Malaysian B-Boying’s Secret History: Chapter 3, I Got Next

Posted by on Jul. 29, 2015

The pieces were in place.  Malaysian Hip Hop culture in Malaysia had its first recognizable voice in the form of its plucky, determined B-Boys, who overcame significant economic and logistical odds to build a community that taught itself, armed itself and nurtured itself, with the bare minimum of resources yet a surplus of passion.

The only question was: would all the hard work pay off? It might be easy to think of where B-Boy culture could fit in with the rest of Malaysian urban society now, but in the tumultuous days of the early and mid-80s, when even global Hip Hop was still finding its bearings, the answer was never that clear. Malaysia’s B-Boys began to mobilize.

Malaysia's Secret B-Boy History: Chapter 3, I Got Next

Like-minded heads began to converge on sepak takraw and badminton courts and Rukun Tetangga community halls in the Kuala Lumpur exurbs to lay out their checkered mats and plug in their Sanyo boomboxes (or stuff them with up to 10 D batteries), and got to practicing. They huddled in front of tiny CRT televisions in the dead of night to pore over the exact minutiae of breakdancing movies and early, primitive music videos.

Malaysia's Secret B-Boy History: Chapter 3, I Got Next

Of course, once these fresh “crews” began to get a lock on their earliest moves and routines, they would invariably want to see how they stacked up against the others. In Kuala Lumpur (KL), the most prominent meeting point was Central Market, which was reopened to the public in 1985 after an extensive facelift and rebranding into a cultural and tourism center. The area, still a hotspot for urban youth, especially from other states, became a melting pot for nascent B-Boy crews out for dominance over their peers.

After a few years, the rest of Malaysian Hip Hop culture– and Malaysian pop culture– caught up. Breakdancing and breakdancers quickly became visual shorthand for buzzwords like “edgy,” “hip,” and “urban.”

The Malaysian movie Gila Gila Remaja, which burst onto silver screen in 1985, prominently featured a breakdancing sequence that even its star, a young Faizal Hussein, took part in.

B-Boys became a go-to mainstay for government-sponsored public events, like sports meet launches and Merdeka Day parades, in an era before youth-oriented urban programs, like Rakan Muda and 1M4U, were even a thing. Pop stars began to utilize B-Boys in their music videos and stage performances, even over music that had little connection with Hip Hop – it just became the thing to do.

Malaysia's Secret B-Boy History: Chapter 3, I Got Next

Malaysian B-Boy culture would have a lot more growing up from the tumultuous times of the 80s, and it would give birth to prominent names of its own: Che Bad, Bone Alfie, Boojae. Crews became mini-movements in and of themselves, and Malaysians became quite familiar with them: KL City Breakers, Shah Alam City Breakers, the Giler Battle Crew, Wakaka.

But that would all be in the distant, hazy future. In the beginning, Malaysian B-Boys were the frontline of a nebulous and uncertain young urban subculture that wasn’t just fresh on the local front, but was just finding its footing on the global stage. Before all the mainstream exposure, the club nights, the music industry credentials, the cultural cache of being tastemakers and regional ambassadors, a plucky subset of Malaysian youths took it upon themselves to adopt a faraway set of urban traditions and committed to making it fully their own.

Hip-hop culture in Malaysia began with the B-Boy.

WordsManifest is a founding member of The Rebel Scum and the Rogue Squadron Hip Hop collective. He was the co-editor of DJ Fuzz’s book The Way of the DJ. Words is also a photojournalist and the Editor of hyperlocal newsportal CoconutsKL.

Photos by Creative Commons

The Road to Rome: Shaolin Breaking

Posted by on Jul. 28, 2015

The day the Red Bull BC One All Stars met their Shaolin kung Fu Master, Shi Yan Hui, was a special one. It was also fascinating, considering that the two seemingly distant disciplines share many points in common. Martial arts has always been an inspiration in breaking, as well Hip Hop as a whole. The Shaolin discipline was a huge source of inspiration for the Wu Tang Clan, especially early in their careers when they followed its principles and wrote lyrics dedicated them. Throughout its history, B-Boying has also modeled the movements and intepretations of actor Bruce Lee, as he was Kung Fu’s primary spokesman in the West. All these factors combined made for an interesting exchange.  

The Road to Rome: Shaolin Breaking

The Master’s lectures were insightful for the B-Boys, who were curious about the knowledge that was being passed on to them. Much has been said about Oriental medicine and its methods of recovery. But the Master’s first words were devoted to the use of the mind, even during physical activities: 

"Statism and dynamism. Everything is based on the balance of these two elements. You always think about the physical, staying still, moving, dance movements. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is the mind that is both static and dynamic. When the mind rests or sleeps, it is static, otherwise during all other activities, it is dynamic. This must all be in perfect balance for the body. When you exercise, you must not have a static mind, otherwise there is no equilibrium for your body! The balance must always be there, regardless of the body’s activity," he said.

“Static and dynamic. Everything is based on the balance of these two elements.

The Road to Rome: Shaolin Breaking

A big block of time was dedicated to the explanation of the behavior of our muscles during exercise, because the approach of Chinese medicine is fundamentally different from the European. 

"From Western medicine’s point of view, the relationship between muscles and tendons is completely different from my culture’s,” said the Master. “In Western medicine, tendons are separate from the muscles, whereas in the East they are thought of as one unique mechanism. Muscles and tendons work together to create movement, so they are symbiotic. The explanation is very similar to mechanics. The bone is a trellis while the tendon is a tie. They have two different structural functions, one is for sustenance, the other strength. To have a solid construction, the lattice must be in balance with the rod, and the same holds for the body. This mechanical construction needs to be mirrored in the tendon-muscle’s function. Muscles and tendons must always work together. The tendon is very important, if there is a problem with the tendon, then it will influence the bone. For example, if the tendons are in good shape it's hard to get hurt. But we are all made ​​differently, in some individuals the tendons are too hard, in others they are too soft. But it is very difficult to change the nature of the tendon, to make a hard tendon become soft and vice versa. The same thing applies to the mind, there may be some weak points and even those will be difficult to improve. But improving our defects is one of life’s purposes. This is accomplished with very specific training."

“Improving our defects is one of life’s purposes.”

The Road to Rome: Shaolin Breaking

With the B-Boys in a circle around the Master in the center, the Shaolin consciousness flowed and intrigued everyone. Such was especially the case when the conversation turned to injury recovery. 

"After suffering an injury, you need to understand when you have fully healed. Just as it is important to know for sure when you are strong and ready to make your next move. The theory is the same for both martial arts and dance–you have to be fluid. For example, we must know not to strain ourselves. We have to warm up too. Even though the mind may be ready, that does not mean that the body is. You have to warm up the mind and the body. Both must be prepared to express strength and fluidity. The strength that comes from the mind must be able to be expressed by the body. If there is too little energy, then of course you can get hurt. The tendons need flexibility. If it’s too hard, it’s a problem. If it’s too soft it’s a problem. In martial arts, you have to move fast, and for that you need soft tendons, but to be able to absorb the blows, you need harder tendons. Everyone has to train harder in the areas where they are weaker."

“The strength that comes from the mind must be able to be expressed by the body.”

The Road to Rome: Shaolin Breaking

From theory and concept, the B-Boys’ curiosity shifted to practicality, since in the end, to make the most of this lesson they need to be able to apply it to their own bodies. The Master used practical examples to support his teachings:

"How do you train for more flexibility? You have to train the part of your body that you will need. If you want your legs to be flexible, then you train with your legs, doing a lot of splits and stretches. There are many exercises, especially in Shaolin kung fu. Playing sports is good for your health. But you have to play correctly. You have to be very flexible and loose. Traditional Chinese medicine is holistic. From this approach, the tendon is the root of health and what maintains a beautiful figure,” he said. “So, often, the success lies in the well-trained tendons. And we haven’t even talked about muscles yet. Working out with weights to improve your strength is all right, but it’s not enough. With kung fu or dance, you have to train everything together."

And so, the B-Boy students had the opportunity to meet with the Master, raising many more questions. Cico was especially keen on the knowledge, as he has always been interested in the Oriental disciplines, which teach a very high mental and physical balance and take into account many factors that are secondary in our Western culture.

Photos by Mauro Puccini/ Red Bull Content Pool

Music to Break to: Mixtape 41 (DJ Four Eyez)

#BCONE Instagram of the Week

Posted by on Jul. 27, 2015

Check out South Africa's @bboythecurse as he overcomes obstacles through his art. Want to be featured as the #BCONE Instagram of the Week? Tag your photos with #bcone and we pick the best one each Monday.

Lady-Powered: Heart Break Hotel Debuts at The Notorious IBE’s 15th Edition

Posted by on Jul. 26, 2015

The Notorious IBE 15th Anniversary edition will feature its first-ever Heart Break Hotel on August 1. An all-day affair, including workshops, lectures, a block party, B-Girl battles and a blind date battle, the event is the brainchild of Rotterdam’s Hip Hop Huis Director Aruna Vermeulen, who hails from global B-Girl crew, Heart Breakerz. Seeing a space for opportunity for B-Girls in the IBE programming, Vermeulen decided to roll up her sleeves and draft up a pitch to event organizer (and Red Bull BC One blogger) Tyrone van der Meer, rather than complain about what could, or should be.

“I’m a fan of IBE, never missed one. I decided to just make a proposal for this year, since it's the first one where IBE is inviting partners to create events rather than just their core team, and I thought it would be interesting to cure a program that would vitalize the IBE program for B-Girls, and at the same time be interesting to both B-Girls and B-Boys,” said Vermeulen, from Rotterdam. 

Heart Break Hotel comes to The Notorious IBE 15th Anniversary

“I had just returned from our anniversary in Miami, and was dedicated to bring that Heart Breakerz spirit into this event. I asked my crew, and we decided to go with a Miami-themed block party, as Heart Breakerz was founded there in 2006, and the blind date battle.”

But Vermeulen’s vision hardly stops at a typical Hip Hop party with some panelists sharing wisdom. After all, Heart Break Hotel shares its name with her crew, a group of more than 20 over-achieving women in Hip Hop around the world who share a mission to, “empower, encourage and educate and lead as role models supporting artists– of all ages, races and sexual orientation– globally.” Yet armed with not-so-secret, ulterior motive to empower the young, female generation of breakers, Vermeulen looked for female role models in the community to help fuel her program’s vision, and renown B-Girl and event organizer Asia One fit the bill perfectly.

Heart Break Hotel comes to The Notorious IBE 15th Anniversary

“The driving force behind Heart Break Hotel is threefold: knowledge, inspiration and celebration,” added Vermeulen, highlighting the importance of not only injecting historical knowledge into the younger generation but to also support them in creating a brighter future for breaking. “Asia One is not only a pioneer as a B-Girl, but a strong key figure in the American scene. She’s outspoken, she’s intellectual and she’s always initiating new things to bring to her community. She can empower the younger generation of B-Girls to hopefully do the same.”

Vermeulen is co-producing the event with her own colleagues at Hip Hop Huis, along with Asia One’s No Easy Props Productions and Heart Breakerz Crew.

“It feels great to work together with powerful female role models, especially since its unfortunately still pretty rare in our scene,” she smiled.  

Asia herself will host a “B-Girlism” workshop, which covers her philosophical approach to females and this dance. Finland’s B-Girl AT, along with Focus, will host their B-Boy B-Girl Dojo as a workshop. A special surprise guest is also in store for a workshop, though the only clues Vermeulen would give is that the guest workshop is, “an opportunity not to be missed!”


Heart Breakerz founder Beta will also be on deck, along with crewmembers Candy (NYC/UK) and Roxy (UK), BigTara (NYC), Melodee (Australia), who is DJing the Block party and Ladie One, who doubles as a world-class graffiti artist.

“What we wanted to show with this specific crew is that people are breaking but do other things as well,” said Vermeulen, who added that the crew is prepping for their big, ten-year anniversary party early next year.

As part of the Heart Break Hotel programming, Vermeulen is supporting  van der Meer’s idea to create a B-Girl timeline installation at IBE. A physical timeline where event-goers can add their names and knowledge to the historical tracing of B-Girls over the past few decades. The project has turned into a reseach project by B-Girl Sessions, an initiative of local Dutch B-Girls. They were assigned with the first steps of its creation.

Heart Break Hotel comes to The Notorious IBE 15th Anniversary

“This project had them research their history so they understood what came before them—in Holland and worldwide. Now these three B-Girls not only know the history but created the base of the timeline,” said Vermeulen. “This knowledge can now be shared with others.

The younger generation can do so much more than we did, to be honest. They came into this with what we managed to make– events, spaces for practice, figures to look up to– but important to keep it moving. We need the new pioneers, and we need more of the younger generation to take the reins, hit the ground and run.”

This is the first year Heart Break Hotel will run during The Notorious IBE in Heerlen, The Netherlands. Should it be a success, it may grow to an annual event. It will also be a platform for the Heart Breakerz as a crew to show their collective power.

“Even though we are in different continents, we are in contact every day- we might be closer than crews who live on the same block. The crew has always been involved in battles, and that will show at IBE as well!”

Photos courtesy of Heart Breakerz Crew and Aruna Vermeulen