Photos by KEITH LIM

TURNING 21 is a big milestone in many young people’s lives and for Ian Nathaniel, he wanted to make the celebration not only memorable for himself but for others as well. Instead of throwing a

MTV Sweet Sixteen-style bash and partying like a rockstar, Nathaniel did what his heart told him to do – organise a festival.

He came up with Tres Fest, a festival not only meant to highlight artists, musicians and food vendors to the public, but to also help the Parents’ Association for Autism (PR4A)’s movement in promoting awareness towards autism.


“I wanted the event to be able to help many different parties,” he said.

His musician father, who usually works with special needs kids, was the person who inspired him to work with PR4A. The festival, Nathaniel believes, was his way of helping autistic children, who were the stars of the show.

Held at Publika in Solaris Dutamas, KL recently, Tres Fest kicked off with a percussion performance by autistic children. The story-based performance was joined by beat-boxer Doomic who performed We Will Rock You with the kids.


Besides enjoying the live music, the festival-goers also had the chance to visit the PR4A booth which featured fine art and paintings created by autistic children.

“Some parents don’t know about autism,” said PR4A representative Venny Hai, 43. “The (parents) usually deny that their children have ‘problems’.”

That was one of the issues the PR4A tried to highlight as they gave out information packs and brochures on the condition.

Some worried parents at the event even brought their children to the booth for a check-up. “They ask us whether anything is wrong with their children,” said Hai.

The people behind PR4A stressed that autism is quite common these days, claiming that one in every 110 children is diagnosed as autistic.
According to Hai, it is very important for autistic children to express themselves through artistic mediums such as music and artwork.
The fine art created by these children were not only for show but for sale too at the PR4A booth. The focus was all on them and how talented autistic children are.

“The children love music,” Hai said. “The artworks were all done by them. It’s a good way to express themselves.”


The festival was successful thanks to Nathaniel, his team and his determination of fulfilling the dream of starting a music festival. However, he stressed that he’d like to keep Tres Fest free for all, knowing how difficult it is to break into the Malaysian music scene.

“We want Tres Fest to be an annual event which brings international artistes. Seems like your normal music festival? No. We want Tres Fest to be free,” he said.

Whether you are looking for information or hoping to lend a hand to Parents’ Association for Autism, visit

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