Monday, July 23, 2012

Lessons From A Malay Hipster

Yesterday, a dear Malaysian friend of mine, Ely, posted this video. It's all about the variety of artists and creative types living and thriving in Malaysia's capital city, Kuala Lumpur. When you watch it, you'll see them cooking, making art, creating music, and riding their fixies around town. You know, hipster stuff.

I was not too surprised that this particular friend of mine posted it, because Ely is a total hipster too. An accomplished filmmaker, I've written about his work here. He could have easily been one of the artists featured in the piece, and although he wasn't, I figured that at least these were his friends, co-workers, and kindred spirits. 

Interestingly, when I expressed my fascination with this video and told him I wanted to go to every single one of the places shown, this was his response:
"Come to kl diane. But I (do) not love that kind of place. Prefer kampung baru food or chow kit stuff. Chow kit mango is brilliant!"
{Translation tips: Kampung Baru is a small, traditional Malay village, completely surrounded by the vast modern city of KL, that has managed to retain its independence and spirit. Chow Kit is a district in KL that sells fresh food and second-hand stuff, kind of like a farmer's market slash flea market.}

A small-town stall in Kampung Baru, under the shadow of the Petronas Towers.
Fresh fruits in the fresh air at Chow Kit Market.
At first, I was shocked by his response. Ely is a hipster...why wouldn't he get behind all the hipster pursuits I saw in the video?

But then the truth hit me. It's not cool to follow other people who are trying to be cool. From a totally post-modernist, post-millennial aesthetic point of view, a true hipster follows no one. In fact, the hipster-iest thing to do is to gravitate toward people who have absolutely no intention whatsoever of trying to be cool. Maybe people like small-town residents and farmers? Yes. Exactly.  

Now I get it, Ely. Bless your authentically hip heart. Someday, when I come to Malaysia, I will seek out all those artists and creative types featured in the video on my own. But when it's time to hit up the Chow Kit for a mango smoothie, I will definitely call on you to show me around.

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Lessons can be learned in the most unlikely places; here are a few that have caught my eye:


Please comment...I'd love to hear from you!