A Brief History of Pesta

Posted on 22-Aug-2013

By Private Nathan Chan of 10th Kuala Lumpur Company
22nd August 2013

How it Started

47 years ago in 1966, the first ever National Review and Display was held in Methodist Boys' School Kuala Lumpur, home grounds of the 1st Kuala Lumpur Company. In that event, yet to be called a Pesta, over 600 officers and members participated in this unique and simply massive event. In the later years, the National Review and Display became the National Pesta and Convention. In year 2000, the prominent BB event was simply called the Pesta.

Pesta evolved more and more from a simple meet up of BB members into what it is today. In the first National Review and Display, the band “competition” was intended as a means of selection to decide which band gets to play and lead during the review and display, an event similar to the contemporary Pesta’s opening ceremony, but with all companies doing a combined opening parade, showing their strength in numbers, hence a “review” and “display”. It was a festive atmosphere of celebration and thankfulness for the Lord’s goodness to the BB movement.
Left: The 2nd National Review and Display, Pesta and Convention, 1968. Center: Opening Ceremony of the 1968 Pesta. Right: Pesta 1968 route march. 

The competitions was only an incentive to bring out the best from participating companies, leading to events like an Art & Craft Exhibition and Competition to display various handicraft exhibits, even a “collector’s corners” which featured a Matchbox labels and Stamp Competition. A Pesta Sports Meet was also running in the early Pesta’s, featuring relays, sprints, long-jumps and many athletic categories, with such high standards that breaking past records was an obsession. The most popular competition, even back in the first Pesta’s was the Band Competition, of which only the Bugle (which was called the Ipswich Bugle Shield) and the Flutes (National Flute Shield) were given points – poor percussionist, which was not yet a focus. Only in 1973 did the Band Competition feature an “Overall Best Band” title. That same year, drill competitions were introduced.

Right: 1st Melaka celebrating after winning the first National Flue Shield title in 1966. Center: Athletics Meet. Sports used to be a main attraction during the Review and Display, now called Pesta. Right: Parading of the Pesta Flag in 1990.

As time went on, more competitions came to the scene. With Singing Competition in 1988 and Group Dance in 2010. From the initial 4 companies participating in competitions in the first Pesta’s, more than 40 companies are found participating in the 2003 Pesta in Melaka and the 2006 Pesta in Kuala Lumpur. However, due to the immense amount of time needed to conduct the competitions, only the top selected companies by State, determined via internal State competitions or selection process, reducing it to 20 drill teams. Singing and group dance teams now have to submit an e-submission, pre-recording their entries of which a panel of professional judges will short-list 10 singing and 10 group dance teams which will present during the Pesta. The quality of performances also increased in competitive standards, moving a long way from the initial simple sing-a-long entries in the 80s to that mimicking American Idol.

See past Pesta results of Kuala Lumpur State Companies here.

Left: 3rd KL band in Pesra 2000. The flute and bugle band concept was gradually phased out between the 1996-2003 Pesta's, making way to the contemporary brass band. Center: 1st Melaka afro-styled singing team in Pesta 2006. Right: Drill Competitions in Pesta 2010, Penang. 

As BB Malaysia grew, so did the size of each Pesta camp. The participation size of Pesta has grown tremendously, from 600 participants in 1966, to approximately 1800 in 2012. The biggest Pesta is still the only hosted in Kuala Lumpur in the year 2006, with a total of 1925 participants. Perhaps one of the most interesting features of Pesta is the constant rotation of its location. Hosting Pesta’s in smaller towns was much simply as participation seldom exceeded a thousand. Towns like Kampar (400 participants in 1973), Teluk Intam (403 particpants in 1977) and Sitiawan (960 participants in 2000) were able to play host. Due to Pesta’s increasing popularity and appeal drawn from its past success, almost any BB member in Malaysia and even overseas would want a place in the Pesta. This cause numbers to swell above a thousand, making hosting of a Pesta only possible in bigger towns or places with bigger venues. In the coming Pesta in Kampar has to limit to 1200 participants.

Tbe official Pesta logo, conceived in 1990.
Every Pesta brings something new and a bigger challenge for the organizers, but more importantly and a new experience for its participants. Perhaps this is what has kept the Pesta alive and appealing for the past 47 years – the expectation of something new and gaining a valuable experience. Even with all these changes, Pesta has always been designed year after year, to achieve one main goal - unity, not just within companies or States, but within the entire Boys’ Brigade in Malaysia. Such has always been the goal of Pesta ever since its conception and it will be its goal for the years to come.
 Guard of Honour during the 20th National Pesta held in Foon Yew High School, Kulai, Johor.

The last Pesta hosted in Kulai, Johor in 2012 was the 20th ever held. With it came the first ever combined band, featuring BB band members from all over Malaysia and a job well done by the organisers from Johor Bahru. The Pesta of 2014 will be the 21st milestone, held in Kampar, Perak, date yet to be determined, with an interesting theme - “Dream High”. What will happen next, whatever new ideas, it yet unknown. All we can do for now is wait and see with our hearts full of anticipation.

Logo of the 21st National Pesta which is scheduled to be held in Kampar, Perak
Page created: 22nd August 2013
Last Updated: 22nd August 2013