How much do you know about Kuala Lumpur?

Other than it’s the capital city of Malaysia and home to some 1.6 million people, the city is apparently alive with budding musicians, upcoming fashion designers and some might say, hipster kids. Kuala Lumpur: It’s Alive attempts to visualise what makes the city cool in a video running at eight minutes long.

The concept behind the ambitious project is what a day is like in Kuala Lumpur through the activities and crafts of interesting young Malaysians. The video starts at 10am depicting what some people do for a living and then it goes on to show how youngsters in the city unwind after a hard day’s work.

(From left) Arthur Loh, Hugh Koh, and Arnold Loh

Arthur Loh, 24, is one of the proud founders of locally-based streetwear brand Pestle & Mortar. Together with his brother Arthur and long-time friend Hugh Koh, they produce t-shirts and accessories featuring designs that are truly Malaysian – one t-shirt is designed with an image of local favourite Indomie ‘tambah telur mata kerbau satu.’ For its unique and relatable designs, Pestle & Mortar was featured in Kuala Lumpur: It’s Alive.

Loh describes the inclusion as an honour.

“We didn’t think people would think of us as a bunch of ‘talented KL-ites’ as the video describes (laughs). But it’s nice to be recognised for what we do. It’s a video featuring local youngsters doing what they love and making something out of it,” he said.

Upcoming folk-pop band The Impatient Sisters is also featured in the video performing at a live session at The Bee in Publika, Solaris Dutamas. Their ethereal singing style has earned them a number of fans including Zee Avi, who invited them to perform with her on stage in 2012.

Soraya Taib, 26, a member of the band said to be highlighted in the video is quite a surprise for them.

“Basically, we didn’t know. So to be featured like that is definitely something amusing and exciting for us,” she said.

However, the video may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Student columnist Kong Lee Lian, 22, garnered attention on the Internet when she published her scathing review on the video. One of her major criticism was that the video did nothing to portray Kuala Lumpur as it is, instead it tries too hard to showcase our youngsters emulating trends or happenings that are not synonymous with local culture.

In an email interview, Kong said she thought the production team could have done something different.

“My initial reaction when I first saw the video was ‘that’s all?’. I thought the city deserved better than a video portraying a vapid, superficial segment of KL, regardless of how pristine and hip the editing was.”

Kong’s review caused an uproar and many quickly jumped into defense of the video. For Kong, it was what she was looking for as she felt her article had given everyone a chance to speak about Kuala Lumpur and what the city means to each individual.

“I’m glad it generated that much feedback not only in terms of volume, but in terms of variety. The comments from the reproductions of my article on various sites, taken as whole, created a long-needed debate on KL and identity, not just another boring polemic. That has always been the intention of my column : to create discourse. That’s my job as a writer, not to appease the mass, no matter how unpopular it might make me.”

Full-time artist, Donald Abraham, 31, is also featured in the video. The Sabahan has been making waves in the local art scene with his unique painting style. His work has been published on the cover of a magazine and earlier this year, was featured in an art exhibition in Publika Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur. He has even been commissioned to paint murals on several spots in the city.

As for what he thought of the criticism, he said it was a matter of interpretation.

“I understand that it’s not possible to capture everything about a subject in one video. Like myself, my daily routine revolves around painting from 9am and then I skate till late at night. But you don’t see all that in the video. There’s bit and pieces about everyone else,” he said.

Vespa enthusiast Rizqee Daud, 30 thought the video did what it could to showcase Kuala Lumpur to the world from different walks of life.

“I’m an insurance agent and sometimes I would ride around town in a Vespa with my friends for fun. It’s not something everyone knows about but Kuala Lumpur does has people like us and we’re glad the video gave us a chance to portray our own lifestyle.”

Soraya opined: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I think it’s a good thing that we’ve got a video to show the various gigs or somewhat obscure concerts. Viewers could watch it and think of it as getting some awareness on what’s going on in KL.”

As for Koh, he said to view it from the perspective of the youth featured in the video.

“To some of us, this is what Kuala Lumpur is like. There are a number of young people who are actually doing things like working on their own clothing line and even making their own music. It showcases people making a living out of the things they are passionate about.”

Despite how she felt about the video, Kong like the others is providing a statement about Kuala Lumpur. She shared what she adores about the city.

“Her tenacity. There are many destructive elements repressing her but she still stands strong. And you find beauty in this tenacity. And as rough a city as it is to live in, it is here that you build dreams, you find love and you see beauty in unexpected places. There’s something very romantic about that.”

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