I grabbed Michael Tay in between television interviews and the mayhem of the Citrawarna media event in Melaka last month. There was a certain buzz in the air that mostly came from inviting journalists from 33 countries and putting them in one big room and asking them to sit quietly. It was a noisy, but good interview. I also highly recommend Citrawarna. It is a fantastic parade that had over 4500 dancers from all over Malaysia performing. It is one of the best parades I have ever seen! That is saying a lot.
What was the inspiration of Citrawarna?
It’s something that started many many years ago. If you would land in the Malaysia for the very first time, you might be a little bit bewildered because you might be wondering who is a Malaysian? For the simple reason is that there are so many races of people in Malaysia. You can look at a person go, hey he looks like he’s from Indonesia", and a look at another person and think, hey, he could be from Hong Kong, or from Singapore, or from China, or from wherever, or maybe from India. In truth, we are all Malaysians. We have three major races here: the Malay, the Chinese, the Indians, and we do have aboriginal people here as well. So really, there are all kinds of people here that make up Malaysia. It was something we wanted to celebrate.
So when did this actual parade event began?
Maybe about 15 years ago. Before it was called "Citrawarna [the Colors of], it was called, Malaysia Fest. Something short for Malaysia Festival. The Malaysians are, by nature, willing to celebrate for the slightest reasons. So we thought it would be something great to have each of the states in Malaysia celebrate themselves. We have 13 states and each one of them has a unique way they present their cultural dances. We thought it would be a wonderful idea to showcase them all at the capitol. So instead of having a tourist go to each of the states. We just bring them to Kuala Lumpur, for one occasion, and let them see everybody. So this marvelous idea came about as a street parade. So you can see that it’s become really wonderful. It is one occasion that you can really see Malaysians celebrate.
What you think Westerners should make sure that they see while they are in Malaysia?
One would certainly have to be Citrawarna, because you get to see so much. In such a short space of time, and you get a better idea of what might be ahead so if you want to explore, you'll know. We usually also do some kinds of promotion during this whole month [of July]. You can also sample food from every state in many of the hotels. So it’s a wonderful time to come here because within a space of three to four days. You can see the entire country in one gulp.
Which hotels will be participating?
Most of the major hotels, I believe that there are 11 that are participating in this food thing. And many of the shopping centers will also be participating by bringing in many of the cultural performances. So this whole month of July is going to be a great opportunity for all of Malaysia.
Is there a date set for next year’s event?
Oh yes! Next year is going to be a big year for us. It is our 50th anniversary of our independence. Citrawarna Malaysia is July 7, 2007.
Michael Tay is the Deputy Director of the Communications Division of Tourism Malaysia.
Interview and photography by Devin Galaudet