Zeppo Youngsterz introduces Malaysia through dance

AS the phrase ‘Bismillah’ echoing in every corner of the hall, a group of young people, who call themselves Zeppo Youngsterz, energetically swayed to the rhythm of the music.

Clad in complete Malay warrior attire, the 24 youths danced fervently in a Singapore indoor stadium during a competition, skillfully blending the moves of ‘kuda kepang’ and hip hop, ultimately captivating the judges’ hearts and clinching the first place in the Super 24 dance competition last year.

Their performance was not only remarkable but also drew attention from local and international dance enthusiasts when they showcased a unique identity by combining traditional and modern dance, especially hip hop.

According to its founder, Faris Azim Abd Karim, 26, who played a role in creating the choreography, he admitted that he and his team, comprising youths aged between 20 and 28, were always approached with excitement by many parties who did not expect hip hop dance to be combined with traditional dances.

“Every time after our performance, the question of fusion (the combination of hip hop and traditional dances) is one of the most frequently asked. How did we come up with the idea to create such a dance?

“We actually started in 2011 as a hip hop dance group, however there was something that made us feel unsatisfied, and in 2018, Zeppo Youngsterz took the risk to advocate for traditional dance fusion through our prowess in hip hop dance,” he told Bernama.

Zeppo Youngsterz continues to make a name for themselves not only in the local dance scene but also internationally when they clinched 17 medals including Super 24 in Singapore, Summer Jam Dance Camp in Vietnam, and Eat D Beat 2019 in Indonesia.

Their most gratifying achievement was when they became the first team from the country to be crowned champions of Body Rock 2023 in San Diego, California last year.

“We chose the dance floor as a platform to elevate our country’s heritage, and through fusion dance, it not only captures the interest of young people but also aims to elevate our culture onto the international stage.

“In addition to ‘kuda kepang’ dance, we also incorporate hip hop dance with ‘dikir barat’ and silat, which are also interpreted through attire, etiquette, and demeanor in every performance, thus introducing Malaysia to outsiders,” he said.

Acknowledging that it is not an easy feat, Faris Azim, who has over a decade of experience in this industry, said that besides taking time to immerse himself in the music rhythm before inspiring any dance moves.

He also conducts research and consults with experts to ensure that the choreography created still respects the fundamental elements of heritage art and does not introduce changes that could damage it.

“The element of silat is presented only in its basic form, and so far, we have received a lot of support from traditional dance and silat experts, thereby contributing to their efforts in preserving our cultural heritage,” he added. — BERNAMA