The White Rajah is back!

The four comics: (left to right) Haji Mohd Wahid (cloth seller), Empawi Anak Entalang (farmer), and new characters, Amandeep (money lender) and Tau Kay Neo (wife of Lau Chek Kong, the goldsmith). Photo credit: SJFS

KUCHING — On 5, 6 and 7 July 2019, the well-received original musical production by St Joseph’s Family of Schools was restaged at the Grand Hall of the Archdiocesan Curia and Cathedral Pastoral Centre (ACCPC) next to St Joseph’s Cathedral, Kuching. This event is part of the activities of the Rain Forest Fringe Festival.

The musical tells the story of James Brooke, the first White Rajah of Sarawak through music, song and dance. Sadly, this part of our heritage is not found in our current school history books. The audience was treated to some knowledge of this part of the history of Sarawak in entertaining ways. Moreover, there were comical fictional characters who brought laughter and fun to a somewhat boring historical drama.

All the songs are composed by Fr Alvin Ng, SJ, a teacher at St Joseph’s Private School, with the exception of “Trust His Heart” by Babbie Mason in the House of McDougall scene, and “Fairland Sarawak”, the old Sarawak anthem. Music arrangement is by Mr Benedict Lo, another teacher at St Joseph’s Private School. Fifteen guest musicians joined the students of the schools in the orchestra.

Compared to the previous production in 2017, this time round there were new characters, songs and scenes. There were the newcomer fictional character of Amandeep Singh, a Sikh money lender, and Tau Kay Neo, the wife of Lau Chek Kong, the goldsmith who went back to China for some business. The other two comics, namely Haji Mohd Wahid, the Malay cloth merchant, and Empawi Anak Entalang, the Iban farmer were on hand to thrill the crowd with their wit and humour.

Different languages were used, namely English, noble Malay and Sarawak Malay, Hokkien and Iban, to bring out the diversity of Sarawak culture.

Also different from the previous musical, many of the three batches of the alumni of St Joseph’s Private School helped out either in the cast or in the crew.

There was also a new ballet dance soliloquy in the scene where James Brooke broke down and sang melancholily upon receiving the news of the assassination of his good friend, Pangiran Raja Badruddin and his brothers. Other than that, during the battle at Siniawan, the soldiers danced to the song, “Can You Hear the Beating of the Gongs?”

A new scene towards the end of the musical introduced Charles Brooke. He was seen at a high society ball in Wiltshire, England where he met for the first time his future wife, Margaret de Windt. This scene was added as a run up to the forthcoming sequel on the second White Rajah.

The upbeat signature song of the musical, Kamek Orang Sarawak, was performed again at the end to the rousing cheer of the audience. People could be seen dancing and swaying to the beat.

White Rajah memorabilia were sold on the ground floor of the ACCPC. There were Dum Spiro Spero mugs, key chains and T-shirts. On top that, there were Kamek Orang Sarawak drawstring bags, T-shirts and key chains. The Brooke Gallery also put up a stall to sell their merchandise.

Students, alumni, teachers, staff, parents and other well wishers came together to put up this magnificent feat to showcase the inborn talents we all have and which can be chiseled to perfection. It was a good lesson in wholesome education which is the trademark of Catholic schools, especially St Joseph’s Family of Schools. Ora et Labora !

Fr Francis Lim, SJ