Score: 93+/100 (9.3+ out of 10)
Marching Through Time by Frankie Billy Tadius is a fascinating deep-dive into the history and cultural significance of the esteemed Sarawak Police Band in Malaysia.
We were extremely impressed us with the weight and magnitude the author gave this topic, which is unknown and obscure to most westerners. However, for anyone who is interested in music and/or the history and culture of Malaysia and Southeast Asia, this is really a captivating read.
Similar to Genesis of a Genre, which we also read this season, this book takes the subject of a band and shows us many of its nuances and intricacies.
Let's face it: music is powerful. Alongside things like religion and art, it is one of the cornerstones of most cultures. In a strong sense, it IS art. Think about how music can change the mood in a car when the radio is blaring, or affect how we perceive a scene in a movie. Think about how hearing a nation's national anthem can bring a stadium full of people—many of whom are from different political parties, different races, different religions, and different walks of life—together in unison and solidarity.
That's the power of music.
That's the potential that Malaysia's leadership and the Colonial British saw when they founded the Police Band in Malaysia. They based this on the success of the military bands, which had shone a positive light on the military branches, the country, and its government.
There's something very humanizing and disarming about a band. Music is often associated with happiness, pleasure, joy, and other positive feelings. It's associated with parties, parades, ceremonies, concerts, and other events that bring people together, usually to celebrate or enjoy something.
This is especially important considering how militaries and police forces are often viewed as powerful, authoritative, oppressive, weapons-wielding forces. To have a band like the Sarawak Police Band can really help to assuage that image.
The author tells us that the Sarawak Police Band bridges cultures by performing music that's significant not only to Malaysia or Sarawak, but to Southeast Asia and China. They perform at many music festivals, parades, and ceremonies. They also help to keep the music of Malaysia alive and in the public view. Furthermore, they spread the love, practice, and talent of music to the youth and others in Malaysia by being involved in mentorship and educational programs.
This book was eye-opening and enlightening.
If it had any one weakness, it's that it could've been trimmed down with less repetition of the same information. Phrases like “the transformative power of music” occur upwards of 100 times. Later on, when the author describes how active the band is on social media, he repeatedly describes that they respond to the comments of fans. Generally speaking, you don't want to repeat information if you don't have to. At times, it does seem like the author had an outline and filled it out similar to someone filling out an application. You know like when you're asked for both your billing address AND mailing address and you don't have an option to check the “Same as...” box?
With that said, this book is very interesting and relatively well-written. It is solidly written. There weren't any mistakes that we noticed. Also, the formatting is great and the book is very structured.
It also contains invaluable, first-hand research on the topic!
Check this out on Amazon!