started making plans to go back. The artistic community is so vibrant and welcoming and we're really looking forward to delving deeper into their scene in the future!
After Manila, we had a horrendously early morning flight into Vientiane, Laos. We were only there for one night before getting a bus to Luang Prabang. People promised spectacular views that made the 10-hour drive worth it, but in our case it was a gruelling 12 hours and not worth it! The most fun part was where the bus broke down in a mountain village and we got to go out in the fresh air and take some photos.
Not the worst place to be stranded!
We then arrived in Luang Prabang where we were working with Music for Everyone School again - the same organisation that operates in Siem Reap, Cambodia. We performed for the music students before running a few workshops and lessons.
Music for Everyone school always welcomes travelling musicians to come volunteer to give lessons and workshops, and the kids are mostly very willing to perform their songs for you! It's a fantastic organisation to get behind as all the lessons are provided to students for free.
We then flew into Bangkok, excited as always to be back. We had a bit of a hiccup with our arrival though - our well-meaning AirBnB host dropped Ali's alto on the ground which rendered it unplayable. Luckily we got onto an excellent technician who came to our apartment and fixed it perfectly, and was also happy to have a look at Matt's alto which had been playing up.
All was well by the night of the concert, where we were working with Cho Why, a new arts space in Bangkok's Chinatown. They take applications for people needing a space to perform, and regularly have cool things happening from exhibitions to music to dance, so if you're in Bangkok check them out!
It seemed like we'd only just started the tour when we'd already reached our final destination of Brunei. The wonderful Brunei Music Society hosted us and made sure we were well-fed and looked after. We also actually had time to check out some tourist sites!
The famous water village. You can see both the old houses and the nice new government-built ones - quite a juxtaposition.
For any performance in Brunei, regardless of whether the performers are foreign or local, you need to obtain a permit and then attend a meeting with the "censorship board" where you discuss what the event is, what clothes the performers will wear and various other logistics. However, a few weeks before we arrived in Brunei, the government decided to start cracking down on a long-standing but rarely enforced rule of not allowing any performances by foreigners in Brunei so our permit was rejected! This could have been disastrous but we were extremely fortunate that the Australian High Commissioner of Brunei agreed to host us for an invitation-only performance at his residence!
We had no idea what to expect but the concert turned out to be a huge success! We had a big crowd, there was free-flowing beer and wine (a rare occurrence in dry Brunei!) and we enjoyed chatting with everyone after the performance, from local musicians to high-ranking diplomats from around the world. We're extremely grateful to both the Australian High Commission for their support and the Brunei Music Society who organised everything and made our stay in Brunei really fun and memorable!
It was a great way to end our trip and we're so grateful to everyone who helped! But all good (and at times stressful) things must come to an end eventually.
A visit at the end of our trip to the spectacular six-star Empire Hotel. The photos really don't do it justice!
While it's the end of our tour it's certainly not the end of our projects in South-East Asia! We'll be posting a bit of a wrap-up of our tour soon with some conclusions and some more general information about the logistics in the hopes of providing some useful information for any musicians or artists who may consider pursuing artistic opportunities in the region in the future. In the meantime, we're off to enjoy our last day of warm weather before we head back to wintry Melbourne tomorrow night. Keep posted!