Best things to do at creative arts festival Urbanscapes 2019

A hub for creative communities in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

Urbanscapes is Malaysia's longest-running creative arts festival (Photo: Urbanscapes)

The city’s longest-running creative arts festival, Urbanscapes 2019, running from November 16 to 24, will take over some of the most iconic locations in KL, including Medan Pasar, River Of Life, REXKL, The Godown KL, Sentul Depot, Kwai Chai Hong, the backlanes of Lorong Bandar 13 and Lorong Panggung.

Adding to the already packed line-up this year is the cross-cultural project URBN.SENI: The Inaugural Triennial Malaysia-Singapore Cultural Showcase, which celebrates the close relationship between Malaysia and Singapore. Films, art and music aside, this festival within a festival will also host fun markets and culinary events to spark creative dialogue between the two countries.

Long-time homegrown theatre production TerryandTheCuz was also roped in for an initiative called HuRu-HaRa, which serves as a platform for artists and creative minds to explore their voices, their land and their people. Music, dance, visual projection and art installations are set to bring chaos and beauty at the same time.

To help you get the most out of the nine-day celebration, we’ve listed some highlights that will cater to different points of interest:


Upcoming musical talents around the region are on the rise, if you know where to look. The Young Blood (Nov 16, 5.30-11pm) session features a multitude of genres from Malaysia and Singapore’s indie scene, including haunting electronic duo .gif, R&B singer-songwriter NYK and female bedroom producer Shye. For something more contemporary, heavy hitters such as SonaOne, ALIF, Fariz Jabba and Yung Raja will make an appearance at Urban Sounds (Nov 17, 5.30-10.30pm)

Don’t miss the finale though – Urbanscapes culminates with the Unlimited Grooves Festival (Nov 24, noon-midnight) where headliners Glass Animals, The Drums, SALES, Jakob Ogawa, The Marias, Colde and Boy Azooga are set to put on a multi-sensory performance.


Glass Animals is a British four-piece psychedelic music band (Photo: Glass Animals)


Over 30 galleries, independent projects, open studios and private collections are taking part in this year’s Gallery Weekend Kuala Lumpur (GWKL). As part of its Luminary Program (Nov 16, 11am-1pm), hear from textile curator, designer and architect Edric Ong and UNESCO Observatory founding director Lindy Joubert about the world of crafting in Borneo and beyond.

For something more light-hearted, go back in time and experience the beginnings of hip hop culture at Lorong Jam (Nov 23, 2-10pm), which will be decked out with boom boxes, graffiti and mats for dance performances, freestyle rapping and spray painting activities. Aspiring poets can also convene at Panggung Puisi (Nov 16-24, 4-9pm) for ensembles, installations, open mics and poetry slams that showcase the best of KL’s contemporary poetry scene.


Ong's focus has been on eco-textiles inspired by Sarawakian ethnic designs and motifs (Photo: Salekclicks)


Urbanscapes has carefully curated a list of movies that are unanimously lauded, with some old gems thrown in. Titles that are worth revisiting include crime drama Songlap (Nov 19; 9.30-11.20pm), which rekindles moments of old-fashioned melodrama set against the postmodern metropolis KL, and Shanjhey Kumar Perumal’s Jagat (Nov 17, 8.05-10pm), winner of the Best Malaysian Film at the 28th Festival Filem Malaysia that recounts the story of a Tamilian schoolboy torn between his stern father and his uncle’s life of crime.

If you missed Zahir Omar’s suspenseful Fly By Night on Netflix, the festival is showing the neo-noir crime thriller on Nov 16; 8-10pm. For a walk down memory lane, Mahen Bala’s short documentary Portrait of an Invisible Man (Nov 17, 8-8.05pm) illuminates cinemas of yesterdays – told through the life of Mr Moorthy as a film projectionist, who spent the last 30 odd-years feeding reels of film into the projector and entertaining cinemagoers.


Shanjhey Kumar Perumal’s Jagat was the winner of the Best Malaysian Film at the 28th Festival Filem Malaysia (Photo: Urbanscapes)


Kuala Lumpur will be peppered with interactive art installations from local and international artists for all nine days. Savvy Instagrammers should make a beeline to the Immersio 3.0 digital art showcase for various new media and audio-visual artworks, including Max Jala and Adam Macpherson’s 360 degree projection mapping nature installation at the Lumin Room (Nov 16-24, 11am-10pm). Then, head next door and check out Kubah (Nov 16-24, 11am-10pm), Indonesian visual artist and sculptor Andi Ramdani’s large scale bamboo installation inspired by the Malay Archipelago.

Alternatively, visit B-Loom (Nov 16-24, 10am-10pm) by Condiment Strings at Petaling Street and see its most iconic alleyway festooned with dyed, weaved and knotted fabrics. Try your hand at looming and hang your work onto the shophouse-styled structure while you’re there.


Check out Andi Ramdani’s large scale bamboo installation at Medan pasar (Photo: Urbanscapes)


Urbanscapes’ comprehensive line-up will leave anyone spoilt for choice — but if you’re feeling overwhelmed, opt for an easy guided tour. Take it to the streets and sign up for The Art Seni’s Walking Art Tour (Nov 16-17, 22-24; 10am-1pm) or Sunset Installation/Sculpture Tour (Nov 16-17, 22-24; 5-7pm) and discover various art exhibitions and installations within Urbanscapes Festival. After that, join the REXKL community at Buku Tiga Lima lifestyle market (Nov 16-17, 2-9pm) or saunter along Maker’s Market (Nov 23-24, 11am-7pm) by Naiise for artisanal items and handcrafted wares.


Discover various art exhibitions and installations within Urbanscapes Festival with The Art Seni's guided tours (Photo: Urbanscapes)


For the full line-up, venues and ticketing details of of Urbanscapes 2019, see here.


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