International Cultural and Folk Art Festival in Ubon Ratchathani

Sunday morning last, I got word there is a special show being held at the Ubon Ratchathani Rajabhat University Cultural Center. It is an International Cultural and Folk Performance.

The nations to be performing included Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Malaysia, India and Thailand. This sounded like an extremely interesting event.

It was the last day for the show and was being presented at 14:00 and 19:00. The 14:00 showing was for students only so  the obvious choice was 19:00. Ticket price was a more than fair 100TB each.

When it was time to enter, masked health students armed with bottles of disinfectant gel asked guests to present their hands and were greeted with a couple of squirts. This  was a measure to prevent the spread of H1N1. Meanwhile I noticed a man taking on a mobile phone then pass it to a second individual. Wouldn’t that be a means of spreading a virus?

We got seats up front but had to make an end run because the center isles, for crossing and descending were blocked by a sofa and easy chairs for any “VIPs” who might attend the function.

It began more than 20 minutes behind schedule. It seemed they were waiting for a VIP who was scheduled to present gifts to the foreign guests. The MC tandem went ahead and got things underway. The female half was there to provide English translation due to the international flavor to the event.

Thai Troupe Opening Act

Thai Troupe Opening Act

The male MC gave his greeting and introduction, then the female did her part. Halfway through she changed from English to Thai and that was about it for any translations.After that the female’s contribution was mostly “kha, kha, kha” when the male was speaking and holding private conversations with her partner.

With the formalities completed it was announced that a Rajabhat VIP would now present gifts to representatives of several countries. Tic, Tock, Tic Tock. Tic Tock. After a minute or so of awkward silence the MC’s were informed the VIP was not in the building. The show much go on.

intcultfolkshow2

It was kicked off with five folk song and dance sessions by the host nation. I watched and the value I received was only that of entertainment. There was no explanation to set up the set for the foreign members of the audience to learn the background of the folk culture.

Finally the VIP arrived and presentations were made quick and painless. But it did detract from the momentum of the show.

Singer and Dancer From Surin Troupe

Singer and Dancer From Surin Troupe

Next on the schedule were representatives from Cambodia. This troupe from Ubon’s neighbor to the south had been recalled home for some reason. In their place a group from Surin gave a song and dance presentation. The lovely young ladies were dressed in traditional Khmer style and the singer sang in Khmer, perhaps Su-ay dialect.

More Surin Troupe in Khmer Style

More Surin Troupe in Khmer Style

India was next on the stage to share their culture and folk history. It was announced, though, that only one of the pair was from India. The other is a Thai stand in. The costumes were colorful and the music up beat. I enjoyed the performances but would have been so much better to hear the story behind the art.

The Grace of Movements Surin Troupe

The Grace of Movements Surin Troupe

After India was finished we made a decision to leave. It’s not that we didn’t enjoy the show but the presentation and organization left so much to be desired. Especially seeing as how this was the final performance of a week long event with 2 shows per day. I would think they would have the flaws worked out.

Colorful and Animated Member of Troupe from India

Colorful and Animated Member of Troupe from India

The organization diminished the pleasure of some good stuff. It was obvious the participants put a lot of hard work into what they were doing and did it with pride. I don’t believe there is a valid excuse for shoddy organization and management. In a way, it disrespects those who traveled far and worked hard to participate and also those who invested time and money to be a part.

The show started late. The VIP presenter arrived late. Many of the scheduled performers were no longer in Ubon. The access for the audience was blocked due to seating for non-existent VIPs. The program was incomplete, offering only snippets from a small percentage of the countries performing. The show was stop and go like trying to drive in heavy rush hour traffic. The MC’s spent too much time talking and lacked a focus on the show. The promises of English translation for audience education never materialized.

I am glad I went and experienced some great sessions but overall disappointed. I was told some performances have been recorded and will soon be available on VCD. Such is my adventure at the International Cultural and Folk Art Festival at Ubon Ratchathani Rajabhat University Cultural Center.

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