Drums with a difference

Percussion group Souls Impact explores the idea of self for a unique multidisciplinary production.

Cross Chin’s latest production, Wuwuming (Photo: klpac)

Cross Chin’s latest production, Wuwuming, is profoundly thought-provoking, to say the least. Its content explores many different themes and its multidisciplinary approach provides it with a wider appeal. The Sabah-born artistic director of percussion group Souls Impact has been working with his troupe on this project for more than two years, following the success of their previous work Carpe Diem. Composed yet full of enthusiasm, Chin sits down with Options and shares his thoughts on, and some insights into this latest production.

We began with the question on everyone’s minds: What does wuwuming mean? The term is derived from the Mahayana Buddhist scripture Heart Sutra, and serves as an inspiration for Chin in this production. “Wuwuming means ‘a realm of no worry and no desire’. Such a realm is unattainable by humans,” he explains. “We cannot truly achieve wuwuming, but we can control our desires and strive for balance. Hence in this performance, I wanted to talk about the concept of desire and contentment, and how important that balance is.”

Chin presents the themes of desire, yearning and struggle in Wuwuming, but in a subtle way. In fact, he likens his works to paintings. “Take an acrylic or oil painting, for example. From far away, one may see the image of a person on the canvas, but as you move closer, you start to see textures. And once you are very close to the painting, you won’t see anything, only colour. So, it depends on how far the viewer is from the painting. The same applies to my work — it depends on the viewers’ ability to understand the meanings embedded in the performance.

“For example, a 12-year-old child may understand very little of what I’m trying to express whereas a secondary school student may understand more of it. A scholar may see it one way, a performer may see it in another. So, for this production, I have spent a lot of time arranging and building the layers to achieve the desired effect — that different viewers will have different observations of the show.”

Wuwuming features three characters — The Monk, The People and The Ignorant, each with its own storyline. “The stories of these three characters are not separate,” Chin explains. “They share the same timeline and move forward together. At some point, the stories of these characters even collide.”

This unique performance was created with a different method from the norm. For one, Souls Impact does more than just play drums — the group has two additional elements, namely dance and theatre. The latter is important as the troupe has to present a story without using a single word of dialogue, hence the emphasis on the performers’ facial expressions. This, combined with the use of contemporary dance and music, allows Souls Impact to present Wuwuming as a theatrical performance rather than merely a drum show.

Chin has a unique production style, too — he began creating the show from its ending. The troupe then laboured for nine months over the last 15 minutes of the show, and spent two more years expanding it into the full-length, 65-minute production it is today.

“From the very start, I knew I wanted to make Wuwuming a full-length production. But during that time, I was more inspired by the concept of its ending, which was ‘a conversation with ourselves’. Then, in the subsequent two years, I started creating the parts leading up to the ending, to make the conclusion more complete and grounded,” he explains.

Carpe Diem,  Souls Impact’s second production,  was staged in June 2016 with the concept of drum after drum and beat after beat. It won the Best Production Values award at the BOH Cameronian Arts Awards 2017. Chin points out the differences between the two performances.

“First of all, Carpe Diem comprises many different pieces that form one big production. Wuwuming focuses on a single storyline throughout, so there is no intermission. Carpe Diem also saw the use of a lot of projection mapping and was more vibrant, whereas Wuwuming relies less on projection mapping.”

Chin concludes our conversation by describing how the performance will end, or rather, how the production of the piece began. “The whole story ends with yourself. What this means is, you are The Monk, The People and The Ignorant all at once. It’s all created within and by yourself. I made this piece in the hope that after viewing it, the audience will reflect on themselves. People nowadays are so busy moving forward with their lives, they don’t stop to see what they have already achieved.”


Wuwuming will be staged from June 14 to 17 at the klpac, Jalan Strachan, off Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, KL. Tickets are priced at RM88 and RM128. Call (03) 4047 9000 for details. This article first appeared on June 11, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.


Follow us on Instagram