Zeppo Youngsters Introduce Malaysia through Dance

Zeppo Youngsters Introduce Malaysia through Dance

KUALA LUMPUR: Beginning with the echoing phrase ‘Bismillah’ resonating in every corner of the hall, a group of young people who call themselves Zeppo Youngsters swiftly swayed their bodies to the rhythm of the music. Adorned in traditional Malay attire, the dance moves of the 24 young people in the enclosed stadium of Singapore, a fusion of the traditional Malay horse dance and hip hop, successfully captured the hearts of the judges, leading them to be crowned as champions of the ‘Super 24’ competition last year.

In fact, not only was that performance remarkable, but the group consisting of youths aged 20 to 28 years old has now become a focal point for local and international dance enthusiasts alike, presenting a unique blend of traditional and modern dance, particularly hip hop.

According to its founder, Faris Azim Abd Karim, 26, who serves as the choreographer, this uniqueness has led him and his group to be constantly approached with questions from those excited and surprised that hip hop dance could be combined with traditional dance movements. “Every time after a performance, the question of fusion dance (a combination of hip hop and traditional) is one of the most frequently asked, about how we came up with the idea to create such a dance.”

“We actually started in 2011 as a hip hop dance group, but there was something that made us feel unsatisfied. So in 2018, Zeppo Youngsters decided to inject innovation by boldly taking the risk of advocating traditional dance through fusion with hip hop,” he told Bernama.

Diligently solidifying their identity in the dance world, this fifth child out of six siblings said that the echoing of the phrase ‘Bismillah’ in the hall or stadium before starting the performance is another image the group brings. As Muslims encouraged to recite ‘Bismillah’ before doing anything to seek the blessings of Allah SWT, according to Faris Azim, he tries to convey this in the dance world as a ‘hidden message’ to young people not to be distracted by music.

The group’s strategy seems to be spot-on as Zeppo Youngsters increasingly etch their name not only on the stage of local dance but also internationally, having clinched 17 medals including ‘Super 24’ in Singapore, ‘Summer Jam Camp Dance’ in Vietnam, and ‘Eat D Beat 2019’ in Indonesia. Their proudest moment came when their artistic journey made history by becoming the first team from the country to be crowned as the champions of ‘Body Rock 2023’ in San Diego, California, United States last year, thereby sidelining challenges from dance groups worldwide.

“We chose the dance floor as the platform to elevate the country’s heritage and through fusion dance, it not only attracts the interest of young people but also aims to showcase our culture internationally. Apart from the horse dance, we also blend hip hop dance with ‘dikir barat’ and silat, translated through attire, etiquette, and demeanor in every performance, thus introducing Malaysia to outsiders,” he said.

Admitting it’s not an easy task, Faris Azim, who has over a decade of experience in the dance world, said he usually takes time to internalize the music rhythm before inspiring any dance movements. He also mentioned conducting research and consulting with experts to ensure that the choreography created still respects the fundamental elements of heritage art and does not inject any changes that could damage it.

“The silat elements presented are only basic, and so far, we have received much support from traditional dance and silat experts, thereby assisting in their efforts to preserve heritage culture,” he said, expressing his desire to further expand their wings in the dance world.

— BERNAMA

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