Excitement, thrills and energy – this is what the team behind the Kuala Lumpur International Arts Festival (KLIAF) aims to deliver to its audience. The month-long event, which starts on Aug 31, is back for its third edition. The festival, also known as DiverseCity, promises a memorable line-up of acts, showcasing both international and local performances.

More than 12 venues in KL will be taking part in this year’s DiverseCity.

Over 50 events will be featured at KLIAF, which will be running from Aug 31 to Oct 1.

Curators will not be taking an active role as they did in DiverseCity’s first year. “We are working directly with every production as we did last year,” says Datin Sunita Rajakumar, KLIAF festival director.

The festival promises a vibrant array of arts, dance, music and theatre performances.

Still, it is important to remember that, despite being categorised into genres, many shows are multi-disciplinary.


Malaysian actor and singer Sean Ghazi leads the Gelora – Tarakucha Big Band Extravaganza.

“Events are categorised into genres to help visitors navigate, but each production is too complicated to compress into one genre,” explains Sunita.

Ensuring that everyone will have access to witness the festival is one of DiverseCity’s main aims.

“There are a variety of events lined up – free shows, workshops and even documentaries for those who are not as familiar with the arts,” she says.

With Merdeka fast approaching, residents in Kuala Lumpur are gearing up with nationalistic pride, and DiverseCity is no exception.

The vast majority of productions are composed and created by Malaysians who have dedicated decades of their lives to their craft and art.

The involvement of international acts will help Malaysia’s reputation of the arts, as well.

“It is an extension of cultural goodwill to host and collaborate with international productions,” says Sunita.

There will also be three international productions set to make their Asian debuts. One of them is Che Malambo, an all-male ensemble hailing from Argentina. Described as a percussive dance and music spectacle, this company promises a thrilling showcase of singing, fast-paced choreography, drumming and even the use of lassoes on stage. The malambo, a combination of percussive music and energetic dancing, originates from the 17th century tradition of the gaucho. It is directed by French choreographer and former ballet dancer Gilles Brinas. Che Malambo will play at Auditorium DBKL on Sept 2-3.


Pakistan-based the Sachal Ensemble presents Song Of Lahore.

Elsewhere, Song Of Lahore is a musical show-stopper to investigate. Led by the Sachal Ensemble, the show is set to take Auditorium DBKL by storm. Traditional Pakistani instruments and forms of singing are used in a quirky and fresh take on Western classics from Duke Ellington, The Beatles and Henry Mancini. The group was set up in the early 2000s, after decades in Lahore where non-religious music was discouraged due to a conservative Islamic regime. Surviving musicians were gathered to create the Sachal Ensemble, uniting in a cultural celebration of combining both modern Western and traditional Eastern music.


Acclaimed physical theatre creator Wolfe Bowart returns to KL with the Letter’s End performance.

Don’t forget to catch a screening of the documentary of the same name, which explores the journey of the Sachal Ensemble, from its relative obscurity to acclaimed global status. The movie will screen before the live performance on Sept 9-10.

Wolfe Bowart will make his highly anticipated return to KL with the theatre show Letter’s End. This magical show will surely delight the whole family as its predecessor La La Luna did last year in KL. The upcoming show combines various elements of physical theatre including mime, film and sound to weave an enchanting adventure in a magical world.

A traditional highlight that will surely prove to be a favourite is the Main Zapin show. The free event will be held at KL’s Panggung Anniversari at Taman Botani Perdana from Sept 8-10. Main Zapin, a joint collaboration with arts institution Aswara, will showcase 14 different forms of Zapin.

As a big year of anniversaries, there is also Hands Percussion, which will celebrate 20 years with its Percussion Paradise show.

Percussion Paradise, which will play at Auditorium DBKL from Sept 30 to Oct 1, also features guests like Norwegian Sisu Percussions along with Malaysian Tan Su Yun and Moto Guo.


Malaysian outfit Hands Percussion celebrates its 20th anniversary with a performance called Percussion Paradise. Photo: Jackie Yong

For a retro party, Gelora – The Tarakucha Big Band Extravaganza is the big ticket. Led by actor and singer Sean Ghazi and directed by Nish Tham, this big band act, featuring a large ensemble of homegrown talent, will show at the Gardens Theatre in Mid Valley, KL, on Sept 6-8.

For a family outing, look no further than A Tale That Must Be Told: Macbeth. This interactive performance aims to get children involved in the age-old tale of Shakespeare’s famed tragic hero.

The KL Shakespeare Players, along with the British-based Johnny Gillett (better known as the Journeyman), have created an immersive production to introduce children to the sombre play in ways that would allow them to appreciate this classic tragedy. A Tale That Must Be Told: Macbeth plays at Studio Ramli Hassan on Sept 8-10.

“The ticketed shows are set at affordable prices. We want to make sure everything is as accessible as possible to everyone who wish to attend,” says Sunita.

For more info on the KL International Arts Festival 2017, visit www.diversecity.my.