BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
Brunei’s entertainment industry has seen dynamic changes over last year, diversifying its sub-sectors as it thrives to become one of the main contributors to the national economy for the long run.
In what could be seen as “waking up the sleepy town”, local entertainers rising to take up their stages has somewhat helped to add colours to Brunei – after the country struggled to see how entertainment can be plastered around town.
MUSIC INDUSTRY: SLOWLY BUT SURELY
Local hip hop artist who recently came out with his own album, Azizi Sabri told The Bruneian that Brunei’s music scene has begun showing progress in 2016.
At the time, he said the music scene was represented by the likes of Aziz Harun, Secret Signal, Jaz Hayat, Empty Wallet, Hurricane Honey, and many more.
Most of them were also starting independently and worked their way up towards their own productions, which would mostly be outside of Brunei.
Local bands and musicians only have to look outside of the country for the promise of opportunity, as the size of the music industry in the country is still relatively small.
“I feel that Brunei is still learning” said Bryant Leong, music producer for Surviving Monday Records and also the guitarist for local pop-punk band, Secret Signal, adding that the development of the industry is slow but it is definitely growing.
The local musician, who has been composing and producing music since 2005, credits social media and technology for the developing music scene in the Sultanate.
“Technology has evolved and has changed the way we listen to music.” said Bryant.
He further added that with the help of technology, musicians and artists are able to reach out to a wider audience — both locally and internationally.
“Many artists are fully utilising streaming services, social media and other online tools such as Instagram and Spotify” he said.
Moreover, according to local rapper Azizi Sabri, with the help of the technology and social media, music becomes more accessible, making it easier for local musicians to put themselves out there.
Furthermore, social media is where music audiences get together forming their own communities and sharing their experiences of bands and artists.
The music industry in Brunei saw a major structural shift in 2016.
Companies have started realising the importance of converging technology and social media in engaging with the audience.
Azizi said new platforms like Progresif and ForTheCultureAsia has helped foster the emerging local music scene in the Sultanate.
“These platform recognizes the importance of its local music scene and has ensured that the public has better access and exposure to it” he added.
Bryant however said that with the growing talent pool, the country needs to build more infrastructure and platform that can help nurture future talent.
INSIDE BRUNEI’S BLOOMING ART SCENE
Majority of the interviews with local artists and musicians have all highlighted that the local art scene have become the forefront in the entertainment industry in the Sultanate.
Sandy, the founder of Sound & Canvas explained that among the earliest challenges on opening an exhibition is that the art culture in Brunei is still little known, however that is changing.
“Our art scene continues to develop, as witnessed through the growing number of local exhibition blooming throughout Sultanate and artists having the opportunity to exhibit their own work.” she said.
She further added that a thriving arts ecosystem requires “blood, sweat and tears” as well as investment and community support.
On the other hand, Manager and Curator Osveanne Osman of Creative Space Art Gallery & Studio is tackling the emerging local art scene, while simultaneously providing a solution to eliminate barriers for artists seeking professional art careers.
The non-profit organisation responsible for the Emerge project was founded with the goal of spearheading home-grown talents to gain presence and marketability, both locally and internationally.
The gallery not only offers local artists the opportunity to showcase their artwork in the exhibition, but it is also providing the artist with curatorial guidance, public relations support and network opportunities during the exhibition.
GROWING INTERESTS IN PERFORMING ARTS
However, the local performing arts in Brunei has undergone an unprecedented amount of transformation over the past few years and Relentless Entertainment has been at the forefront the sector’s success stories.
Relentless have since produced 8 shows—including their first musical hit, “Enchanted Forest” in 2012. Following the latest, the third installment of their popular Musical Mania.
Established in Brunei for 11 years, Relentless Entertainment provides a wider platform for young aspiring artists, actors, singers, dancers and musicians to be a part of their theatrical performances.
POSITIVE GROWTH IN THE FILMING INDUSTRY
Brunei film industry is booming. There has been an increase in internationally distributed homegrown films.
Local filmmaker’s short film ‘Bread Dream’ was recognised at the Cannes Film Festival short film in 2012; and Vanishing Children which was featured at the Sci-Fi London Festival in 2015.
As Brunei’s first homegrown short film to impress global moviegoers, local filmmaker Abdul Zainidi predicts a brighter future for the local film sector.
The filmmaker has announced that his third film in the series, ‘Still Vanishing Children’ has been selected for screening at the Dumbo Film Festival in New York this year.
“The local film industry has seen a vast change and shuffle” he further commented on the rise of domestic feature films and homegrown talents from filmmaking to acting.
“The focus now is to ensure that these talents have pathway to further strengthen the local movie scene” he added.
The biggest milestone for the film industry in the Sultanate has been the launching of its first filmmaking college this year, the Mahakarya Institute of the Arts Asia, in a bid to establish a sustainable ecosystem for filmmaking and creative content in the sultanate.
.The first film college in Brunei with an aim to equip aspiring film- makers with the skills and experience to forge a career in film has being launched .
The Maharkarya embarked on a partnership with TAFE Queensland to provide local filmmakers a better programme to kickstart their careers.
Based in Plaza Athirah, Jln Tutong, The Mahakarya Institute of the Arts Asia provides a two-year course preparing students for a career in the film and TV industry.
The new film college offers two directions to aspiring creators, with programs available in Diploma in Screen and Media.
YAM Pengiran Anak Hajah Nurul Amal Munjiatul Athirah believes that the local film industry has great potential but is still at an infancy stage.
The Co-Founders of the institution said that there are many aspiring content creators who would benefit greatly through this program.
“This is why we open an arts institute starting with a Diploma in Screen and Media, which covers content creation for various media platform” she said.
Maharkarya formally opened in February but is only now receiving 15 places for each intake interested in learning film direction and more.
The shifting landscape will continue to create opportunities for established and emerging professionals in the entertainment industry.